The Top 20 Summer Festivals in Toronto
Summer means festival season in Toronto. From food festivals to those showcasing theatre or music, there's more weekend activities from June to August to boggle the mind. Some of the best ones have already come and gone - but there's a lot more on the schedule for the coming months.
We recently asked readers of this site to nominate and vote for their favourite summer festivals. Here's a rundown of the top 20, organized by month.
PS Kensington, The last Sunday of every month, May - October
Kensington Market equals fun times every day of the week, but on the last Sunday of every month during the summer the neighbourhood puts on a show as Augusta, Kensington and Baldwin streets are closed to motor vehicles. This means human scale games of Scrabble, buskers, street food, BBQ, arts and crafts and a lot more. And there's a different theme every month which means there's always something new.
Luminato, June 5 - 14th, 2009
This year marked the third edition of Luminato and general consensus was that 2009 was the best one yet. The Big Red Ball seemed to captivate the entire city and throngs showed up for the 1,000 Tastes of Toronto. Mix in Cirque du Soleil, Final Fantasy and a tribute to Neil Young and can't wait to see what they come up with next year.
NXNE, June 17 - 21st, 2009
Toronto's best music festival keeps getting better, this year highlighted by the Arts & Crafts showcase, Patrick Wolf stripping on stage and the usual ridiculously good mix of local and international bands.
Pride, June 19th - 28th
Some say Toronto Pride is North America's best; and with the turnouts this year at the Dyke March and Pride Parade it's tough to name a city that tops us. Incidentally, of all the festivals on this list, Pride came in tops with the most reader votes.
Etobicoke Ribfest, July 1
Etobicoke makes an appearance on this list with perhaps the city's best celebration of ribs. A huge crowd pleaser year after year, this festivals manages to find the best rib specialists in the vicinity for a serious rib taste off.
Fringe Festival, July 1 - 12th, 2009
Toronto's premier theatre festival, the Fringe has the usual mix of dogs and stars, some of which ultimately break through and find a wider audience. Check out Lisa's picks of what to see at this year's Fringe.
Summerlicious, July 3 - 19th, 2009
The city-run event that started the whole -licious thing; often copied but never duplicated. 150 restaurants now participate in this prix fixe menu smorgasbord including almost all of Toronto's top restaurants. Lauren has more in her look at the 2009 edition.
Corso Italia Festival, July 4 - 5th, 2009
Toronto's "other" Little Italy street festival. It's not as central but many prefer Corso Italia's version to the more hyped College Street one. And if the line-ups at La Paloma are too long, remember there's still good gelato elsewhere on the strip.
Night it Up, July 10th, 2009
Formerly Toronto Night Market, this event is one of my favourites of the entire year mainly because (a) I love food festivals and (b) the food here is amazing, even if the line-ups are insane. From stinky tofu to grilled takoyaki this one's not to be missed.
Beats, Breaks and Culture, July 10 - 12th, 2009
Harbourfront Centre hosts festivals throughout the summer but this one consistently ranks the best of the bunch. It is THE pre-eminent electronic music festival in Toronto offering a chance to chill and listen to ambient beats by the lake courtesy of local and international talent including - this year - Holy F**K.
Afrofest, July 11 - 12th, 2009
Surrounded by a circle of traffic, events at Queen's Park can be a bit claustrophobic but on a busy summer weekend it's still worth checking out Toronto's annual celebration of African music and culture. Good music and good food.
Mexico Beyond Your Expectations, July 17 - 19th, 2009
Not voted by readers but for a good reason - this festival, hosted by Harbourfront Centre, is new this year but it's filled with so much promise we just had to add it to the list. Mexican band Cafe Tucaba normally plays in front of jam packed stadiums back in their home country but here they'll be strutting their stuff for free on the Sirius Stage. There's also a Mexican cooking clinic by Frida's chef and free Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling).
Beaches International Jazz Festival, July 17 - 26th, 2009
The city's best jazz festival consumes the Beaches for 10 days in July and features an international line-up of Jazz bands and soloists. We'll have a preview on the site soon.
Canadian Voices, July 24 - 26th, 2009
Another new festival this year and one we just had to add thanks to it's stellar programming of Canadian music talent including Amy Milan, The Dears, Laura Barret and Gentleman Reg. Throw in a couple of poetry slams and sounds like a great weekend.
Caribana, July 30 - August 1st, 2009
You either love or hate Caribana. Tourism Toronto spends a crazy amount of effort promoting this festival that sees half of North Toronto vacate to Cottage Country just to avoid the traffic snarls and sometimes violent outbursts. Now in its 42nd year, this is the largest celebration of Caribbean culture in North America.
The Beer Festival, August 6 - 9th, 2009
Beer lovers can't get enough of this food festival which this year has adopted the inevitable Beerlicious moniker. There are 200 beers on offer - many of them local and Canadian microbrews - that sampling anywhere near a quarter of them can lead to a serious hangover. Oh, and did I mention there's grilled meat and music too? Better get tickets early as this event can sell out.
Taste of the Danforth, August 7 - 9th, 2009
Like Caribana, we tend to either love this street festival or stay far far away. An abundance of souvlaki? Check! Insane crowds? Check! Thai food? Check! Read last year's primer to decide whether this is right for you.
Summerworks, August 6 - 16th, 2009
Toronto's "other" summer theatre festival, Summerworks also includes a bit of music and art to round out its programming. It's "Fringe-style" but with a somewhat more curated approach.
Hot N Spicy Food Festival, August 15 - 17th, 2009
Thai, Indian, Cajun and Caribbean food are just some of what's represented at Harbourfront Centre's biggest (and spiciest) food festival of the year. See previous coverage. Beyond sumptuous food samplings there also a nice mix of music, dance and other activities.
Festival of South Asia, August 21 - 23rd, 2009
Poor Little India often gets overlooked when it comes to summer festivals, but not on this list. These three days in August might just be the best time to sample the culinary and commercial offerings from Gerrard Street East, highlighted, for me, by the fresh roasted corn and abundant dosa.
Not mentioned here are all the excellent outdoor arts festivals.
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