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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The top 50 summer festivals in Toronto

summer festivals torontoSummer festivals in Toronto are a smattering of street fairs, food fests and cultural celebrations. From the end of June to September, the city brims with open-air events, community get togethers, music festivals and much more. So slather on your sunscreen and get ready for a wild ride because there's a lot to get to this season.

Here are my picks for the top festivals in Toronto this summer.

Open Roof Festival (June 17-August 19)
ORF has returned to 99 Sudbury street for another year, filling 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.

Pride (June 19-28)
Pride has taken over the Village and surrounding area once again this year. Get ready for one of the largest parties of the summer as thousands take to the streets in celebration of LGBTQ rights and equality for both the Dyke March and the big parade down Yonge St.

Digital Dreams (June 27-28)
The "largest electronic music festival in Canada" brings Armin Van Buuren, Zedd, Steve Angello, Martin Garrix and more to The Flats at Ontario place for two days of dancing, neon sunglasses, and a spectacular light show.

Taste of Asia (June 27-28)
If you can't get enough of summer food fests, here's one to add to your list. This event will feature 150 Vendors serving up mouthwatering Asian fare. Also on tap: a hot sauce competition, photo booth, and bumper soccer.

pedestrian sundays kensingtonPS Kensington (June 28th, July 26th, August 30th, September 27th, and October 25th)
Head to Kensington Market for Pedestrian Sundays throughout the summer (happening the last Sunday of the month from May to October). You'll find a host of street performers, food on sticks, and the Kensington Market Art Fair, which has returned for a second year.

Toronto Fringe (July 1-12)
This year's Toronto Fringe Festival offers a heavy dose of comedy and indie theatre. From July 1 to July 12, the city will be buzzing with eager thespians in search of an audience. The lineup this year is chock full of shows starring, written or directed by kick-ass women.

taste of torontoTaste of Toronto (July 2-5)
Now in its sophomore year, this internationally acclaimed food festival takes place at Fort York from July 2 to 5. Look forward to a lineup of 30+ chefs dishing out delicacies, a vendor marketplace, a WayHome preview stage, guided tastings, master classes, and more. Admission is $19 to $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

summer festivals torontoTaste of Lawrence (July 3-5)
The Taste of Lawrence is a three-day food and cultural fest in Scarborough. It showcases foods from a number of different cultures. There will also be midway rides and live music, as well as dancing in the streets and fun for kids.

Salsa on St. Clair (July 4-5)
Salsa on St. Clair is one of the festivals most fraught with steamy summer possibilities. Put on your dancing shoes and get to know the St. Clair West community through dance. There will also be Latin food vendors on the streets, in case you need an energy boost.

Afrofest (July 4-5)
Look forward to a weekend of drumming and dancing when this event kicks off. Afrofest, the largest annual African music fest in the country, takes over Woodbine park with music, dance, interactive workshops, theatre, poetry, food and more.

beaches jazz festBeaches Jazz Fest (July 10-26)
The Beaches Jazz Festival continues to expand, this year encompassing three weekends at Woodbine Park, on top of the annual street festival, while still remaining free for everyone. Performances by the Lula All Stars, Chris Thomas King, Ogguere, God Made Me Funky, The Boom Booms, La Gran Colombia Orchestra and many more make this one of the most international options this summer.

PANAMANIA (July 10-26, August 7-12)
The Pan Am Games aren't just about sports. You'll be able to see acts like The Roots, Flaming Lips, Chromeo, Jann Arden, USS, Lights, Janelle Monae, Colin James, tons of world music artists and lots more -- all for free at Nathan Phillips Square and the CIBC PanAm Park. Check the schedule and show up early.

TO Food Fest (July 12)
Now in its third year, the TO Food Fest has become a summer staple for Toronto. Vendors will include poutine empire Smoke's Poutinerie and newcomers like Heirloom Food Truck.

UNITY Festival (July 22-25)
The 7th annual UNITY Festival will bring beatboxers, musicians and MC's to the city for the ultimate hip hop event. Look forward to a stellar lineup, featuring headliners GZA, Babeli Marlon from Havikoro crew.

toronto festival of beerToronto's Festival of Beer (July 24-26)
Featuring over 300 different brands of beer that run the gamut from small, local outfits like Junction Craft and Left Field to purveyors of mass-produced industrial lager like Miller Lite and Budweiser, for better of for worse, TFOB has it all. Find interesting craft offerings among the "beer girls," fizzy lagers, and pseudo craft schlock and expect thousands of beer drinkers gathering to party.

Wayhome (July 24-26)
How does a festival that hasn't happened yet make the list? Have the founder of super-festival Bonnaroo bring their success north of the border, booking a three-day music, arts and camping festival, the likes of which we've never seen in Ontario. Neil Young, Sam Smith and Kendrick Lamar top the bill of over 70 acts spread over three days.

Night It UpNight it Up (July 24-26)
Admission is free for this Asian night market, happening July 24 to 26 at the Markham Civic Centre. The three-day food festival boasts 120 vendors, a spectacular stage line-up, and ticketed attractions like the Paint-A-Thon.

Hart House Craft Beer Festival (July 30)
At the end of July, Hart House hosts its annual Craft Beer Festival. Expect a day of expertly curated brews and a barbecue. Remember to bring your cab fair in case you get a little too enthusiastic about sampling.

PanAmerican Food Fest (July 30-August 3)
Head to Daniels spectrum for The PanAmerican Food Fest, a celebration that showcases the food and culture of 41 nations. This year's featured country is Mexico, so expect some top notch caliente options from vendors.

Caribana (July 30-August 2)
Caribana is back for its 47th year and just keeps getting better. Offering up three weeks of nightlife, music and entertainment, this is one of the summer's most anticipated events for good reason.

VELDVELD (August 1-2)
Toronto's other EDM monolith returns to Downsview for another round, bringing hometown hero Deadmau5, Kaskade, Hardwell, Above & Beyond, Steve Aoki, A$AP Rocky, DVBBS and more along with it. Hop on the subway to Downsview and dance all day and night.

TD Irie Music Festival (August 1-2)
The TD Irie Music festival takes over Fort York for two days to celebrate Canadian-African culture. Headliners include Bunji Garlin, Fay Ann Lyons, Junior Reid and more. This is the second of two TD Irie Music Festivals this summer, the first being held in Mississauga on July 11th and 12th.

Toronto Food Truck Festival (August 1-2)
Toronto's favourite food trucks will rally at Woodbine Park on August 1 and 2 for two days of street foods, eating challenges, cold beer, live music, and a children's village. Admission is free.

OVO FestOVO Fest (August 1-3)
Drake's love for Toronto knows no bounds, proven this year by expanding OVO Fest with a third day, featuring a Kevin Hart comedy set at the ACC. J.Cole ft. Big Sean and YG headline day one of the (somewhat) mystery lineup, while the classic 'Drake + Special Guests' is on tap for day two.The mystery has already sold out day two, so start hitting refresh on Craigslist.

SummerWorks (August 6-16)
This eleven-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 DanforthTaste of the Danforth (August 7-9)
Taste of the Danforth is one of the city's most popular street festivals. The food is plentiful, with more souvlaki than anyone can handle. There's dancing, music, and lots of live entertainment. Be warned though: the festival is this popular for a reason, so the crowds are massive.

Toronto Vegan Food and Drink Festival (August 8)
Celebrate the best of Toronto's vegan dining scene along with plenty of beer, wine and live music at Garrison Common in historic Fort York on August 8. General admission is $10, or $20 including three drink tickets.

Jerk Fest (August 8-9)
If you find yourself dining at The Real Jerk on a weekly basis, this one's for you. The fest will fill Centennial Park with the sweet scent of Caribbean food for two full days. Head down to sample everything from classic jerk chicken to alligator.

Roundhouse Beer Fest (August 8-9)
Offering an array of beers from Ontario Craft Brewers, this festival at Roundhouse Park is still a relatively casual affair with food from some Toronto food trucks. Ticket prices have jumped this year from $10 in advance to $20, but that's still decent value given that the "ticket" for is your glass, meaning you can return for day two without having to buy a second ticket.

Waterfront Night Market TorontoWaterfront Night Market (August 14-16)
Happening in the parking lot of the T & T Cherry Street supermarket, this night market will feature over 100 food and retail vendors. Expect delicious stinky tofu, steamed buns and grilled seafoods on skewers.

TIME Festival (August 15)
TIME takes a slight turn away from the dance-y line up of last year, putting South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord at the top of the bill, along with crazy crooner Mac Demarco, Ariel Pink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Yung Lean, Ryan Hemsworth, DIIV, and more, all at a very affordable price. As a bonus, there's no way it can rain as much as it did last year.

Sweetery Toronto (August 15-16)
Toronto's inaugural food festival devoted to all things sweet will debut August 15 to 16 at Front and Portland. Admission is free for the two day event featuring piƱatas, jelly bean counts, loot bags, and, food stands helmed by local bakeries, patisseries, doughnut shops and ice cream parlours.

Festival of South AsiaFestival of South Asia (August 15-16)
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.

York-Eglinton International Street Fest (August 15-16)
On the weekend of August 15th Eglinton Avenue West from Marlee to Dufferin will be closed for the York-Eglinton International Street Fest. The celebration is expected to draw in 25,000, so prepare yourself for crowds. It will feature a petting zoo, live entertainment, food vendors and countless other attractions.

Tirgan Fest (August 20-23)
The Harbourfront Centre is hosting Tirgan Fest, the world's largest celebration of Iranian art and culture. Look forward to live music, films, theatre and more when the festival kicks off at the end of August.

CNECNE (August 21-September 7)
The CNE rolls into town at the end of August and will run until September 7th. Expect the regular roster of midway games, rides, exhibitions, fair foods and about a million ways to spend your hard earned money.

Cityfest (August 22)
Cityfest is a one-day-only event at Canoe Landing Park. Expect all the usual festival shenanigans: a beer garden, live music, food vendors and more. The best part? You don't have to drop a dime for entry.

BIG on Bloor (August 22-23)
Look forward to two days of shopping and entertainment 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.

Taste of Manila (August 22-23)
Taste of Manila is an annual celebration that takes over Bathurst and Wilson with food from the Philippine's. Expect to find the streets filled with hungry festival-goers snacking on everything from dumplings to deep fried bananas. Check out what went down last year here.

TAIWANFest (August 22-24)
TAIWANfest is a free event that celebrates the meeting of food and culture. The weekend will include orchestra performances, a karaoke and dance challenge, and The International Pan-Asian Fusion Culinary Competition.

BuskerfestBuskerfest (August 27-30)
From August 27 to 30, a pack of delightful freaks and magicians will take over the streets with tons of live busking performances. Yonge St. will be open to performers and pedestrians alike between College/Carlton Streets and Queen St. As usual, the festival will be in support of Epilepsy Toronto.

Fan ExpoFan Expo (September 3-6)
This event will have the MTCC filled with everyone from comic book nerds to cosplay queens. Fan expo enthusiasts know to expect a roster of activities, vendors and special guests. On this years list: Mike Tyson, Norman Reedus, Kate Mulgrew and more.

Hot and Spicy Food Fest (September 4-7)
If you're prone to dousing your food in Frank's Red Hot or Sriracha, this fest is probably right up your alley. Celebrating cuisine from around the globe, this event focues on hot, spicy and sustainable foods. Be sure to bring an extra bottle of water, your tongue will thank you.

tiffTIFF (September 10-20)
The Toronto International Film Festival is back again this year and with it comes a long list of parties and film events. As per usual, the fest will feature everything from hard-hitting documentaries to family-friendly feature films. Check out the programme for 2015 here.

Veg Food Fest (September 11-13)
If your plant-based diet held you back from attending the many barbecue events this summer, now is your time to shine. 130 meat-free and dairy-free vendors will be serving up bites to eat at the Harbourfront Centre.

Taste of the Kingsway (September 11-13)
Each year, on the weekend after Labour Day, the Kingsway comes alive with midway rides, beer and wine gardens, live performance and samples upon samples of local food. The street festival will run from Prince Edward Dr. to Montgomery Rd.

Toronto Craft Beer Week (September 18-26)
The Toronto Craft Beer Week hits the city just in time for the final week of summer. Celebrate the end of everyone's favourite season with hoppy beverages at participating locations across the GTA.

Riot FestRiot Fest (September 19-20)
Riotfest's move to Downsview last year came with a big upgrade in their line-up, four times the stages and a second day, slowly edging closer to the monster size of their US counterparts. Thanks to this year's apparent "heavier + hip-hop" mandate, they've convinced Alexisonfire to reunite, bringing along however many of the Wu-Tang Clan can get across the border, Rancid, Motorhead, Tyler, The Creator and so many more.

Toronto Ukranian Fest (September 19-20)
This is North America's largest Ukranian street festival. It started as a small gathering in 1995, offering the chance to sample the best in Ukranian food, music and dance, and now, it draws in about 500,000 visitors. This year's festival runs from September 18th to 20th on Bloor St. W.

Polish Festival (September 19-20)
This is your chance to enjoy all of the pierogies and vodka you please without an ounce of guilt. The Roncesvalles hood, despite its relatively newfound trendiness, is still a Polish enclave, and they know what's up when it comes to food and celebration. Enjoy the Polish folklore, polka bands, and other live performances and vendors on September 19th and 20th.

What did I miss? Add more summer festivals to the comments.

Contributions from Matthew Forsythe, Ben Johnson, Sima Sahar Zerehi, Sarah Ratchford, Caspar Yue and Liora Ipsum

by Alice Prendergast via blogTO

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