Canada is home to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of festivals every year. No matter what the season, how small the festival, or how short the duration, these annual celebrations are beloved by those who attend. Canada’s major cities and their surrounding regions boast some of the most exceptional festivals in North America. Check out one or more of these amazing gatherings and make some memories!
April: Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children
Sprockets offers families and children of all ages the opportunity to not only learn about film and culture through viewing high quality screenings, but also offers Q&As with the filmmakers, and a chance for kids to enter their own shorts and win a prize! Hands-on film craft activities and drop-in activities are also a feature of the weekend. Sprockets has grown to be so popular that the Sprockets Fun Zone has been established at the Toronto International Film Festival.
2 Carlton Street, Suite 1600, Toronto, ON M5B 1J3. Mid to late April; Admission: Adults: $10.61; children ages 18 and under: $6.60.
This annual outdoor music event calls the Beaches neighborhood of Toronto home. It kicks off beside the lake in Woodbine Park with multiple outdoor stages featuring free concerts. Also part of the fun is Streetfest during which up to 50 bands of various genres play along a two-kilometer stretch of Queen St. E. Kew Gardens also offers free concerts throughout the festival weekends. All new this year is the Latin Square on the boardwalk, which will incorporate bands, workshops, dance demos and more!
1798 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M4L 1G8. Held in mid to late July; Admission: Free.
With its roots in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the Toronto Caribana Festival has become one of North America’s largest celebrations of this type. This two-week long party encompasses food, music, costumes, a junior carnival, the crowning of the Calypso Monarchs, an art exhibition and Pan Alive (steel bands), all before it culminates with the Caribana Parade, which is the signature event of the festival.
263 Davenport Rd., Toronto, ON M5R 1J9. Begins mid-July, runs two weeks; Admission: Free.
September: Riverdale Farm Annual Fall Harvest Festival
Those who love a little country will enjoy this inner-city farm festival. Farm animals and clowns will be in attendance, and also featured are a corn roast, contests, scarecrow-making lessons, dancing, spinning and weaving demos and a plant sale! Don’t miss the pancake breakfast or special activities for kids! Visitors to the festival can also enjoy the regular pleasures of the Riverdale Farm as well.
201 Winchester St., Toronto ON M4X 1B8. Mid-September; Admission: Pay what you can.
January/February: Quebec Winter Carnival
The first winter carnival in Quebec can be traced back to 1894, but it became official with Bonhomme the snowman as its mascot in 1955. Growing and adding activities ever since, it has become the biggest winter carnival in the world. Among the popular activities are the opening and closing ceremonies at Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, dog-sledding, snow sculptures, the night parade, snow sliding, skating, snow rafting, canoe races, outdoor dance parties and brunch with Bonhomme!
290 Rue Joly, Québec City, QC G1L 1N8. Late January to Mid-February; Admission: Bonhomme Effigy Tag to access most events: $12.
This celebration begins with a re-creation of the spontaneous street party that broke out at the foot of Parliament Hill back in 1945. Sound good? Follow that up with walks or shuttle rides to see over one million gorgeous tulips in bloom, the vintage wine auction or any one of the special activities and attractions happening during the festival weekend. Highlights include cuisine, music and crafts from over 30 different countries, as well as children’s programming in Major Hill Park by the scenic Rideau Canal. Several excellent area museums and venues partner with the festival too.
35 O’Connor Street, Suite #302, Ottawa, ON K1P 5M4. Mid-May; Admission: All-access pass: $20.
June/July: Montreal International Jazz Festival
Showcasing artists from all over the world, the Montreal Jazz Fest sees many downtown streets closed to accommodate the multitude of outdoor free concerts. All sizes of venues get involved as about 500 concerts are held in a 10-day span! The atmosphere is infectious, vendors line the streets, and names such as Lionel Richie, Fabulous Thunderbirds and Lou Reed, among many others, have appeared.
400 Maisonneuve Blvd West, 9th floor, Montréal, QC H3A 1L4. Late June – early July; Admission: Varies from show to show; some events are free.
July: Quebec Summer Festival
Running since 1968, the Quebec Summer Festival presents hundreds of musical performances from a wide variety of genres at both indoor and outdoor venues. Street performers and artists are involved in the 11-day extravaganza as well. Place de la Famille is the spot for some fun folk dancing and activities for the children. Big names such as Wyclef Jean, Kanye West, Van Halen, and ZZ Top have appeared at past festivals.
226, rue St-Joseph Est, Québec City, QC G1K 3A9. Mid July; Admission: Adults: $5; children ages 12-18: $3; children under 12 free.
Eight outdoor stages at Jericho Beach Park on Vancouver’s west side showcase artists from all over the world. The festival has expanded to include some other genres of music, such as hip-hop. Festival-goers can peruse the Folk Bazaar set up along the beach, sample the smorgasbord of tasty delights in the festival food area, or stroll through the Artisan Market which features beautiful and unique, handmade items.
411 Dunsmuir St., Vancouver, BC V6B 1X4. Mid-July; Admission: (Weekend Pass) Adults: $150; students age 19+ w/ID: $85; seniors w/ID: $65; children ages 13-18: $63; children under 12 free.
July: Whistler Children’s Art Festival
Only a two-hour drive from Vancouver, this incredible children’s festival boasts all sorts of imaginative fun such as street performances, art workshops, music, acrobatics, theatre and dance! The aim is introducing kids to the arts in an interactive environment, and this is achieved through family workshops, and programs geared to those ages 5-11, intermediates in grades 7 and 8, as well as preschoolers 2-5 years old who have their own area. Some examples of workshops are drumming, sketching, painting, photography, dance, chocolate dipping and t-shirt making.
4335 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, B.C. V0N 1B0. Mid-July; Admission: Adults: free; children ages 3-13: $5 per day or $10 weekend; children under 3 free.