Toronto's Best Festivals
Festivals keep Toronto lively even when cold winds blow in off Lake Ontario in winter. Themes range from art to food, Caribbean culture to gay pride. Most national championship sports events take place in and around Toronto.
Tourism Toronto. Tourism Toronto maintains an online calendar of nearly every event in the city. 416/203–2500 or 800/499–2514. www.seetorontonow.com.
Winterlicious. A winter culinary event offering discount prix-fixe menus at top restaurants as well as themed tastings and food-prep workshops. 416/395–0490. www.toronto.ca/winterlicious.
TIFF Kids International Film Festival. Taking place in April, this children's film festival holds screenings for kids and teens aged (roughly) 2–13. 416/599–8433 or 888/599–8433. tiff.net.
Shaw Festival. Held from late spring until fall in quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake, this festival presents plays by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a two-hour drive south of Toronto. 905/468–2172 or 800/511–7429. www.shawfest.com.
Stratford Festival. One of the best known Shakespeare festivals in the world, this event was created in the 1950s to revive a little town two hours west of Toronto that happened to be called Stratford (and its river called the Avon). The festival includes at least five Shakespeare plays as well as other classical and contemporary productions. Respected actors from around the world participate. 519/273–1600 or 800/567–1600. www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Hot Docs. North America's largest documentary film fest, Hot Docs takes over independent cinemas for two weeks. 416/203–2155. www.hotdocs.ca.
Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. More than 200 galleries and other venues mount photo exhibits by 1,000 different artists for this photography festival, throughout the entire month of May. 416/539–9595. www.scotiabankcontactphoto.com.
Luminato. For 10 days, this citywide arts festival combines visual arts, music, theater, dance, literature, and more in hundreds of events, many of them free. 416/368–3100. luminatofestival.com.
North by Northeast. Modeled after South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this is a seven-day music and film festival. 416/863–6963. nxne.com.
Pride Week. Rainbow flags fly high during Pride Week, the city's premier gay and lesbian event. It includes 10 days of cultural and political programs, concerts, a street festival, and a parade, and is centered around the Church–Wellesley corridor. 416/927–7433. www.pridetoronto.com.
Toronto Jazz Festival. For 10 days this festival brings big-name jazz artists to city jazz clubs and other indoor and outdoor venues. 416/928–2033. torontojazz.com.
Beaches International Jazz Festival. In the east-end Beach (aka Beaches) neighborhood, this event is a free, 10-day jazz, blues, and Latin music event and street festival 416/698–2152. www.beachesjazz.com.
Honda Indy. At this summer fixture, cars speed around an 11 turn, 1.77 mile track that goes through the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and along Lakeshore Boulevard. 416/588–7223. www.hondaindytoronto.com.
Summerlicious. Almost 200 restaurants in Toronto create prix-fixe menus—some at bargain prices—for this two-week culinary event. 416/395–0490. www.toronto.ca/summerlicious.
Toronto Fringe Festival. This 10-day event is the city's largest theater festival. It features new and developing plays by emerging artists. 416/966–1062. www.fringetoronto.com.
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto. One of the largest festivals in North America, Caribana is a three-week celebration of Carribean culture, with calypso, steel pan, soca, and reggae music; fiery cuisine; and plenty of revelry. The celebrations culminate in a massive parade on the first Saturday of August. 416/391–5608. www.torontocaribbeancarnival.com.
Canadian National Exhibition. With carnival rides, concerts, an air show, a dog show, a garden show, and a "Mardi Gras" parade, this 2½-week-long fair is the biggest in Canada. It's been held at the eponymous fairgrounds on the Lake Ontario waterfront since 1879. 416/393–6300. www.theex.com.
Rogers Cup. Founded in 1881, this is an ATP Masters 1000 event for men and a Premier event for women. It's held on the York University campus, with the men's and women's events alternating between Toronto and Montréal each year. 416/665–9777 or. www.rogerscup.com.
Scotiabank BuskerFest. This is no ordinary street festival: aerialists, fire-eaters, dancers, contortionists, musicians, and more perform along Yonge Street between Queen and College for four days in August. www.torontobuskerfest.com.
SummerWorks Performance Festival. Plays, concerts, and performances are mounted at local theaters during this 11-day theater festival. 416/628–8216. www.summerworks.ca.
The Toronto International Film Festival. Renowned worldwide, this festival is considered more accessible to the public than Cannes, Sundance, or other major film festivals. A number of films make their world or North American premieres at this 11-day festival each year, some at red-carpet events attended by Hollywood stars. 416/968–3456 or 877/968–3456. tiff.net.
Nuit Blanche. Concentrated in Toronto's downtown core, this all-night street festival has interactive contemporary art installations and performances. www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Held since 1922 at the Ex, this 10-day fair is a highlight of Canada's equestrian season each November, with jumping, dressage, and harness-racing competitions. 416/263–3400. www.royalfair.org.