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11 April 2023

Guide to Some of Toronto’s Top Summer Festivals

Canadian National Exhibition. Photo c/o Destination Toronto

Summertime is prime time for festivals and Toronto is bustling with an overwhelming amount of events happening all at once. Pedestrian days, street food trucks, art installations throughout the city, and many more.

I was instantly drawn to this new energy around the city and wanted to see for myself what was going on. The Luminato Festival at Woodbine Park called to me with the promise of live music from artists of a different culture. The stage roamed with dances, Ukrainian electro-folk music, and many more talented artists.

However, the Luminato experience was so much more: amidst all the music and dancing there were people that were connecting with each other and bonding through this common experience.

If you too are an arts and culture enthusiast, read on for a list of some of our favourite summer festivals in Toronto.

Did we miss your favourite? Let us know so we can check it out!

Word on the Street

For the biggest book nerds, the Word on the Street is a free outdoor book and magazine festival that focuses on promoting Canadian and Indigenous authors and their stories. WOTS, as it is casually called, gathers authors, publishers, and readers in one big, two-day festival at Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto.

While there, you can check out publishers from all over Canada from the bigger companies like Harper Collins Canada to independent press like Broken Pencil; listen to the guest speakers that include Canadian authors like Heather O’Neil; and, of course, you can buy books, magazines, and zines from the many vendors like Queen Books and Another Story Bookshop.

The 2023 festival will be held on May 27-28.

Toronto Outdoor Picture Show

If you are more of a movie fan, the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show is an opportunity to experience an open-air movie screening at one of the four parks in Toronto on hot summer nights. The festival includes 21 film screenings from the end of June till the end of August in four beautiful parks: Fort York, Christie Pits Park, Corktown Common, and Bell Manor. So bring blankets and snacks and enjoy free films under the stars.

The show runs Sundays from June until August.

TD Toronto Jazz Festival

If you hear jazz music casually passing by the streets, no, you are not in New Orleans, it’s still good old downtown Toronto but it might mean the Toronto Jazz Festival is on — with many talented Canadian musicians ready to make you stop on your daily walk and wrap you around in their tunes. The annual summer festival includes over 75 musical acts by both local artists and guests from abroad. The festival has both free and ticketed events with stages located at Avenue and Bloor, throughout Yorkville, and the University of Toronto campus, with stars like Smokey Robinson, Gregory Porter, and many more.

The 2023 festival runs from June 23-July 2.

Toronto Fringe Festival

Theatre enthusiasts will love Toronto’s Fringe Festival, a theatre and visual arts festival with over 100 shows including indie theatre, comedy sketches, musicals, dance, and more. For 10 days you can attend any shows to your liking just for $14 per ticket at any of 11 venues across the city. You can go for Nam Nguyen’s musical A Perfect Bowl Of Pho at Ada Slaight Hall or a sketch comedy Don Valley Girls at Crow’s Theatre or both, it is up to you to decide. Either way, it is a great opportunity to explore the beautiful stages of Toronto, enjoy the art and meet new people.

The festival runs annually in July. The 2023 dates are July 5-16.

YENSA Festival

To appreciate the art of dance go to the YENSA Festival, a dance festival with performances and workshops celebrating the work and culture of women of African and Afro-diasporic cultures. The event runs for a week and kicks off with workshops you can attend such as Hip Hop Fusion Choreography by Shameka Blake. After that head to a public talk about choreography and the diversity of African Diasporic aesthetics, and of course, attend one of the stunning performances.

The event runs annually in August.

Canadian National Exhibition

The Canadian National Exhibition is truly a gem that sums up this list of your summer experience since it usually begins in mid-August. This end-of-a-summer fair has rides, food, concerts, games, exhibits, an Air Show, and more for you to enjoy. Held annually, CNE is Canada’s largest fair located at Exhibition Place.

The 2023 Exhibition runs from August 18 till September 4.

This post originally appeared in August 2022 and was update in April 2023.

Category: Ontario, Toronto