Toronto is rich in culture and vibrant art. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without running into a breathtaking mural, historical movie theatres, and pop up events designed to educate the general public. This summer, try your hand at learning something new, whether that means taking a course at a museum or visiting one of the city’s many cultural festivals. See below for our list of recommended arts and culture events to check out in Toronto this summer.
Canadian National Exhibition
When: August 18-September 4
The CNE is a Toronto tradition, closing off the summer with a hurrah of food, entertainment, and shopping. Try international cuisines, cool off with craft beer, finish your Christmas shopping in August, or hop on a ride. The CNE is huge and is a great way to pay your final respects to summer before the days get shorter.
When: June 23-25
Send off Pride Month with Toronto’s annual Pride Parade, which takes place on Sunday, June 25. However, it’s Pride Month all month long so get your rainbow on and celebrate Toronto’s LGBQT+ community.
When: June 14-25
Luminato Festival is a multi-arts and multi-platform festival that offers performance, visual art, music, theatre, dance, and programming. This year’s festival marks Luminato’s second decade, and will take place at a variety of venues across the city, including David Pecaut Square, Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, John Basset Theatre, Theatre Center, Drake Commissary, and Don Montgomery Arena in Scarborough.
Toronto Caribbean Carnival
When: August 3-August 7
The Toronto Caribbean Carnival, also commonly known as Caribana, is a massive festival that occurs in Toronto to celebrate Caribbean culture. Exciting entertainment, delicious food, and music take up much of the event, with a parade happening on the final day. Parade day gets particularly busy in the city, so plan ahead and maybe opt to take transit that weekend.
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition
When: July 14-16
This year is the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition’s 56th year running. This is Canada’s largest and longest running juried contemporary outdoor art festival, which showcases contemporary art to the city. The best part? It’s completely free to attend.
When: August 31-September 3
Fan Expo is one of Toronto’s biggest fandom events, and this year’s guest appearances are particularly stacked. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), Felicia Day (The Guild), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Matt Smith (Doctor Who), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Bob Morley (The 100) are among the many guests that will be attending this year’s event. Click here for a full celebrity guest list, with more to be announced.
When: September 1-4
For four days, Woodbine Park is transformed into a land of games, entertainers, great food, and otherworldly installations. Toronto’s BuskerFest is a solid way to spend Labour Day Weekend.
Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market
When: June 25, July 30, August 27, September 24 & October 29
On certain Sundays throughout the summer until October, the roads running through Kensington Market are shut down to allow pedestrians to walk freely. Kensington is alive and thriving during these days, with a number of unique food and garment vendors for all your browsing pleasure. Pedestrian Sundays are open during the dates listed above from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Toronto Ukrainian Festival
When: September 15-17
For one weekend Bloor West Village turns into a Ukrainian festival, loaded with delicacies, shopping, and entertainment. Spend a weekend learning about a new culture and soaking up the sun.
When: Sept. 21-30
JFL42, aka Toronto’s Comedy Festival, will be bringing laughter to the city for 10 days in late September. Why the 42? This festival features 42 comedians in addition to its headliners, which are Bill Burr, John Mulaney, Ali Wong, Tom Segura, Tim & Eric, and the duo that hosts the comedy podcast My Favourite Murder: Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff.
Shakespeare in High Park
When: June 29-September 3
You can’t miss High Park’s 35th annual Shakespeare in High Park. Every summer, Shakespeare in High Park gives you the opportunity to watch bold new takes on Shakespearean classics. This year’s lineup will include adaptations of both King Lear and Twelfth Night.
See the World’s Largest Rubber Duck
When: July 1-3
As part of Canada 150, an enormous rubber duck will be pulling into Toronto’s waterfront on Canada Day as part of the Redpath Water Festival. The 30,000 pound duck is a replica of a Dutch artist’s giant duck, and will make its way around Ontario to Amertstburg, Brockville, Midland, Sault Ste. Marie & Owen Sound.
Visit the Aga Khan Museum
The Aga Khan Museum is a centre of education and learning and offers an entryway into “the artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Muslim civilizations across the centuries from the Iberian Peninsula to China.” Visit the museum this summer, or check out the Syrian Symphony which is being featured at Aga Khan Museum until August 13. Or, change up your workout routine and try some morning quiet yoga at the museum.
Toronto Bicycle Music Fest
When: September 10
You’ve probably been to a number of music festivals in the city, but have you been to a festival that is powered entirely by cyclists? The Toronto Bicycle Music Fest puts on pedal-powered concerts, and it’s completely free to attend (although you need to RSVP if you’d like to pedal).
Symphony in the Gardens at Casa Loma
When: Every Tuesday from June 6-August 29
Spend a night listening to the Toronto Concert Orchestra under the stars. Every Tuesday night until the end of August the Toronto Orchestra performs in Casa Loma’s beautiful Glass Pavilion. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the event runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Ontario Science Centre: Wildlife Rescue
When: May 18-September 4
Learn how animals are captured, rescued, and released into the wild at the Ontario Science Centre this summer. This educational experience takes you step-by-step through the process of rescuing wildlife such as young elephants and orangutans. There are also a lot of activities to experience, including a simulated flight that shows you how to guide migratory birds in the right direction.
Salsa on St. Clair
When: July 8&9
Take a dip into Latino culture during this year’s TD Salsa on St. Clair. This two-day festival boasts food from over 15 countries and international entertainment that will be sure to make for an exciting weekend.
Stay tuned to Indie88.com over the next few weeks for our entire Guide to Summer series.
Up next: The Best Food and Drink Events in Toronto (Monday, June 26)
Image via Carlos Bolivar/Torontoism