Culture + Style

Summer is Coming. Toronto’s Must-Do Festivals

The best Toronto festivals happen in summer like the hotter than hot Toronto Caribbean Festival or the renowned Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo: MaximImages / Alamy Stock Photo)

Most big cities fete the arrival of summer with a stream of festivals celebrating everything from art and music to beer and food trucks. Toronto is no different. If you happen to be in T.O. in the summer months, be sure to hit up one of these big fests for a true taste of local Canadian life.

Applaud Art and Music

Luminato, Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity, is a 10-day multimedia extravaganza that happens every June.

Take a literary walk with Toronto authors through places that have shaped local lit. Be dazzled by dancers and musicians from all over the world. Musicians and chefs even pair up in innovative cooking demos, creating uniquely themed bites.

Also in June is North by Northeast (NXNE), patterned after the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.

There’s visual art and film, but the focus is on music, with many Toronto groups in the festival’s lineup of more than 800 performers. See newcomers and underground favorites, as well as classic bands. Artists have ranged from Ludacris to DEVO to the Descendents, and just about everything in between.

Give It Up for Global Culture

Canadian summer doesn’t get any hotter that the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, also known as Caribana, in July.

It’s a multi-week celebration of Caribbean culture, building to the Grand Parade, which draws more than 1 million spectators.

“North America’s largest Caribbean parade” features colorful costumes and spirited, scantily clad dancers bopping to the beat of calypso and soca music. Don’t miss the King and Queen Show with the parade’s best costumes and performers.

The international flavor keeps flowing with the Chinatown Festival, also held in July, along Spadina Street.

A highlight of the weekend event is the lion dance, where performers acrobatically mimic the animal’s movements while wearing striking red and yellow costumes and a papier-mâché head.

Note National Heritage

The Ex, or the Canadian National Exhibition, is Canada’s largest annual fair. It’s held on the shores of Lake Ontario every August and dates back to 1879 when it focused on agriculture and technology. Today, it’s known for concerts and a carnival with games and rides.

One of the coolest things to do is the CNE Zip Line, which starts from the top of a 126-foot tower with a crazy view of the exhibition below.

After locking into the line, you’ll rocket more than 1,100 feet to the ground.

Celebrate Cinema

Probably the city’s most renowned event is the Toronto International Film Festival, in September, generally regarded as second only to Cannes for quality movies and celebrity appearances.

If you are a bonafide movie buff, treat yourself to a schedule of more than 300 films from 60 countries. Premiering at TIFF can generate worldwide buzz for films, debuting Oscar winners like “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave.”