ontario music festivals

The top 10 music festivals in Ontario for 2016

Summer music festivals are about to get under way all across Ontario. Looking for an excuse to get out of Toronto? There's festival for just about anyone only a short car ride away on any given weekend. Last year, the seasonal lineup was bolstered by the arrival of WayHome, and it only looks to get better this year.

Here are my picks for the top music festivals outside of Toronto this summer.

Sound Of Music
Location: Burlington
Dates: June 11, 16-19, 2016
Venue: Various
Drive time: ~45 min.
Type of music: Various
Burlington's Sound of Music Festival continues it's tradition of keeping the past alive, filling their line-up with veterans like The Cult, Headstones, Soul Asylum, Sass Jordan, I Mother Earth and more. More recent acts like the OBGMs, Dirty Nil and Mother Mother are there to keep things new and fresh. Like last year, the majority of the festival is still free, with a ticketed kick-off concert (The Cult).

Mariposa Folk Festival
Location: Orillia
Dates: July 8-10, 2016
Venue: Tudhope Park
Drive time: ~1.5hrs
Type of music: Folk
No other festival in Ontario has a legacy like Mariposa Folk Festival: 56 years young and they're still sticking to their folk roots. While 2016 may not have names like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris (all past performers), you know Mariposa will keep things inline with what they do best.

RBC Bluesfest
Location: Ottawa
Dates: July 7-17, 2016
Venue: Lebreton Flats Park
Drive time: ~4.5 hrs
Type of music: Various
No one is fooled by the Bluesfest moniker anymore - everyone knows it's actually one of the biggest music festivals of the year in our nation's capital. Over the span of 10 days, Alessia Cara, City and Colour, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, Brad Paisley, Future, The Lumineers, Wolf Parade, Billy Idol and more will do their best to put your blues to rest.

Location: Oro-Medonte
Dates: July 22-24, 2016
Venue: Burl's Creek Event Grounds
Drive time: ~1.5 hr
Type of music: Various
WayHome delivered on its promise of bringing something bigger than we'd ever seen in Ontario last summer, and there's no reason this year won't be even better. LCD Sound System, Arcade Fire, The Killers, Major Lazer, M83, Haim, Metric and Chvrches only scratch the surface of the bands playing over three days.

Location: Guelph
Dates: July 22-24, 2016
Venue: Guelph Lake Island
Drive time: ~1 hr
Type of music: Various
Once again going toe-to-toe with WayHome, Hillside is sticking to what it does best: promoting Canadian music in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere while keeping an eye on the environment. Buffy Ste. Marie w/ The Sadies, Donovan Woods, Kid Koala'a Vinyl Vaudville Show, Jennifer Castle, Land Of Talk, Holy Fuck, Nap Eyes, PUP and more are on hand to entertain over three days.

Electric Eclectics
Location: Meaford
Dates: July 29 - July 31, 2016
Venue: Farm outside Meaford
Drive time: ~2.5 hrs
Type of music: Electronic
The avant-garde festival from a farm outside Meaford, ON keeps doing eclectic like only they can. The preliminary lineup is out (Anamai, Bile Sister, Not The Wind, Not The Flag and more), with acts like HSY and Jennifer Castle widening the range of bands involved. Stay tuned for more artists and headliners to be announced soon.

Boots and Hearts
Location: Oro-Medonte
Dates: Aug 4-7, 2016
Venue: Burl's Creek Event Grounds
Drive time: ~1.5 hrs
Type of music: Country
After last year's successful transition to Burl's Creek (they made it clear WayHome was the test run for the "real show"), you can expect the second largest country music festival in the world to get even more comfortable in their new accommodations. Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton will help you break in your new 10-gallon hat.

Location: Hamilton
Dates: September 9-11, 2016
Venue: James Street North
Drive time: ~1 hr
Type of music: Various
Hamilton's SuperCrawl has made a name for itself thanks to consistently intriguing lineups at the low, low price of free. Even without a lineup announced yet, there's little doubt it'll be worth the trip -- last year brought out Hayden, Daniel Lanois, Monster Truck, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, and more.

Havelock Country Jamboree
Location: Havelock
Dates: Aug. 18-21, 2016
Venue: Havelock
Drive time: ~2 hrs
Type of music: Country
In their 27th year, the Havelock Jamboree is still expanding. The Band Perry, Scotty McCreery, The Road Hammers, Terri Clark, Sammy Kershaw and more will be performing on new, larger twin stages. Not to worry though, the family-friendly camping experience is still intact.

Centre Of Gravity
Location: Wasaga Beach
Dates: Aug. 19-21, 2016
Venue: Wasaga Beach
Drive Time: ~2 hrs
Type of music: EDM/Hip-Hop
Before EDM was a thing, Wasaga Beach was home to an action sports and music festival called Wakestock. Monster Energy's Centre Of Gravity looks to bring a similar vibe back to Wasaga, except music is the big deal this time, with a side of sports. Tiesto, Ice Cube, Hardwell, Atmosphere, Showtek, Ty Dolla $ign and more will be on stage.

Writing by Matt Forsythe. Photo of WayHome by Jesse Milns.

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