Penleigh Boyd's watercolour, 'The Canberra Site', 1913.

Penleigh Boyd's watercolour, The Canberra Site, 1913. Photo: Supplied by the National Library

Dame Edna Everage's old joke that Canberra is a lovely place because you can get on a plane there ''and in just a few minutes be somewhere really interesting'' would baffle a 2013 Canberra audience.

These are exciting times to be a Canberran and during 2013's centenary shenanigans excitement will sometimes morph into bliss.

Suddenly, as the year of our city's 100th birthday dawns, Canberrans can say of their city what Dr Johnson so famously said of London. Johnson the happy Londoner was sure that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford''.

From left: Jade Butters, 8, from Macgregor, Liam Bolitho, 9, from?Ngunnawal?and Aiden Butters, 10, from Macgragor ready to ring in the New Year. Click for more photos

Out and about on New Years Eve in the capital

From left: Jade Butters, 8, from Macgregor, Liam Bolitho, 9, from?Ngunnawal?and Aiden Butters, 10, from Macgragor ready to ring in the New Year. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

  • From left: Jade Butters, 8, from Macgregor, Liam Bolitho, 9, from?Ngunnawal?and Aiden Butters, 10, from Macgragor ready to ring in the New Year.
  • Sisters Lila, 4, and Taisha Newton, 6, from Ballarat out enjoying the night.
  • From left: Matthew Hampton watches mum Katrina Hampton and sister Ashley Hampton dance in Civic Square during Canberra's New Years Eve Celebrations.
  • Serina Wei, 6, with mum Emma Lei from Nicholls enjoying the night.
  • Cousins Tia Gregory from Stirling and Mayah Amosa from Fraser out enjoying the night at Civic Square during Canberra's New Years Eve Celebrations.
  • Trudi and Max Zielasko from Adelaide enjoying the night's entertainment.
  • Cathy Sforcina from Forde and Sonia McDonnell from Perth show of thier New Year rings.
  • Laura Gerstenberg from Kaleen, Anna Elise Marsden from Curtin and Jamima Smith from Giralang ready to ring in the New Year in style.

Every thinking Canberran now has the experience, well articulated by the centenary's supremo Robyn Archer, of there now being more fine things to do here than there are enough days and hours in the week for us to possibly tango along to.

All at once we are big enough (there are 370,000 of us), diverse enough (Canberrans come from 200 different countries and there are 170 languages spoken here), grown-up enough (we're turning 100!) and bold and accomplished enough to feel that we are, at last, a true city.

We are metropolis material now. Those of us who know and admire some very big cities can now see traces of a big-city swagger in the city's civic gait. There are promising signs (although we still have some way to go) of a mature city's indifference to silly, tired old criticisms of it. Chicago's poet Carl Sandburg loved his city's ''big shoulders'' and now Canberra, puny and pre-pubescent for so long, is putting on some weight, bulk and shape in the right places.

For Canberrans one of the great challenges of 2013 is going to be counting our blessings without feeling and sounding smug. Canberra is as liberal and tolerant and well-meaning a society as any in Australia.

Ours is a well-educated, quite grown- up citizenry. Very few of us care to listen to Alan Jones, almost none of us ever see flying saucers and no one ever claims, telling The Canberra Times about it, to have been abducted by aliens. Religious, racial and political bigots struggle to get any popular traction here, and we are too clever to ever elect fanatics, total phoneys, swine and clowns to our Legislative Assembly.

Some of us can't remember (how many Australians living in their states can say this of their premiers?) the last time an ACT chief minister did or said something that made us cringe with shame.

The city's good looks begin to surprise us. After dreary decades when every new building that went up in Canberra looked like another beige, stunted, concrete button mushroom there are now increasingly some head-turningly tall and exciting and gaily-coloured ones. ''I don't know what London's coming to - the higher the buildings the lower the morals,'' Noel Coward mused. Will this turn out to be true of Canberra? It will be fun to wait and see.

Ours is, enviably, a bush capital. It's festooned with native birds (it's an atypical Canberran who lives out of earshot of our faunal emblem the Gang-gang cockatoo) the way some cities are festooned with sparrows and pigeons. Being bushy it's no wonder we had the wit and wisdom to choose a native plant (the correa ''Canberra Bells'') for our centenary flower instead of some daft unCanberran gladdie or rose.

Our craggy, bushy surrounds give us perhaps the yummiest drinking water and the purest, clearest light of any city anywhere.

Meanwhile, though in this bucolic setting, we are populous and metro-sexy enough a city to have such diverse attractions as vulgar and vrooming Summernats and the sophisticated Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition going on together.

Manuka Oval (and the Manuka district skyline) has just been dramatised by some big-city floodlights (each of which is a sculpture), the inspired Arboretum powers leafily ahead, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra has never been so thrillingly brilliant and bums-on-seats successful and our baseball team (playing by the way in an exquisitely Canberran, little, purpose-built stadium) is Australia's best.

In 2013 you probably won't have a moment's doubt about Canberra's goodness and greatness but if you do, meditate on the National Arboretum.

The pharoahs of ancient Egypt, looking down at this wonder of the modern world, are kicking themselves they didn't immortalise themselves with arboretums instead of wasting all that effort on dumb, ugly pyramids. The National Arboretum is visionary beyond belief.

Canberrans begin to love Canberra instead of just quite liking it. More and more of us are born and marry and die here and have strong rites-of-passage attachments to this place, this very lovely NSW beauty spot in 1908 chosen, on merit (beating off the inferiors) to be the site of the federal capital city.

Canberrans estranged from Canberra by work and travel begin to notice a strange emotion bubbling away in their hearts and heads. Can it be? Surely not! But yes, it is! It's homesickness.

It's what the estranged Chicagoan, Londoner, Muscovite and Sydneysider expects to feel when home calls, but for Canberrans the emotion is novel.

The Canadian writer Adam Gopnik says that while all well-travelled people have lots of cities they can never forget we all only ever have in our lifetimes one city ''we can't get over'' because so much of life's agony and ecstasy has happened there.

For more and more Canberrans, even if we're too shy and embarrassed to articulate so emotional and girly a notion, that city is Canberra.

Nelson Algren wrote of Chicago that for all its faults: ''Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.''

Are Canberrans ready, yet, to own up to feeling something so mawkish, but so sincere, about their Canberra? Meanwhile, as we overcome our shyness about doing it, this will be the place to be in 2013 and the person tired of being here this year will be someone tired of life.