12 awesome Canadian summer events

Calgary, Canada. Cowgirls on horseback.
Photo by Steve Estvanik/Shutterstock

1. Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival

August 11-21, 2016


WHY: Now in its 35th year, with this year’s theme being That was Then, This is Fringe, this annual festival includes 11 days of outdoor performances, more than 1,600 live theatre performances, amazing international buskers, talented artisans, and tons of vendors. It also has a free KidsFringe that offers art-themed activities and entertainment for the little fringers.

2. Calgary Stampede

Now until July 18, 2016


WHY: When its nickname is “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” there is no reason why not to enjoy the Calgary Stampede. While you can see Chuckwagon race and steer wrestling, ride mechanical bulls, and buy your very own cowboy hat, this event isn’t just for cowboys; it also has great music (including Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum), decadent food (such as poutine corn dogs, salted caramel deep fried coffee, butter chicken fries, deep fried tequila shot bites) an awesome midway (including an adventure park: think axe throwing), exhibitions of Alberta culture and Western heritage, rodeo competitions, and more.

3. Just for Laughs Festival, Montreal

July 13–August 1, 2016


WHY: If you love to laugh, this is a must-attend event. It’s one of the world’s most prestigious comedy events and features more than 1,600 performers (1,200 of which are free outdoor shows) from 19 countries, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Goldblum, and Aziz Ansari. Along with the stand-up performances, there are also some amazing galas, theatre productions, cast panels, roasts, and street art.

4. Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition, Parksville, B.C.

July 15–August 21, 2016


WHY: Nothing screams summer more than a sand castle festival. Arriving from all around the globe, master sculptors compete for the world championship. You can watch them create their sand and water masterpieces over the course of four days, and maybe even learn a few tricks of the trade. July and August are also considered Beach Festival months in Parksville, which means you can also participate in a kite festival, fireworks festival, food festival, sculpting demos, a car show, concerts, and art in the park. As the Parksville Beach Festival Society says, it’s “the most fun you can have with sand in your pants!”

5. Bluesfest Ottawa

Now until July 17, 2016


WHY: This 10-day festival has multiple stages and showcases an eclectic mix of genres, including pop, rock, R&B, and blues, making it the largest blues festival in Canada. This year’s line-up includes Billy Idol, City and Colour, The Lumineers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Brad Paisley, and more. There are also great food vendors, a carnival zone, and a casino on site.

6. Bard on the Beach, Vancouver

Now until September 24, 2016


WHY: This not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festival is in its 27th year, and offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas, educational workshops, food and drinks, and other special events, such as Wine Wednesdays, family nights, fireworks, a bike tour, opera, and orchestra performances. This year’s plays include The Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo & Juliet, Pericles, and Othello. You can even order a group picnic to enjoy together when you arrive!

7. John Arcand Fiddle Festival, Regina

August 11–14, 2016


WHY: This festival centres around three things: fiddles, music, and dancing. Visitors can participate in old-timey dancing, nightly concerts, fiddle contests, workshops, hands-on activities, and more. This is a great opportunity for the fiddle and dance communities to network and foster the next generation of talent. The festival, named after John Arcand, or the Master of the Métis Fiddle, helps create awareness of Métis culture, and promote cross-cultural exchanges through art.

8. Honda Celebration of Light, Vancouver

July 23, 27 and 30, 2016


WHY: This festival is three days of spectacular firework displays. During the day you can enjoy live music, free giveaways, games, food and drinks, and fun activities. After dark, watch as the competing countries – Team Netherlands, Team Australia, and Team USA Disney – fight over who can show you the best night of light magic you’ve ever seen.

9. WayHome Music & Arts Festival

July 22–24, 2016


WHY: Not only does attending make you one of the cool kids, but it also has a colossal music line-up. To name but a few of the 70+ artists: LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, The Killers, Chvrches, Arkells, Third Eye Blind, and X Ambassadors. This festival is where people from all walks of life come together to enjoy a weekend of music, art installations, and film. And when you’re not having your musical mind blown, there are also plenty of gourmet food options, an onsite farmers’ market, and a camping area to hang up your hammock and meet other weekend warriors.

10. Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto

August 19–September 5, 2016


WHY: The Ex is a basically a huge fair, with an amusement park, an air show, a Food Truck Frenzy, a craft beer festival, concerts, international performances, and tons of other awesome activities and special events, including an ice skating show and aerial acrobatics. One of the highlights of the CNE is the crazy new food they introduce and feature each year. Think of your favourite treats, then deep fry them and you’ll be that much closer to understanding the culinary experience you’ll have at the ex.

11. New Brunswick Highland Games Festival

July 22–24, 2016


With almost 20% of their residents claiming direct Scottish ancestry, New Brunswick goes all out for the Highland Games each year. The weekend fun includes bagpipes and drumming, Celtic music, Scottish food, Highland dancing, educational workshops, and traditional sporting events. If you’ve never participated in a 5k while wearing a kilt, now is your chance. Or if you’ve always wanted to see a kilt-clad clansman tossing a Caber, this is definitely the festival for you. Visitors will also get a chance to find out more about their genealogy to see how much Scottish history they have, although it really doesn’t matter because everyone loves pretending to be Scottish for the weekend.

12. Wanderlust Whistler

July 28–August 1, 2016


Whistler is beautiful all year round, so it’s the perfect backdrop for this festival of mindful living. Top yoga teachers from around the globe come together to help you reconnect with your inner peace, while international musical acts, speakers, and performers help you explore your creative side. When you’re not finding your path through slackline yoga, meditation, blindfolded yoga, or aerial yoga, you can take a journey through the mountains to push your boundaries. There will also be some amazing organic whole food to bliss out on, helping you stay fueled throughout the weekend while your mind and body reconnect. Unlike most other festivals, after Wanderlust you are well-rested and will feel better inside and out.

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