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The top 10 music festivals in Ontario for 2014

Posted by Staff / April 22, 2014

ontario music festivalsThe top music festivals in Ontario for 2014 will take you all around the province. While we love Toronto (and its festivals), sometimes you need to spend some time apart from loved ones to appreciate them more. While Toronto has enough music fests to keep you within city limits just about every weekend of the summer (check in soon for our master list), there are a myriad of experiences a short road-trip away - ones you won't find at Yonge and Dundas.

The festival season has already started: Guelph's Kazoo Festival (not all kazoo music) just wrapped up, and we've already posted our list of must-see spring fests, so don't fall asleep at the wheel and miss out these Ontario destinations. (There's also no question that Quebec has its fair share of amazing festivals, including Osheaga and MUTEK, but we've limited our scope of hype to Ontario's best and brightest.)

If none of these fests have you booking a rental car, there's one more very specific but well known stop: Collingwood's Elvis Festival. From July 24 to 27, Collingwood will be awash is sequins, blue suede shoes and slick hairdos. You're welcome.

Here are the top ten Ontario music fests worth hitting the highway for this spring and summer.

RBC Royal Bank Blues Fest
Location: Ottawa
Dates: July 3-13, 2014
Venue: Lebreton Flats Park
Drive time: ~4.5 hrs
More Bonnaroo than "blues fest", the Ottawa Blues Fest is up there with NXNE for the title of largest festival in Ontario. Maybe you've ignored it because of the misleading name, but it's tough to ignore names like Lady Gaga, The Killers, Blake Shelton, Queens Of The Stone Age, Lady Antebellum, Journey, Snoop Dogg ... and those are the just the headliners among the 60-plus performers scheduled for 2014.

Electric Eclectics
Location: Meaford
Dates: August 1-3, 2014
Venue: Farm outside Meaford
Drive time: ~2.5 hrs
Drawing from a pool of international electronic acts that cover the spread from music to arts, Electric Eclectic lives up to its name. Happening on private property outside an already small town, this is as far from the city as you'll get. 2014's lineup includes Jef Barbara, Fresh Snow, Ice Cream and many more, with even more still to be announced.

Sound of Music
Location: Burlington
Dates: June 12-15, 2014 (Kick-off: June 7)
Venue: Various
Drive time: ~45 min.
One of the two free options on this list, Sound Of Music lands on Father's Day weekend and caters to all ages, making this a family-friendly affair. Also, if you're looking for the quickest get-out-of-town option, Burlington's the closest on this list to Toronto. Past performances have ranged from current-Canadian (Lights, USS, Carly Rae Jepsen) to classic-Canadian (Trooper, Tom Cochrane, April Wine) and all points in between.

Wolfe Island Music Festival
Location: Wolfe Island (Kingston)
Dates: August 8-9, 2014
Venue: Marysville, Ont.
Drive time: ~3 hrs
Wolfe Island is where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence river, a free 20-minute ferry ride from Kingston. The festival spans two days: Friday's shows take place in various small venues around Marysville (the only town on the island, where the ferry docks), and Saturday goes from noon 'til night on a baseball diamond. The bands are largely Canadian indie, with a hip-hop act or two for variety, but it's the laid-back atmosphere that makes it worth the trip; you're just as likely to run into Joel Plaskett at the general store as you are catching him headlining the main stage. Camping is also part of the experience (but not required), with a tent village erected steps from the main stage - just make sure you book early.

Location: Guelph
Dates: July 25-27, 2014
Venue: Guelph Lake Island
Drive time: ~1 hr
Hillside has gained enough notoriety in its 30-plus years that their weekend passes have been known to sell out in minutes. Focusing largely on Canadian talent, 2014 brings Tegan and Sara, Hey Rosetta!, Hollerado, Young Galaxy, Four Tet and tons more. There's a distinct hippie vibe, though that's not necessarily found in the musical lineup - it ranslates to excellent local food vendors, no water bottles for sale (bring your own for free refills) and zero guys wearing empty beer cases as hats. Camping can be a big part of Hillside, but for that you'll need to either book in March, or have someone onsite at 8am the first day to score an overflow site.

ontario music festivalsScene Music Fest
Location: St. Catharines
Dates: June 28-29, 2014
Venue: Montebello Park/Downtown St. Catharines
Drive time: ~1 hr
The St. Catharines Event for New music Entertainment (SCENE... get it?) is nearing the 20-year mark, with a music lineup that has been trending towards the mainstream side of CanCon. This year's edition keeps things on track with Marianas Trench, Matthew Good, The Sheepdogs, Arkells, Lights and Monster Truck atop the bill, with more bands to follow.

Mariposa Folk Festival
Location: Orillia
Dates: July 4-6, 2014
Venue: Tudhope Park
Drive time: ~1.5hrs
Born in the '60s, Mariposa has the most history out of any of these festivals, having celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2010. It's moved around over the years, but the "folk" classification has always stayed true - names like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, and Daniel Lanois have all graced the stage. 2014 will feature Rosanne Cash, Ani DiFranco, Hydra (Leslie Feist's latest project), Craig Cardiff, Dar Williams, Tim Chaisson and more, spread across seven stages. Camping is a viable option. Expect a peaceful vibe.

Boots & Hearts
Location: Bowmanville
Dates: July 31-August 3, 2014
Venue: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Drive time: ~1 hr
The absence of country music at most other festivals is more than made up for with Boots & Hearts. The Coachella of country, Boots & Hearts has been bringing the who's-who of country music to Canada since 2012. This year's big names include Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Hunter Hayes, Lee Brice, Paul Brandt and more, while also shining a light on emerging country stars. As for the festival experience, "beer tents" is listed twice under their on-site services. While camping is available, B&H takes it up a notch with RV options and hotel packages.

Location: Hamilton
Dates: September 12-14, 2014
Venue: James Street North
Drive time: ~1 hr
You can't beat the value of Hamilton's Supercrawl: more than 50 bands for free over several days. While 2014's lineup has yet to be announced, last year had Passion Pit topping a bill that included Yo La Tengo, Joel Plaskett, Said The Whale, Wintersleep, Young Galaxy, Metz, Fucked Up and so many more. With a strong art component along with stages for smaller bands, it's hard not to find something to like at Supercrawl.

Mudtown Festival
Location: Owen Sound
Dates: August 8-9, 2014
Venue: Various
Drive time: ~3 hrs
Formerly known as the OTHERfolk Festival, the Mudtown Music & Arts Festival is bringing some excellent Canadian indie acts to small-town Ontario. Thee Silver Mount Zion, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Odonis Odonis, Bry Webb, BA Johnston and more will grace all sorts of local venues in downtown Owen Sound. More details to come, so check back to their website.


JAMJAM A Music + Art + Food Festival in a Forest
Location: Springwater Conservation Area
Dates: Saturday, August 30th
Venue: Aylmer Ontario
Drive time: 2 hours west of Toronto
Music, art, and food will all be merging deep in the forest at JAMJAM. Dynasty Electric, Doomsquad, Lido Pimienta, Milk Lines, New Chance and many more are on the one day line up, plus there's hiking and fishing to be had. Bring your camping gear and settle into the beer tent, or bring your most towering stilettos because a little nature never got you down.

Writing and photos by Matt Forsythe.



Marcus / April 22, 2014 at 04:24 pm
Pretty sure Stage Coach is the Coachella of country music.
joshua smith / April 22, 2014 at 08:17 pm
What no Rock the park in London ontario
Nicole Em / April 22, 2014 at 09:19 pm
Amnesia Rock Fest! In Montebello, Quebec. This years line up is more than worthy of planning a road trip for
Brad Morley / April 22, 2014 at 09:23 pm
Great list, but no mention of Summerfolk in Owen Sound. That's a shame.
Andy / April 22, 2014 at 10:32 pm
Nice list, but where is Toronto's TURF? Last year was great, this year's line-up looks stunning!
Mark / April 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm
And the 50 thousand people that attend Digital Dreams?
John / April 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm
more than 50,000 @ Digital Dreams, no? No veld either, this is a joke right?
Kevin Bracken / April 22, 2014 at 11:03 pm
Surprised at Digital Dreams' absence on here. Not surprised Om is missing.
Toronto Jim / April 22, 2014 at 11:10 pm
Really we have some great fests here in the city and you missed Big Music Fest in Kitchener with a stellar lineup.
Aubrey replying to a comment from Andy / April 23, 2014 at 12:01 am
Hey Andy, Mark, John, Kevin, Jim, & future pals — If you're not going to bother reading the introduction, please don't bother commenting. These are fests to road-trip to from Toronto.
Kevin Bracken / April 23, 2014 at 01:27 am
Totally guilty of not reading the intro. Point taken!
keith / April 23, 2014 at 05:15 am
no harvest festival?!
jem / April 23, 2014 at 09:27 am
Music festivals should have live music. Veld therefore is not a music festival. Case and point
jennifer Ives / April 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

I make a 13 hour road trip every summer to Live From the Rock Folk and Blues Festival in a tiny town called Red Rock on the North Shore of Superior.

Now that's a road trip that's worth every kilometre!
RonM / April 23, 2014 at 01:36 pm
Canterbury Folk Festival, Ingersoll ON
James / April 23, 2014 at 03:49 pm
BlogTO really needs to stop coming out with these clearly one sided opinionated "top" lists, VELD, Digital Dreams, Sensation white, all over 50k people!
Aubrey replying to a comment from James / April 23, 2014 at 04:59 pm
Hi James, if you truly refuse to read the article's introduction, please at least read the other comments before leaving your own.
stopitman replying to a comment from James / April 23, 2014 at 06:33 pm
@James - lol! These are music festivals outside of Toronto. Also, twiddling knobs on a board with pre-recorded music is equivalent to lip syncing, so we won't count a bunch of the artists at those electronic festivals.
Sarah Kate / April 23, 2014 at 07:50 pm
You forgot one... The Kitchener Bluesfest, the largest FREE blues festival in Canada!
John Smith replying to a comment from Aubrey / April 23, 2014 at 08:34 pm
Hey the title "Top 10 music festivals in Ontario" Ontario includes Toronto!
Aubrey replying to a comment from John Smith / April 24, 2014 at 09:33 am
Surprised you read my comment before replying to it, well done!
Toronto Jim replying to a comment from Aubrey / April 24, 2014 at 11:46 pm
Point taken but Kitchener is not Toronto and Toronto is in Ontario. Just sayin'.
Mike / April 25, 2014 at 02:57 pm
You can't talk about Ontario music festivals and not mention Havelock Country Jamboree in Havelock Ontario. Going strong for 25 years, on over 500 acres of land with annual attendance of over 100,000 (most of them camping for the weekend!) it is on a scale that few other festivals can compare to. If you think Boots and Hearts is a big party - you haven't seen Havelock!
Audrey Ferguson replying to a comment from Mike / April 25, 2014 at 08:58 pm
Havelock is the best well run great music been going for 24 of the 25 yrs
Drew Carter / April 26, 2014 at 02:23 am
No wonder Harvest Festival isn't mentioned! After last years debacle, Neil Young fans were gouged "Royally" - This little Festival that wouldn't treat fans with respect, is doomed.. Once burned fans will never be back!
Caroline / May 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm
This is a fabulous new festival in the Kawartha's. The jewel of Kawartha Lakes cottage country hosts the summer’s only outdoor DJ Championship and SPIN Festival. Just 4 blocks away, take in a Free Beach Festival, with more family fun for all. One weekend – Two events.
Caroline / May 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm
user-pic for more information about this awesome new event in the Kawartha's
Sue / June 10, 2014 at 06:36 pm
Our goal is to make the top 10 list by 2016 :)
meta / December 27, 2014 at 10:05 am
Live from the Rock Folk Festival.... Red Rock Ontario...August 2015 ... be there or be square
World Music Festival / April 13, 2015 at 09:13 pm
Toronto won't be idle in the music festival industry for long!
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