James Ridenour

Chief Concierge, InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto

  • Melbourne, Australia

James Ridenour has over 20 years’ experience in the hotel industry and has worked in Vancouver, Toronto and Melbourne at some of the world’s finest hotels. James joined IHG in 2008 as the chief concierge of the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto; previously, he held the roles of chief concierge at The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne and assistant chief concierge at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto. James has a diploma in hotel management and is a proud member of Les Clefs d’Or Australia. He blogs at jamesridenour.com.

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    What are the best festivals in Melbourne?

    Here is a listing of some of the best festivals in Melbourne. Dates and times can change from year to year so please check the programs before making plans!


    • January – Kooyong Classic Tennis Tournament
    • January – Australian Open
    • January – Australia Day
    • January/February – Midsumma Festival
    • February – St Kilda Festival
    • February – MSO Concert Series at Myer Music Bowl
    • February – Philip Island World Superbike Championships
    • February – Melbourne Wooden Boat Festival
    • February – Chinese New Year
    • March – Avalon Air Show
    • March – Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
    • March - Melbourne Food & Wine Festivals
    • March – Moomba Water Festival & Parade
    • March – Loreal Melbourne Fashion Festival
    • March – Melbourne Latin Festival
    • March – Australian Grand Prix
    • March/April – Melbourne Comedy Festival
    • March/April – Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach
    • April – Melbourne International Comedy Festival
    • April – ANZAC Day
    • April – ANZAC Day Collingwood vs Essendon AFL Match at MCG
    • May – Buddha’s Day
    • May – Melbourne International Jazz Festival
    • June – Melbourne International Boat Show
    • July – Melbourne Motor Show
    • July – Melbourne Boat Show
    • July – Melbourne International Design Festival
    • July – Melbourne Open House
    • July/August – Melbourne International Film Festival
    • August – Taste of Melbourne
    • August – Melbourne Art Fair
    • August – Melbourne Writers Festival
    • August – Melbourne Spring Fashion Week
    • September – Royal Melbourne Show
    • September – AFL Grand Final
    • September – Melbourne Fringe Festival
    • September/October - Tesselaar Tulip Festival
    • October – MotoGP Phillip Island
    • October – Melbourne Arts Festival
    • October – Melbourne Marathon
    • October – Melbourne Cycling Festival
    • October – Melbourne Home & Leisure Show
    • October/November – Spring Racing Carnival
    • December – Boxing Day Test Match
    • December – AFI Awards
    • December – Moonlight Cinema
    • December – Carols by Candlelight
  • On February 17, 2013
    James Ridenour answered the question: James Ridenour

    What are the best attractions in Melbourne?

    Marvelous Melbourne's best attractions and tips!
     

    1) History of Melbourne - Royal Exhibition Buildings


    Melbourne was founded on the mouth of the Yarra River in 1835.   In 1851 gold was found in Melbourne’s surrounding regions sparking a massive influx of people.  In the decade that followed gold worth over 100 million British pounds was pulled from the earth making Melbourne the richest city in the world.  It was during this era that the name “Marvelous Melbourne” was coined.
    The International Exhibition of 1880 put Melbourne on the world map as a major city.   The Royal Exhibition Buildings in Carlton Gardens were built to accommodate the exhibition.  In 1901, at the time of Australian Federation, these buildings became the site of the first opening of the Australian Parliament.   These World Heritage listed buildings are a shining example of Melbourne’s early years on the world stage.
    Melbourne has also hosted the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games and regularly tops the lists of the best place to live in the world.
    An interesting note on Melbourne’s history is that unlike many other capital cities in Australia, Melbourne was never a penal colony.  That being said Melbourne still lays claim to some of the most colourful history in Australia.  Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw saw his last days in Melbourne at the Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail).  The jail still stands today on Russell Street and is part of the National Heritage Trust. 
     

    2) The Golden Mile

     
    The Golden Mile is a walking tour of Melbourne, which focuses on how the discovery of gold shaped Melbourne.  The tour focuses on the architecture and history of Melbourne.  Self-guided booklets are available at the Melbourne Information Centre in Federation Square for $8.  You can also take a guided walking tour which departs daily at 10am and costs $20.  The tour is about 2 to 2.5 hours long and is conducted by trained volunteers.
    Look out for the brass markers embedded in the pavement throughout the city.  These markers mark the “Golden Mile” route!
     

    3) Population and Immigration - The Travelers Bridge

     
    Today Melbourne is a thriving metropolis of over 4.5 million people.  It is Australia’s second largest city and the capital city of the State of Victoria.
    When visiting Southbank watch out for “The Travelers”.  It is a large bridge spanning the Yarra River with a yellow entrance way.  The Travellers bridge is a monument to the many immigrants to Australia from around the world.  
     

    4) Multi-Cultural Melbourne - Ethnic Neighbourhoods

     
    The city of Melbourne boasts a diverse multi-cultural society.  This is reflected in the many ethnic neighborhoods within the city and inner suburbs.  A few of these are; Lt Bourke Street in the City (Chinese), Lonsdale Street in the City (Greek), Lygon Street in Carlton (Italian) and Victoria Street in Richmond (Vietnamese).
     

    5) Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

     
    The MCG was built in 1856 and in 1956 the MCG was the focal point for the Olympic Games.  The MCG was recently renovated for the 2006 Commonwealth Games and were featured in the lavish opening ceremony for the games.
    The MCG is still one of the world’s largest sporting stadiums with a capacity of well over 100,000 people.  Regular events at the MCG include Australian Football League (Australian Rules Football) and Cricket matches.  Guided tours are available of the stadium and when visiting make sure you take time to visit the National Sports Museum which is located in the stadium.  The museum is on of Melbourne’s best and should not be missed.

     

    6) Melbourne – The Sporting Capital of Australia

     
    Melbourne is famous for being Australia’s premier city for Sports.   World famous events such as The Melbourne Cup horserace, referred to as “the race that stops a nation”, The Australian Open (Grand Slam Tennis event), The Australian Football League Grand Final (Australian Rules football), The Melbourne Grand Prix (Formula 1 Motor Race) and The Boxing Day Test Match (Cricket) are proudly supported in Melbourne.
     
    Did you know that Flemington Racecourse is not only home to the Melbourne Cup and the Spring Racing Carnival, it also has the largest public rose garden in Australia.  Teams of gardeners work year round to ensure a spectacular display of roses for the spring racing season.
     
     

    7) City Circle Tram

     
    For newcomers to Melbourne one of the best ways to begin to explore the city is to hop on the City Circle Tram.  This free hop on – hop off service is used by locals and tourists to get around the Central Business District (CBD).  Historic “W Class” trams, originally put into service in the 1920′s are used on this route.  The trams do a loop in both directions around the CBD and are an excellent way to get around.  Recorded announcements give you information on the city and advise you of the location of the next stop.
    This service operates year round (except Christmas Day and Good Friday) between:
    10:00am to 6:00pm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
    10:00am to 9:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday
     

    8) Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle

     Another great way to see the city is on the Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle.  This free hop on – hop off bus service operates year round.  This shuttle stops at a number of places including Lygon Street, Carlton Gardens, Queen Victoria Markets, The MCG, the Sporting Precinct as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens and The Shrine of Remembrance.
    The Service runs from 1030am to 430pm daily except Christmas Day and Good Friday.
     

    9) Yarra River

     The Yarra River flows from Mount Baw Baw in West Gippsland and stretches for 242kms past Melbourne and empties into Port Phillip Bay.  The Wurundjeri Aboriginal people originally called the river “Birrarung” meaning the “river of mists and shadows”.  The name Yarra was mistranslated from another Wurundjeri term Yarro Yarro meaning “it flows” in the native language of the Birrarung people.
    Yarra River cruises are available year round departing from Federation Wharf and Southgate Wharf. 
     

    10) Flinders Street Railway Station

     Flinders Station was named after Captain Matthew Flinders of the British Royal Navy.  The original Flinders Street Railway Station opened on Sept. 12, 1854 with the present day buildings being completed in 1910.  For almost 100 years Melbournians have been “meeting under the clocks” at Finders Street Station.  There are 13 clocks by the way.
     

    11) Federation Square

     
    Federation Square is Melbourne’s newest meeting place and was built on a platform above the cities railway lines at a cost of $440 million dollars.  It houses several museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and a theatre!  The unique triangular pin wheel design comprises of three materials; glass, sandstone and zinc.
     
    Did you know that Federation Square uses a unique heating and cooling system called the Labyrinth (a maze of zigzag surface corrugated concrete walls located under the building).  This system delivers heating and cooling to the buildings and generates less than one tenth of the CO2 emissions that conventional heating/air conditioning does!
     

    12) State Parliament

     Melbourne is the Capital of Victoria and the State Parliament is on Spring Street at the intersection of Bourke Street.  The public can visit Parliament when it is not in session.
    From 1901 to 1927 (from Federation until the Parliament buildings in Canberra were completed), Federal Parliament sat in the current State Parliament buildings.  The State Parliament sat in the Royal Exhibition Buildings.
     

    13) The Melbourne Museum

     
    The Melbourne Museum is a natural history museum with many exhibits for little kids and big kids alike.  It is located in Carlton Gardens next to the Royal Exhibition Buildings.  The museum has many different displays from Bugs Alive to The Human Body, The Koori Voices and The Melbourne Story.  It is also famous for housing “Phar Lap” the race horse!  Make sure you visit the IMAX Theatre while you are there.
     

    14) National Gallery of Victoria

     There are two sites for the National Gallery of Victoria.
    The International Gallery is located at 180 St Kilda Road and houses a permanent collection of international masterpieces as well as showcasing many of the world’s best touring exhibitions.  It is closed on Tuesdays.
    The Ian Potter Centre is located in Federation Square and houses the galleries Australian Art Collection including contemporary art, heritage art and Aboriginal art.   It is closed on Mondays.
     

    15) The Arts Centre

     The Arts Centre is Victoria’s premier performing arts centre.  Theatres include the State Theatre, Hamer Hall, the Playhouse Theatre as well as many other more intimate performance venues.
    The Arts Centre is the home of The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne home of the Australian Opera Company and Australian Ballet.
    The Arts Centre also has an impressive collection of art themed on the ways in which artists are inspired by music, dance, theatre and opera.
    Daily tours of the theatre including the art collection are available. 
     

    16) The State Library

     The State Library is one of Australia’s oldest cultural institutions.  It is the major reference and research library in Victoria.  The library houses several types of collections such as manuscripts, pictures, rare books, sporting books, books on chess, Australiana books and much more.  The library is one of the most beautiful buildings in Melbourne at it often showcases special exhibits.  One of the most well known places in Melbourne is the LaTrobe Reading Room which an octagonal shaped room under a large dome.
    Did you know that The State Library was the first public library in the world open to the general public.  In order to gain admission you had only to be 14 years of age and have clean hands.  Other libraries around the world were for nobility only!
     

    17) Crown Casino

     
    The Crown Casino is a large entertainment complex on Southbank.  In addition to the Casino there are many restaurants, bars, retail outlets, theatres and a food court.
    The promenade on the river also has an impressive fire show after dusk on the hour and half hour until midnight (weather permitting). 
     

    18) The Eureka Skydeck

     
    The Eureka Skydeck is located in the Eureka Building on Southbank.  The building is the tallest residential tower in the world.  Eureka Skydeck 88 is located on the 88th floor of the tower.  Check out The Edge, a protruding glass cube suspended over 300 meter above the ground!
     

    19) Zoos Victoria

     There are three Zoo’s within travelling distance of Melbourne.
    The Melbourne Zoo is the closest and houses all your favorite Australian animals as well as many others (20 min from CBD).  The Melbourne Zoo features a number of unique experiences with animals.  Please see your concierge to find out what’s on during your guest’s visit.
    The Werribee Open Range Zoo (40 min from CBD) focuses on African animals in a savanna setting.
    The Healesville Sanctuary (1 hour from CBD) has over 200 species of Australian wildlife with many unique experiences such as a falconing demonstration and an animal hospital where you can view the operating theatre.
     
     

    20) The Melbourne Aquarium

     
    The aquarium boasts a 2.2 million litre Oceanarium where you can get an up close look at sharks, stingrays and turtles.  There are numerous other exhibits and special shows and events.  You can even dive with sharks if you dare!
     

    21) Gardens

     
    Melbourne is famous for its gardens.  The largest in the city is the Royal Botanic Gardens off St Kilda Road and Domain Roads.  There are over 10,000 species of plants featured in a number of themed gardens and forests.  There are also two cafes, a gift shop, and a number of gazebos and a large lake.
     
    Other popular gardens are the Carlton Gardens (home of the Melbourne Flower Show) and the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens, which are located behind Treasury.  They also house a beautiful conservatory and Cook’s Cottage (this was Captain Cook’s parent’s house build in 1755, which was shipped from England).
     
    Did you know that there is a memorial to former US President John F Kennedy in the Treasury Gardens!
     

    22) The Block Arcade

     Located on Collins Street with entrances on Elizabeth and Lt Collins, The Block Arcade is one of the finest examples of 19th Century shopping arcades anywhere in the world.  The Block Arcade features etched glass ceilings, decorative wrought iron work and an elaborate mosaic floor.  The Block Arcade features shops, cafes and offices.
     

    23) Queen Victoria Markets

     
    The Queen Victoria Markets are public markets featuring meat and seafood, fruit and vegetables, delicatessens, wines, gourmet foods and clothing and souvenirs.  The markets are the largest open-air markets in the southern hemisphere and offer up a unique shopping experience for locals and tourists alike.  The Markets are open every day except Monday and Wednesdays (some holidays excluded). There is also a gourmet “Foodies Tour” departing every open day at 10AM (bookings essential).
     
     

    24) Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes

     
    These colourfully painted Beach Bathing Boxes are world famous.  There are 82 in total and they are one of the most photographed Melbourne tourist attractions.
     

    25) Collins Street, City

     
    This famous street houses some of Melbourne’s most exclusive shopping including world famous names like Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.  The top end of Collins Street became known as the “Paris End” of Collins Street for the many artists who lived above the shops in the early part of the 20th century.  The InterContinental Melbourne’s end of Collins Street has now begun to be referred to as ‘The New York End’ of Collins Street.
     

    26) Lt Collins Street, City

     Lt Collins Street has some of the best shopping and architecture Melbourne has to offer.  Here you will find great boutiques for shopping, numerous cafes and restaurants, as well as the entrance to the Block and Royal Arcades.  A wander down Lt Collins is a must for someone wanting to get to know Melbourne.
     
    If time permits walk Lt Collins from “King to Spring” a perfect way for out of town guests to experience our fair city!
     

    27) Lygon Street, Carlton

     
    Lygon Street is famous for the numerous Italian restaurants.  Touts stand out in front of their venue trying to encourage diners in with a special incentive.  The food generally is more to tourist quality but the atmosphere can’t be beat.
     
    A suggestion for guests looking for fine dining but still wanting to experience Lygon Street; have your concierge assist with a restaurant recommendation and booking and then suggest try one of the restaurants on Lygon Street for dessert and coffee!
     

    28) High Street, Armadale

     
    High Street in Armadale is well known for its collection of antique shops, art galleries, luxury carpet stores and luxury home ware shops.  Armadale is a very elegant suburb and it is also home to a number of cafes and restaurants that cater to the residents of this affluent neighborhood.  .
     

     

    29) Chapel Street, Prahran

     Chapel Street is where fashion conscious Melburnians go to shop.  Chapel Street is not only about shopping it is about being seen!  There are a range of fashion shops, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs in this area.  Chapel Street comes alive on Friday and Saturday evening, especially in Summer.  Chapel Street is a must do for the “Fashionista Set”!
     

    30) Melbourne’s Suburbs

     
    Toorak is Melbourne’s wealthiest suburb.  Many of Australia’s business elite have their mansions here.  The main shopping area is the ‘Toorak Village’ on Toorak Road, which is home to many elegant neighbourhood shops, cafes and restaurants.
     
    St Kilda is one of Melbourne’s best known bay side suburbs, located on Port Phillip Bay.  St Kilda is well known for The Kiosk at the end of the St Kilda pier as well as the cake shops on Acland Street, which have a mind-boggling selection of cakes and pastries.  St Kilda also has a number of excellent restaurants from inexpensive to fine dining to choose from.
     
    Fitzroy is located close to the north end of the CBD and is well known for its Bohemian shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and its funky and trendy inhabitants.  The main shopping and restaurant streets are Gertrude and Brunswick Streets.  Here you find a huge variety of specialized shops for books, perfumes, clothes, antiques, flowers, gardens and much more.  Expect to be pleasantly surprised.
     
    Williamstown is located in Melbourne’s west and is easily accessible from the Yarra River in the city via the Williamstown Ferry Service.  The ferry ride takes around 40 minutes each way and operates every day weather permitting.  Williamstown is a lovely bay side suburb noted for its charming Victorian buildings and its seaside cafes and restaurants.  One of the best photo opportunities to capture the skyline of Melbourne is from the shores of Williamstown.
     
    Richmond is one of inner Melbourne’s most vibrant suburbs.  There are many great shops, furniture stores, luxury car dealerships, cafes and restaurants located on Bridge Road and Church Street.
     
     

  • On February 17, 2013
    James Ridenour answered the question: James Ridenour
  • On February 17, 2013
    James Ridenour answered the question: James Ridenour

    What are the best day trips near Melbourne?

    Aussie Brewery Tours Yarra Valley Micro-Brewery Tour 

    For an awseome day out meet Mr Beer in Melbourne, Scott Dewar owner of Aussie Brewery Tours.  Scott hosts day tours of some of Victoria’s best micro-breweries and I was lucky enough to join him on a tour of the Yarra Valley.

    Our day started with the drive from the city to the Yarra Valley.  If you have ever been on a tour out to the valley the drive (about an hour) is usually a bit tedious as really you just want to get there.  Scott changed what could have been a boring drive into a fun one as he chatted away giving us the history of the world, beer style.  He informed us that beer is man’s greatest invention of all time.   We learned that beer created civilisation as we know it and that beer is the mother of all things great in this world.   I have done a lot of tours in my time and I can’t say I haven’t had a more personable or fun tour guide in a long time.  Scott’s tales of how the world is a better place with beer in it was not only interesting and informative, it was fun, hilarious in fact.  We arrived in the Yarra Valley in what felt like no time at all.


    Our first stop was the White Rabbit brewery in Healesville.  Here we learned a bit about the process of making beer.   It was a great chance for the group to get to know each other and for us to have a sample of each of the brews on offer before choosing a pint shouted by Scott!  You see I told you he was a great bloke.

    Next was off to Buckley’s brewery who are literally back yard brewers.  A couple of guys, a shed and beer.  What could be more Aussie than that.  We again tried a couple samples and heard about how decidedly low tech processes here is.  We of course heard the story about the infamous Buckley himself.

    Lunch was at my favourite restaurant in the Yarra Valley, Hargreaves Hill.  This is a micro-brewery with a gourmet restaurant to boot.  Hargreaves Hill easily has the best lunch I have ever had on a day tour.  The restaurant is one of the standouts in the valley.  There were plenty of options, beef, fish, pasta and two great vegetarian options as well.  I chose the fish and chips and it was delicious.  Then of course there was the glamour beer event of the day the tasting paddle followed by you guessed it another pint.

    Next stop was Punt Hill winery?  Ok Scott had not lost the plot, he has just thrown in a cider option to mix things up.  We sampled a few clean and crisp Napoleon ciders before heading off to our last stop of the day which is Coldstream brewery.  Here we had our last pint along with a pit stop before heading off home to the city.

    All in all a magnificent day that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes beer or for anyone who loves someone who likes beer and wants to shout them to a great day out.

    Scott is charming, informative, funny and hosts a spectacular day full of fun and great beer.

    My tip, just do it!

    Aussie Brewery Tours also does city brewery tours, special event tours and private tours which are great for corporate events or even bucks parties.  You can contact them on 1300 787 039.


  • On February 17, 2013
    James Ridenour answered the question: James Ridenour

    What festivals are going on in Melbourne?

    Here is a listing of some of the best annual festivals in Melbourne.  Please check for dates before making plans as some of the festivals move their calendars around from year to year!

    • January – Kooyong Classic Tennis Tournament
    • January – Australian Open
    • January – Australia Day
    • January/February – Midsumma Festival
    • February – St Kilda Festival
    • February – MSO Concert Series at Myer Music Bowl
    • February – Philip Island World Superbike Championships
    • February – Melbourne Wooden Boat Festival
    • February – Chinese New Year
    • March – Avalon Air Show
    • March – Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
    • March - Melbourne Food & Wine Festivals
    • March – Moomba Water Festival & Parade
    • March – Loreal Melbourne Fashion Festival
    • March – Melbourne Latin Festival
    • March – Australian Grand Prix
    • March/April – Melbourne Comedy Festival
    • March/April – Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach
    • April – Melbourne International Comedy Festival
    • April – ANZAC Day
    • April – ANZAC Day Collingwood vs Essendon AFL Match at MCG
    • May – Buddha’s Day
    • May – Melbourne International Jazz Festival
    • June – Melbourne International Boat Show
    • July – Melbourne Motor Show
    • July – Melbourne Boat Show
    • July – Melbourne International Design Festival
    • July – Melbourne Open House
    • July/August – Melbourne International Film Festival
    • August – Taste of Melbourne
    • August – Melbourne Art Fair
    • August – Melbourne Writers Festival
    • August – Melbourne Spring Fashion Week
    • Setember – Royal Melbourne Show
    • September – AFL Grand Final
    • Septmember – Melbourne Fringe Festival
    • Septmeber/October - Tesselaar Tulip Festival
    • October – MotoGP Phillip Island
    • October – Melbourne Arts Festival
    • October – Melbourne Marathon
    • October – Melbourne Cycling Festival
    • October – Melbourne Home & Leisure Show
    • October/November – Spring Racing Carnival
    • December – Boxing Day Test Match
    • December – AFI Awards
    • December – Moonlight Cinema
    • December – Carols by Candlelight