Last Updated on December 6, 2022
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Summertime is not only festival time in the U.S. but also in Canada, where you’ll find a variety of great Canadian summer festivals.
In fact, there are many more festivals held annually in Canada than most Americans realize, ranging from popular cultural and musical performances to food and sporting events attended by thousands, varied enough to suit almost any interest.
Here is a list of some of the top annual Canadian summer festivals that are perennially popular. (Since there are so many festivals that take place, far too many to include in this space, if you know of others not included in this list please add them in the comments section).
To make the list most useful we’ve broken them down by region. All underlined words are direct links to each festival’s website.
Canadian Summer Festivals in the Atlantic Provinces
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
Canada’s birthday celebration, Canada Day, takes place on July 1 so why not celebrate it in the country’s birthplace, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island? The Atlantic Superstore Festival of Light takes place in Charlottetown during the three days leading up to July 1. A carnival midway with buskers from around the world and concerts by rock bands at night, lead up to the laser show and fireworks display over the harbor on July 1. It’s followed by the wide-ranging Charlottetown Festival.
The Halifax Pride Parade is part of Halifax Pride Week. You’ll also find a mixed bag of music, storytelling, rowing regattas and street buskers in Newfoundland at St. John’s Time. Also of note are Le Festival Acadien de Caraquet and Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival, both in New Brunswick, and The Tuckamore Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
If you’re hungering for shellfish check out the Digby Scallop Days festival in Digby, Nova Scotia and the Summerside Lobster Carnival or PEI International Shellfish Festival, both on Prince Edward Island.
Central Canada Summer Festivals
Québec and Ontario
The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, ON is summer’s must-go-to while the Stratford Shakespeare Festival stretches the season with a dozen plays, ranging from Romeo and Juliet to The Thrill, penned by the Bard and other playwrights. In Montréal you can enjoy Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, a huge outdoor music festival featuring 1,000 artists from a dozen countries, and the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
Toronto also hosts a jazz festival, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival ) and the gay festival Pride Toronto, capping it off with its celebrated Toronto International Film Festival. Ottawa also gets into the musical act with the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.
If you want to stretch the summer season you may want to visit the pretty historic village of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, only 20 minutes North of Niagara Falls, which is home to the celebrated Shaw Festival that annually presents an eclectic array of comedies, dramas and classics.
Festivals on the Prairies
Saskatchewan and Manitoba
There’s plenty happening in Saskatchewan and Manitoba during the summer months ranging from Fringe to Shakespeare. The SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival kicks off the season, followed by Dauphin’s Countryfest in Manitoba. July usually sees the curtain raised on both the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. Both are followed by Craven Country Jamboree in Saskatchewan and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. In Regina enjoy dance, food and a cultural festival at Mosaic.
Mountains and Western Canadian Festivals
Alberta and British Columbia
Further west in Alberta you can mingle with cowboys at Alberta’s Calgary Stampede, an annual western-Canadian classic. Hang around a few weeks longer for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, or travel westward to get your dose of Shakespeare at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver, BC, which normally presents four plays.
Vancouver also hosts the Vancouver Pride Parade & Festival and two music festivals, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and MusicFest Vancouver while nearby Victoria hosts the TD Victoria International JazzFest and the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival.
Alberta’s Banff Summer Arts Festival offers dance, opera, orchestral music, jazz and string quartet competitions, literary and visual arts, Aboriginal arts, and film. If you’re visiting Victoria you can also watch the 90 teams that compete in the annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, which takes place in the city’s inner harbor.
Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories
If you’re hardy, up in Canada’s north you can celebrate the longest day of the year and National Aboriginal Day at the Summer Solstice Festival in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories.
If you’d rather stay closer to the border and relish a good fireworks competition, you’ll likely enjoy the Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver, BC or the Loto-Québec International Fireworks Competition.
You may also enjoy: Best Things to Do in Toronto in the Summer / 48 Hours in Montreal / Historic Halifax, Nova Scotia / The Top 10 Places in Vancouver, BC / Prince Edward Island. Small Province. Big Cuisine.