Nova Scotia hosts hundreds of festivals each year, and at first glance you might think most were devoted to food. Several coastal communities celebrate seafood, including Digby, Pictou, Shelburne, and Yarmouth, and the Annapolis Valley hosts events for apple-blossom time and the pumpkin harvest. Many events, though, highlight the diversity of the Nova Scotian people, from Halifax’s multiculturalism to the Scottish heritage of Antigonish and Cape Breton to the North Shore’s Acadian culture. Theater festivals range from Shakespeare to fringe, and music lovers will find much to choose from.
Apple Blossom Festival. The beauty of the Annapolis Valley orchards provides reason enough to visit the apple-growing region in late spring, but this six-day, family-friendly festival in late May heightens the experience with tours, a beauty pageant, concerts, art shows, and apple-themed food. Kentville, Nova Scotia. www.appleblossom.com.
Atlantic Film Festival. The output of Eastern Canada's burgeoning film industry, along with films from around the world, is presented at this eight-day event held in Halifax in mid-September. 902/422–3456; www.atlanticfilm.com.
Atlantic Fringe Festival. Various venues in downtown Halifax present alternative dramas, comedy, and other performances as part of this popular festival held in late August, early September, or both. Halifax, Nova Scotia. www.atlanticfringe.ca.
Celtic Colours International Festival. For nine days in early October, Cape Breton showcases the very best Celtic musicians and dancers—international artists and homegrown talent—in more than three dozen island communities. Activities celebrating Gaelic language, lore, history, crafts, and culture complement the joyful sounds. 888/355–7744; www.celtic-colours.com.
Chester Race Week. The Chester area has some of the Eastern Seaboard's best sailing, and the town hosts this fixed-keel regatta, Canada's largest, in mid-August. Onshore events include barbecues and dancing to live music. Chester, Nova Scotia. 902/275–3747; www.chesterraceweek.com.
Digby Scallop Days. Digby scallops are widely regarded as the best in the world, and this festival celebrates both the mollusk and the fishing fleet with events including a parade, shucking contests, entertainment, fireworks, and feasts. No phone; www.digbyscallopdays.com.
Festival Acadien de Clare. The village of Pointe de l'Église hosts the Atlantic provinces' oldest Acadian celebration with parades on land and water, concerts, theater, children's events, and other activities. Pointe d'Église, Nova Scotia. 902/769–0832; www.festivalacadiendeclare.ca.
Festival Antigonish. In July and August this professional theater festival is hosted by St. Francis Xavier University, with performances in the Bauer Theatre and the StFX Auditorium. It includes matinees geared to kids and evening performances for adults. St. Francis Xavier University Campus, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. 902/867–3333; www.festivalantigonish.com.
Halifax International Busker Festival. Street performers from many countries are the stars of this six-day event on the Halifax Waterfront in late July and early August. The lineup includes street theater, circus arts, music, magicians, visual arts, and comedy, with acts for audiences of all ages. It's all free, but you're welcome to show your appreciation by tipping the hat. Halifax, Nova Scotia. No phone; www.buskers.ca.
Halifax Pop Explosion. Nearly 200 bands take to various stages at one of Canada's most important music festivals. Other activities at the five-day event, which unfolds in mid-October, include the Record/Zine and Label Fair, the Music Conference, and the Digital Conference. Halifax, Nova Scotia. halifaxpopexplosion.com.
Halifax Pride. In mid- to late July a huge rainbow flag flutters over downtown Halifax, heralding 11 days of Pride activities that include a theater festival, sports events, drag shows, comedy, disco parties, concerts, and the grand parade on the last Saturday of the month. Halifax, Nova Scotia. halifaxpride.com.
Hants County Exhibition. Staged annually since 1765, this is the continent's oldest agricultural fair, taking place over six days in mid-September. It is still an old-fashioned affair complete with ox pulls, livestock and horse shows, horticultural exhibits, crafts displays and demonstrations, and entertainment. Hants County Exhibition Park, 249 Wentworth Rd., Windsor, Nova Scotia, B0N 2T0. www.hantscountyex.com.
Highland Games. The biggest and oldest Highland Games outside of Scotland is held in Antigonish each July. The energetic weeklong event includes caber tossing and hammer throwing. Pipe-band concerts, Highland dance competitions, and ceilidhs round out the schedule. Antigonish, Nova Scotia. www.antigonishhighlandgames.ca.
Multicultural Festival. A three-day celebration of Nova Scotia's multicultural mix, this late-June event takes place at Halifax Seaport near Pier 21, where many immigrants first set foot on Canadian soil. Music, arts and crafts, shopping, and the smells and tastes of world cuisines make for a lively scene. Halifax, Nova Scotia. www.multifest.ca.
Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival. Shoppers and gawkers alike attend this festival (usually in late July or early August, for one afternoon only) that celebrates the fanciful folk art that put Nova Scotia on the artistic map. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. 902/634–4565; www.nsfolkartfestival.com.
Pictou Lobster Carnival. This three-day festival in early July, which celebrated its 80th year in 2014, marks the end of its region's fishing season with concerts, parades, lobster-boat racing, and a midway and other attractions. Pictou, Nova Scotia. www.pictoulobstercarnival.ca.
Privateer Days. Liverpool celebrates its privateer heyday in early July with a three-day event that includes a parade, themed tours, and activities at more than a dozen venues. The King's Orange Rangers—a group that reenacts the exploits of a pro-British brigade—sets up camp at Fort Point Lighthouse Park. Liverpool, Nova Scotia. 902/354–4500; www.privateerdays.ca.
Pumpkin Festival. In early October this one-day festival that's part of a larger, region-wide celebration kicks off with a giant pumpkin weigh-in—some specimens tip the scales at more than 800 pounds. The event culminates in a regatta involving supersize pumpkins carved into boats that are raced across Lake Pizzquid. Windsor, Nova Scotia. www.worldsbiggestpumpkins.com.
Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. The centerpiece of Nova Scotia's signature festival is a fast-paced, 2½-hour extravaganza of military instruments (brass, bagpipes, and drums), military-inspired music, acrobatics, and traditional and modern music and dance performed by participants from around the world. The event takes place during the first week of July and includes other free concerts, parades, and other activities around town. Scotiabank Centre, 1800 Argyle St., Halifax, Nova Scotia. 902/420–1114; 800/563–1114; www.nstattoo.ca.
Scotia Festival of Music. This internationally acclaimed chamber-music festival unfolds in Halifax in late May and early June. Concerts take place at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Dalhousie Arts Centre, 6101 University Ave., Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 2V9. www.scotiafestival.ns.ca.
Seafest. Yarmouth honors its seafaring roots with 11 days of festivities in mid- to late July. Highlights include a street parade, mackerel tossing, driftwood-art contests, beach parties, concerts, fireworks, and a parade of illuminated boats. Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. www.seafest.ca.
Shelburne County Lobster Festival. The county celebrates the local lobster industry in early June with four days of events, entertainment, and lobster suppers. Shelburne, Nova Scotia. www.discovershelburnecounty.com/shelburnecountylobsterfestival.
TD Halifax Jazz Festival. Musicians representing a variety of styles perform at this popular nine-day event held in early July. Some of the concerts are free. Halifax, Nova Scotia. www.jazzeast.com.