More than 3,000 Ontario festivals and events keep locals and tourists alike to party all year long. If you are looking for reasons to celebrate, you will find more than enough to keep you happy here.
Some of the biggest festivals happen during the summer, when outdoor events take center stage.
Summer outdoor music festivals are huge. The big ones include the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Parry Sound Festival of Sound, the Burlington Sound of Music Festival, the Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival, the Sunfest in London, and the Friends’ Festival in Hamilton. Many of these festivals have free admission or at least offer free concerts along with payments. So they are very easy on your wallet.
Summer outdoor art festivals are also a big draw in good weather. Toronto Outdoor Art’s free admission show features more than 500 of Canada’s and the world’s best contemporary artists and artisans and attracts about 100,000 visitors. Stratford also has craft shows along the river, and Barrie has a great arts and crafts festival called Kempenfest.
Fall is also packed with festivals. Ontario’s largest fruit crop is grapes, and September is harvest time. The Niagara region toasts the new harvest with the Niagara Wine and Grape Festival. Kitchener-Waterloo organizes the largest Oktoberfest party outside of Germany. The Balls Falls Thanksgiving Festival features crafts, food, and family fun. Halloween fans can join “Howlin ‘Hootenany” in Black Creek Pioneer Village, north of Toronto, for scary fun and fall treats like pumpkin pies, candied apples and apple cider. Readers and writers will love Toronto’s free Word on the Street festival, where they can meet their favorite authors and hear them read their works. And then there’s the granddaddy of all literary festivals, the International Authors Festival in Toronto. Wait, don’t forget the Toronto International Film Festival! (Are you already running out of weekends?)
Ontario festivals and events don’t stop in winter. Ontario residents embrace the cold season with Ottawa’s Winterlude, Toronto’s Wintercity, and of course New Years festivals, including the crazy Polar Bear Dip festival in Oakville. The giant, glowing animated figures of the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights are guaranteed to make you smile and warm on a frosty winter’s day. Another safe bet is the Niagara Ice Wine Festival in the Niagara region.
The 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 appear throughout southern Ontario. Bronte Creek in Oakville has a good one with guided tours, syrup and candy tasting, a pancake breakfast, etc. The Ottawa Tulip Festival is about more than flowers. It features concerts, unique arts and crafts, lectures, and more (and outdoor concerts are free). Do you want the true scent of spring? Visit the Lilac Festival at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton and explore the largest and fastest lilac dell in the world.
If you live in Ontario, Ontario festivals and events are a great way to get to know your neighbors. If you are a tourist, why not plan your visit around one of these events?