The top 54 summer festivals in Toronto for 2016
Summer festivals in Toronto really show that we are the most diverse city in the world. There are so many reasons for other cities to be jealous of us, but this list just puts things over the top. Countless streets, parking lots, parks, clubs, neighbourhoods, and fields will showcase our most exciting food, people, music, art, theatre... and tons more.
Here are my picks for the top summer festivals in Toronto.
Pride (June 1 - July 3)
Pride takes over the city for an entire month this year, and we don't have a problem with that. Human rights panel talks, film screenings, a gay day at Canada's Wonderland... all culminating with the two final weekends of June, which are so packed with gay parties, you'll be washing glitter out of your hair and clothes for the rest of the summer.
Open Roof Fest (Every Tuesday from June 21 - Aug 24)
ORF is back at 99 Sudbury for another year, filling (a couple Tuesday and) Wednesday nights with music and movies all summer long. Each night will begin with a musical performance and will be followed by a feature film once the sun has set. Check out the full list of films here.
Taste of Toronto (June 23 - 26)
There were some great eats at last year's acclaimed foodie fest, and this year probably won't disappoint. 20 chefs, 54 dishes, 34 cooking demos all for $19. $45 gets you the VIP pass, which includes private washroom and free tastes of beer and wine.
Toronto Jazz Festival (June 24 - July 3)
Sarah McLachlan is among performers at this mega-jazz fest. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Lee Fields, and Wynton Marsalis are some of the other mega names. Some will perform at Yonge-Dundas Square, while others will take the stage at the Sony Centre and other venues.
Taste of Asia (June 25)
Billed as Canada's largest Asian festival, this multicultural love-in of food, games, attractions and performance takes over Kennedy Road in Markham for two days of fun. Admission is free.
Digital Dreams (June 25-26)
The "largest electronic music festival in Canada" returns to the Flats at Ontario Place despite all that messy rain and mud last year with DJs like Above & Beyond, Armin Van Buren, Nassnectar and Danny Tenaglia. Don't forget to hydrate you crazy dancing kids.
Flavours of Fairbank (June 25-26)
Two-days of family friendly fun on Eglinton Avenue West at Dufferin. New this year to the newly renamed fest will be a traditional lion dance from Bamboo Kung Fu, a folk exhibition on the second stage, and a Euro Cup viewing screen at Game Central.
PS Kensington (June 26, July 31, Aug 28)
Judging by these photos from the first of this year's Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market, this summer in Toronto's hippie zone is going to rule. Happening the last Sunday of the month from May to October you can expect street performers, food on sticks, and the Kensington Market Art Fair.
Annex Family Festival (June 26)
Between Bathurst and and Spadina on Bloor St, this family fest is a busy one, now in it's 20th year! Lots of local booths and offerings from businesses on Bloor, as well as games and performances.
Fringe Festival (June 29-July 10)
The Fringe Fest is where so many amazing shows are born and go on to live successful lives of their own. This theatre, arts, dance, etc. fest is all about taking chances, going to see a few shows and getting caught up in the weird, wild fun.
Toronto Boat Festival (June 30)
Dragon Boat racers from all provinces across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean Islands, Europe and Asia take over Centre Island for a weekend of colourful racing on the water.
Toronto Ribfest (June 30 - July 3)
This is a very messy festival. Ribs! They are delicious, but holy creepers does the sauce ever get everywhere. Please, no white clothing in Etobicoke's Centennial Park from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. There are also three concert stages and one stage strictly for kids.
Electric Island (July 1, Aug 1, September 4-5)
Electric Island seems to be the only music fest who can successfully pull off something on the Island. The July 1 edition features Honey Dijon and Tale of Us. There are food vendors, lots of fluffy grass to sit on and simple but stunning visuals.
Redpath Waterfront Festival (July 1-3)
The world's largest Viking ship, all the way from Norway, will sail in (among a few other impressive ships) to this waterside festival. There's a Royal Canadian Navy cook-off, an artisan market, food trucks and buskers.
Taste of Lawrence (July 8-10)
A three-day food and culture festival that takes place in the Wexford Heights. It's free admission and it's the largest outdoor event in Scarborough. There will be loads of international food, vendors and fairground type rides as well as two stages for live shows. Check their official website for headliners and more info as it's announced.
Afrofest (July 8-9)
Though programming hasn't been announced yet, this fest is always a good time. Celebrating African heritage, music, and culture, it takes place in Woodbine Park and there will be lots of amazing drumming.
Salsa on St. Clair (July 9-10)
Did you know Spanish is the most spoken foreign language in Canada? You'll do really well at this festival if you speak it (or even if you don't). This street festival is one of the busiest on offer, with salsa, Latin and Cuban bands among the many playing amongst the hoards of walkers and dancers.
Beaches Jazz Festival (July 2 - 24)
Bands like 7Sould, De Bruces A Mi and Johnny Rawls Big Band take to the main stages at Woodbine Park during Beaches Jazz Fest. Surrounded by food and all types of vendors, the party spill out onto the streets as well during the evenings of July 21 - 23. Otherwise, a variety of concerts, and mini festivals associated with Jazz Fest happen all month long.
Maker Festival (July 9-10)
Hosted at the Toronto Reference Library, this is a festival for creative people to share new creations, demonstrate projects and make things together! Blending technology and craft, there are workshops, food and drinks.
Toronto Summer Music Festival (July 14 - Aug 7)
This year the classical music festival showcases the music of Great Britain. From baroque to the 20th century pop British Invasion, and includes a celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare with 16 singers and leading Shakespeare scholars for a full day of sonnets, scenes, and songs.
Vector Festival (July 14-17)
This gaming and new media arts festival mainly goes down at Inter/Access on Ossington, but other exhibitions, performances, screenings, workshops and lectures happen at other venues around the city.
Night It Up! (July 15-17)
A giant night market in Markham is what this is. The Huawei sports zone featuring all kinds of games will help you work off all the amazing food you'll be wolfing down at the vendor stations. It's open 'till midnight on Friday and Saturday night (8pm on Sunday) and is modelled after traditional night markets in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Festival of India (July 16-17)
This colourful fest starts with a parade from Bloor and Yonge street, all the way down to Queens Quay, where the party continues on Toronto Island. Celebrating a rich tradition, the two days of performances on the island include singing, dancing and drama. Yoga Meltdown also happens on the first day of the fest.
Summerlicious (July 18-24)
You know the drill. There will be prix-fix menus at over 220 of our city's finest restaurants. Happening pretty much everywhere at lunch and dinner, there are 24 new participants this year and here is a site where you can take a look at the full list.
UNITY Festival (July 20-23)
The 7th annual Unity Festival will bring local beatboxers, musicians and MCs to the city for the ultimate hip hop event. Many of the events happen at the Super Wonder Gallery and it all culminates with headliners DÄM-FunK at the Unity concert on Saturday, July 23 at Yonge-Dundas Square.
T&T Night Market (July 22 - 24)
So there's an entertainment stage, a sports zone, and a film showcase at the waterfront festival, but we all know everyone's really going for the amazing food. Just look at our photographic examples of some of the goodies!
Wayhome (July 22 - 24)
This fest made a lot of fans happy last year with its music lineup and chill vibes. With a crazy 2016 lineup including Arcade Fire, Haim, and LCD Soundsystem, they're set to make even more friends. Don't forget, it's in Oro-Medonte, so plan on sleeping over with a tent.
Toronto's Festival of Beer (July 22-24)
Alert: Saturday's already sold out, but there are still tickets for Friday and Sunday. Second alert, House of Pain are playing on Friday, July 22. Taking place at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, this one is simply a playground of beer tents, music and food.
Festival of South Asia (July 23-24)
The Festival of South Asia is focused on food, and it closes down Gerrard Street in Little India from Coxwell to Greenwood. Aside from the eats, it's a great chance to take in some Bollywood music and dancing.
Big on Bloor (July 23 - 24)
Look forward to two days of shopping, entertainment, arts and culture when BIG on Bloor closes the street off to cars between Dufferin and Lansdowne. The event boasts a lengthy list of vendors, entertainers, and more. See the full list of participants here.
Toronto Burlesque Festival (July 28 - 31)
Taking place at both Revival and the Virgin Mobile Mod Club (basically across the street from one another), this one features the best of the best in the world of Burlesque. From The Stage Door Johnnies to NYC's Dirty Martini, prepare yourself for loads of tassels and teasing.
Caribana (July 28 - 31)
I went to Caribana last year and got danced on so hard it changed my life. Just look at the beautiful photos! This is the place to be for street dancing and people watching, if you're brave enough to sneak into the parade route. The weekend includes big parties, picnics and of course, the parade.
Toronto Food Truck Festival (July 29-31)
Woodbine Park hosts the Food Truck frenzy with about 40 vehicles pulling up and serving you the goods. Here's a full list of the vendors, but some of my faves include FeasTO and Original Chimney's.
OVO (July 29, 31, Aug 1)
This is actually the coolest summer festival in the city. With our city's love for Drake at an all time high, this show will be off the chain. Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa and have already been announced, but we all know it's about the surprise guests. But don't worry if you can't get there, the fest overlaps with Drake's Summer Sixteen tour.
TD Irie Music Festival (July 30-31)
Nathan Phillip Square is taken over with the sounds, smells and tastes of African-Canadian culture with headliners Bushman, DaVille and the Summer Dance Showcase on closing night. This one's for people who want to dance and chill.
VELD (July 30-31)
EDM hasn't died just yet, and VELD is the only place for true fans to be. Taking place at Downsview Park over two days, this year's headliners include the Chainsmokers, Flume and Travis Scott.
SummerWorks Festival (August 4-14)
This 11-day Canadian cultural festival focuses on theatre, dance, music, and live art. Tickets are already on sale, and you can view the full list of performances here.
Taste of the Danforth (August 5-7)
This one is always fun, not only for fans of Greek food, and large, large crowds, but for fun activities like breaking Guinness World Records and hanging out in the Hollywood zone with some major blockbuster movie characters. Mind the crowds!
Kultura Festival (Aug 5 - 7)
This Filipino Arts festiva is a emulti-day celebration of food, art, dance, music and culture, topped off with a super fun marketplace. Schedule and details have yet to be revealed so keep an eye on their website.
Time Festival (August 6)
Fort York is transformed into a giant nightclub for Time Festival. It was a sticky one last year with the August heat wave in full-effect, but that never truly seems to impact the electronic music lovers. The lineup includes Run The Jewels, Broods, Joey Bada$$ and Kehlani. The full lineup is on their site now.
Jerk Fest (August 6 - 7)
Caribbean flavours and music take over Centennial Park in Etobicoke for this yummy fest. Reggae star Etana performs, as do L.U.S.T. and a major R&B singersoon to be announced. Hungry participants can get in on a dominos competition and eating contest. Gates open at 5 p.m.
Toronto Vegan Food & Drink Fest (Aug 13)
There's music and stuff at this festival, but let's get real, we're here for the delicious vegan food and dranks. Featured vendors include, Doomies and Cardinal Rule. Hopefully they don't run out of food this year!
York-Eglinton International Street Fest (August 13-14)
Starting at 11 p.m. both days, not only features some amazing face painting, but some pretty fun stuff for whole fam. Eglinton Avenue West from Marlee to Dufferin will be closed for the celebration which will also include a petting zoo, live entertainment, food vendors and countless other attractions.
CNE (August 19-September 5)
The CNE rolls into town at the end of August and will run until September 5. Expect the regular roster of midway games, rides, exhibitions, fair foods and about a million ways to spend your hard earned money.
Sweetery Toronto (August 20-21)
David Pecaut Square is invaded with sweet treats and sweet people over these two days. Admission is free, you'll just need to shell out for the sugar. Master Chef Christopher Siu will have a booth, and the rest of the dessert-filled lineup will be announced soon.
Taste of Manilla (August 21 - 22)
Taking place in Little Manila (Bathurst and Wilson), this is Toronto's largest Filipino festival, and it's free. That being said, bring that cash because there's no way you won't want to buy food from the vendors. There'll also be loads of performances and fashion pageants, showing off this culture's knack for intricate design.
TAIWANfest (August 26 - 28)
Billed as a "cultural tango with Hong Kong" this fest at the Harbourfront is free to enter. Creating a cultural conversation between Taiwan and Hong Kong, the fest will blend food vendors (that's lots of bubble tea), and cultural programming. More details here.
Toronto Cider Festival (August 27)
The first-ever cider fest was a hit, so they're doing it again! And apples are in season at this point, so why not? Taking over Yonge-Dundas Square, there will be 30 different ciders from Canada and around the planet. It's a laid back affair with live music and snacks to be announced.
Tamil Fest (August 29-30)
This is the largest Tamil Street Festival outside of the Indian Sub-continent. This year it's happening on Morningside Road near Markham Avenue and will feature music, fashion, food, dance, comedy and more food. A full list is on their website.
Fan Expo (September 1 - 4)
Sigourney Weaver will be in attendance this year. Do I need to say anything else? OK, William Shatner and George Takei will also be there celebrating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Nerds unite!
Buskerfest (August 2 - 5)
Enough with food already! Let's get own to funny business. Clowns, acrobats, and show offs gather at Woodbine Park to entertain you! There will be over 100 performers, but this time, on the beach! Don't worry, like last year, there'll also be lots of food and drink.
Toronto International Film Festival (September 8 - 18)
Stars (and all kinds of less-exciting, but equally important film people) take over Toronto for most of the mont of September during TIFF. Our theatres are packed, our hotels are booked, the bars and restaurants are buzzing ... there's good and bad to the entire thing. Check their website for upcoming programming announcements.
Turf Festival (September 16 - 18)
Toronto's "Urban Roots Festival" takes over Fort York with 44 artists to rock your world. But not like a heavy rock kind of way. A pleasant summer rock kind of way. Lineup includes Death Cab for Cutie, Matt Good, Barenaked Ladies, The Hives, Drive-by Truckers, James Bay and 38 others. New this year, there are four stages. There are also three types of ticket packages.
Roncesvalles Polish Festival (Sept 17 - 18)
North America's largest celebration of Polish culture takes over Roncesvalles for a weekend of food, music, performance, dance, crafts and things from all the cute stores along the street. Don't you dare forget the Dance Under The Stars polka dance party on Saturday night. Take a look at our favourite foods from last year's festival.
Shout out to Alice Prendergast for her help with festival research. Photos by Alejandro Santiago, Mauricio Calero, Matt Forsythe, Jesse Milns, and Ryan Bolton.
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