Local's Guide: Canada's Best Big Festivals and Events

Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to traveling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.

 

Thanks to Tamara Elliott, Stoked for Saturday, and Joann Pai for their local tips.

Cultural celebrations are happening all the time in Canada, you just have to know where to look. See if you’ll be in town during one of these unique festivities and mark it on your calendar.

Outdoor Movies in Stanley Park - Vancouver

Movies on the beach

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Every Tuesday in July and August, scenic Stanley Park hosts outdoor movies right on the water. Bring your own snacks and picnic blanket to enjoy the show.

Atlantic Film Festival - Halifax

Epic and unforgettable stories

The Atlantic Film Festival is a weeklong festival celebrating Nova Scotian, Canadian, and international filmmaking. Canada’s film industry is booming, earning it the name “Hollywood North,” and the mid-September fest is an amazing way to see indie flicks from all over the world — and meet the directors and actors who made them.

ComediHa! - Quebec City

Laugh it up in French Canada

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Love to laugh? Quebec City locals recommend checking out 12-days of chuckles at ComediHa!, a comedy fest that takes place each summer. Featuring comedy of all types (think anything from standup, to improve, to anything in between), you’ll be able to explore venues around the city while seeing some of the best comedians Canada and the world have to offer.

Calgary Stampede - Calgary

Stampede City’s most famous event

Calgary’s claim to fame is being home to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth: the Calgary Stampede. Every July, the Stampede takes over the city for 10 days of revelry. A huge parade winds through downtown to kick off the fun and there are free events all over town with live music (and famous pancake breakfasts, we’re told). Throw on a cowboy hat and boots and head to the main event at the Stampede grounds where there is always a rodeo or horse race happening. At night, the grounds host an evening Grandstand Show that features musical numbers, acrobatics, and spectacular fireworks. Cap off the day at the Cowboys Stampede Tent — the ultimate Stampede party spot where over 10,000 people let loose every night.

Got Craft? - Vancouver

Shopping local doesn’t always mean shopping small

Got Craft? Is Vancouver’s largest indie makers fair, fostering handmade and DIY culture since 2007. Held twice a year in May and December, Got Craft? features over 75 handmade designers plus craft workshops, tasty treats, music, and free swag bags. So, yeah, a lot going on, right? It’s a great place to discover one-of-a-kind products from small local companies and craftspeople.

Caribana - Toronto

Take to the streets with color

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Get colorful with Toronto’s own Caribbean Carnival festival, Caribana. Featuring everything you’d expect from a Caribbean festival — from dancing to parades — this month-long celebration lights up Toronto. Be sure to stop by one of the big parties and stake out a spot at one of the most vibrant parades we’ve ever seen.

Tall Ship Silva Night Cruises - Halifax

Experience Halifax Harbour from the water

Locals love to take in a view of Halifax at night on a Tall Ship Silva night cruise. The schooner winds around Halifax’s charming harbor, offering picturesque views of the city and marine life. There’s always live music and the ship operates a full-service pub.

Food Cart Festival - Vancouver

All the best carts in one place

One special Sunday every summer, Vancouver’s best food trucks descend on Olympic Village with live music and activities, and, of course, lots of amazing food. Food Cart Fest is a great way to sample the city’s best carts in one place. Our local insider’s slew of favorites include Le Tigre, Mom’s Grilled Cheese, Via Tevere, Tacofino, The Pie Hole, The Juice Truck, and Johnny’s Pops. Check out the site to see when it’s happening this year. Nom.

Yellowknife Summer Solstice Festival - Yellowknife

Party all night

A photo posted by Ivan Gloeden (@ivangloeden) on

Celebrate the change of season in Canada’s North. The Yellowknife Summer Solstice Festival marks the beginning of longer days after the winter. Here, you’ll  find music, culture, community, and of course, live performances at venues all around this often vibrant city. Start your summer off right!

Rifflandia - Victoria

West coast weekend jams

September may mark the end of summer. But in Victoria, it also marks the beginning of Rifflandia. This weekend-long festival lights up Victoria with daytime shows on the festival grounds just outside the downtown core and evening shows at venues around the city allowing you to explore music and nightlife.

Eastside Cultural Crawl - Vancouver

Crawl through Vancouver’s thriving art scene

Vancouver is full of festivals, but many locals’ favorite is the Eastside Cultural Crawl. The Crawl is a four-day visual arts, design, and crafts festival with nearly 500 artists across 78 buildings in East Vancouver. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s awesome. And yes, it’s a great way to discover and meet new artists right in their own studios.

 

Year-round, Canada offers unforgettable festivals and citywide events. They’re a great way to soak in the culture, make friends, and see the best of Canada up close.

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