Top Toronto Festivals

Top Toronto Festivals Can Be Found Throughout The Year

Updated:  March 2015

Scrolling through the TV channels in the wasteland that is summer tv, we stumbled across a Rogers Cable show listing their view of the top Toronto festivals.  We have done all of these over the years except #9 and #10 and agree they are worth putting on the calendar.

#10 –  Canadian Music Week and #9 – Toronto Fashion Week

We have not done either one of these.  Sorry!

#8 – Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival  (late July)

You can find live outdoor music entertainment all over Toronto in the summer.  One of our top Toronto festivals is the Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival.  For 9 days, a broad set of Jazz concerts can be found in the east end of downtown in various venues.  The festival culminates in 3 nights of pure street entertainment.  With Queen Street East closed off for 17 blocks, you can find performers set up almost side by side along the whole road – alternating in who is playing to limit as much as possible the bleed-over of sound from one band to the next.

While this festival started as a “jazz” festival, today you will find a wide range of performers although jazz in all of its infinite varieties is well represented.Toronto Beaches Jazz on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

Toronto Beaches Jazz on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

If you are going to miss the Beaches Jazz Festival check out the dates for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.  Held usually just before the Beaches festival, this one combines a variety of outside and inside venues over 2 weeks.  The outside venues are more close to the centre of downtown Toronto with the inside venues around the downtown area.

No matter which jazz festival you pick, you will not be disappointed.

#7 – Toronto Buskerfest (early August)

Buskerfest is an international festival devoted to buskers.  It brings out performers with wide ranging skills – fitting their bodies inside incredibly small spaces, juggling, fire eating, walking on stilts and so on.  The entrance fee all goes to charity (not to pay the entertainers) so the performances survive on good donations from happy visitors.It is great entertainment through the evening and into dark.  There are generally one or two spectaculars put on after dark (check the schedule).  These are always worth waiting around for.

Buskerfest on the top Toronto festivals list.jpgBuskerfest on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg
Buskerfest on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

#6 – Toronto Nuit Blanche (in the winter, a fun all night arts exhibition throughout the city and its streets)

Before the city of Toronto gets too cold to run around in at night, Nuit Blanche offers at chance to explore the area of West Queen to see the outdoor art exhibits.  Art galleries in the area open their doors to provide additional displays and there are always lots of options in this part of town for good dining before or after your art crawl.

#5 – Toronto Pride Week (late June)

Pride Week is an opportunity for the Toronto LGBTQ+ community to celebrate.  As in all other major cities, Pride Week culminates in the Pride Day Parade.  We were late comers to this festive event but found it to be great entertainment in addition to a real statement about how far this community has come in general acceptance in Toronto.  The last time we went, we took our then 19 year old son – to open his eyes.  We have no pictures because he did not want this recorded!  But he walked away with a better appreciation for the community and somewhat surprised at how open minded we were.  It is always interesting to see your children start to see you as people and not just as straight, boring “mom and dad”.  Consider this for your top Toronto festivals list.

#4 – Taste of the Danforth (early August)

The Taste of the Danforth has grown from hosting 5,000 to over 1.5million visitors over the 3 days when they close Danforth Street for 17 blocks to host this annual festival.  While it originally focused mostly on food booths, it has grown to become a celebration of both Greek heritage and the broader multicultural nature of Toronto.  If you are into good local food, put this one on your top Toronto festivals list.

Taste Danforth on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

There are 3 main stages along Danforth that offer a wide variety of entertainment over the 3 days – from belly dancing to various kinds of music.  There is entertainment for everyone of all ages.

Taste Danforth on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

The festival was initiated as a celebration of food and food remains a big part of the “Taste” of the Danforth.  While Greek food is probably the predominant food you will find, there is something to tempt just about everyone.  Most of the food is served in front of participating restaurants as a way to tempt you to return if this was not already a favourite food stomping ground for you.

Taste Danforth on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

#3 – Carabana (early August)

Carabana celebrations happen for weeks.  While the big party is held on the Toronto Islands, there is as much of a party that surrounds the Carabana parade to close the festival.

Caribana parade on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

The parade closes off Lakeshore Blvd from the exhibition grounds almost to the Humber River.  The fun starts when the paraders and floats all congregate on the exhibition grounds to begin the slow walk.  While the floats are lots of fun, the people on parade offer just as much entertainment.

Caribana parade on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg
Caribana parade on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

With crowds lined up along the whole parade route, there are lots of opportunities for the spectators to get in the spirit.

Caribana parade on the top Toronto festivals list.jpg

#2 – TIFF  (international level film festival in September)

David attended the very first TIFF held in Toronto (yes – he is that old)!  TIFF is held in September and we are generally away travelling in September so we have not attended in recent years.  It is a great time to see the new films and to spot stars wandering about Yorkville!

#1 – CNE (in August, culminating with the Air Show on Labour Day weekend)

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is Toronto’s signal that the summer is coming to an end.  As a kid, this was the only amusement park game in town and we knew that after “the Ex”, we would be back to school.  When they built the huge new amusement park at Canada’s Wonderland (open all summer), the rides at the CNE seemed to pale by comparison for older visitors but the children’s rides and the Midway still draw crowds.  The Food Building has always been a big draw offering a chance to sample a broad variety of food – if there are less and less “free” samples each year.

While the CNE has dwindled to an occasional visit for us, the CNE also still brings the annual big Toronto Airshow.  From our condo on the lake, we can easily bicycle along the lakeshore to get closer to the show or we can head up to the 47th floor roof terrace and feel even closer to the planes!  The sound of fighter jets still makes my blood soar!

Toronto Festivals.jpg


Luckily we live downtown by the lake so many top Toronto festivals within biking distance.  Other favourite summer things that aren’t on the list:  Shakespeare in the Park at High Park, Taste of Italy and the wide range of weekend festivals at Harbourfront.

Honda Indy

One of my favourites is the Hondy Indy.  I love the vroom vroom roar of the engines – almost as much as the sonic boom of the fighter jets!  A few years ago, David took our two then-teenage boys to the pre-race festivities.  They saw a bit of the warmup runs but were more interested in looking at the cars and the girls!  In time they might even develop an interest in the real car race!

Toronto Prepares For Honda Indy
Nick and Kris With Dr. Pepper
Nick and Kris with Canadian Tire Car


Enjoy Toronto – our town!   Did I miss any you would add to the  top Toronto festivals list?

About TravelAtWill 298 Articles
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