More than 3,000 Ontario festivals and events keep locals and tourists partying all year. If you’re looking for reasons to celebrate, you’ll find more than enough to keep you happy here.
Some of the biggest festivals occur during summer, when outdoor events take centre stage.
Summer outdoor music festivals are huge. The biggies include the Toronto Jazz Festival, Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival, Sunfest in London, and Festival of Friends in Hamilton. Many of these festivals feature free admission or at least offer free concerts along with the paid ones. So they’re very easy on your wallet.
Summer outdoor art festivals are also a big draw in good weather. The free-admission Toronto Outdoor Art show features more than 500 of Canada’s and the world’s top contemporary artists and artisans and attracts about 100,000 visitors. Stratford also has craft shows along the river, and Barrie has a huge arts and crafts festival called Kempenfest.
Fall is jam-packed with festivals too. Ontario’s biggest fruit crop is grapes, and September is grape harvest time. The Niagara Region toasts the new crop with the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. Kitchener-Waterloo puts on the biggest Oktoberfest party outside of Germany. The Balls Falls Thanksgiving Festival features crafts, food and family fun. Halloween fans can join the “Howlin’ Hootenany” at the Black Creek Pioneer Village just north of Toronto for scary fun and fall treats like pumpkin tarts, candied apples and apple cider. Readers and writers will love the free Word on the Street Festival in Toronto where they can meet their favourite authors and hear them read from their works. And then there’s the granddaddy of all literary festivals, the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. Wait – don’t forget the Toronto International Film Festival! (Are you running out of weekends already?)
Ontario festivals and events don’t stop in winter. Ontario residents embrace the chilly season with Ottawa’s Winterlude, Toronto’s Wintercity and of course the New Year’s festivals which include the insane Polar Bear Dip festival in Oakville. The giant glowing animated figures of Niagara Falls’ Festival of Lights are guaranteed to make you smile and warm you up on a frosty winter day. Another sure bet is the Niagara Ice Wine Festival in the Niagara region.
Spring festivals are the best of all, because they welcome the return of good weather. Some famous Ontario festivals are the Maple Syrup celebrations that pop up all over Southern Ontario. Bronte Creek in Oakville has a good one with guided tours, syrup and candy sampling, a pancake breakfast and so on. The Ottawa Tulip Festival is about more than just flowers. It features concerts, one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, lectures and more (and the outdoor concerts are free). Want the real scent of spring? Visit the Lilac Festival at Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens, and explore the largest, dizzying lilac dell in the world.
If you’re a local, Ontario festivals and events are a great way to meet your neighbours. If you’re a tourist, why not plan your visit around one of these events?