Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and you know what that means… festivals.

Festivals in Toronto have more range than a Celine Dion song, and she just happens to be from Canada!

Out of the 6 million people in Toronto, half of them were born outside of the country. With this, the city has all the best aspects of myriad cultures- celebrated at the various festivals in the city. I’m serious when I say traveling to Toronto is like taking a trip around the world.

From the well-known Toronto International Film Festival to Caribana, a Caribbean carnival full of life and color, you’re about to experience a plethora of multi-cultures without even leaving Canada at these Festivals in Toronto!

Let’s check them out, shall we?

Festivals in Toronto

If you’re traveling to Canada, You’re gonna have a blast at these amazing festivals in Toronto. And that’s whether you want to experience the Caribbean flair of Carnival, the artsy vibes of Fringe Festival, or the music at NXNE.

Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival

Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival
Cos who doesn’t love a good doc?
Photo: U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada (Flickr)

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  • When: April
  • Where: Toronto

If you love documentaries like me, then the Hot Docs Film Festival is about to be your favorite event of the year. Since 1993 they’ve been showcasing some of the world’s best documentary films and giving them the proper platform and audiences they deserve.

It’s the biggest of the documentary film festivals in North America. All of the independent theatres in Toronto dedicate two weeks in the Spring to welcome all of us doco lovers to the city.

“Hot Docs” is plastered everywhere; it’s unmissable. Everyone is geeking out over the new showings and deciding which newby is going to be a breakout star.

You can spend nights attending different showings, panels, conferences, and creative workshops. It’s one of the best festivals in Toronto to meet some of the greats in the documentary world.

In the Fall, Hot Docs has started hosting a Podcast Festival, so maybe you’ll have to head to Toronto twice a year!

Where to Stay

This two-bedroom flat in Mid-Town is the perfect place to stay in Toronto if you’re staying for the whole two weeks of the festival. It will give you room to spread out and feel at home rather than in a hotel.

North by NorthEast

North by NorthEast
Photo: JasonParis (Flickr)
  • When: June
  • Where: Toronto

As someone who grew up in Austin, I’m going to take North by Northeast as the sincerest form of flattery for the South by Southwest festival. But NXNE has grown to become its own event and has definitely earned its place as one of the most unique festivals in Toronto.

The week-long festival is held downtown and has been one of the best platforms in all of Canada for emerging artists. The festival’s goal is to introduce new music to the world and give these artists a place on the main stage, and it fuckin’ rocks, man. Since 1995, NXNE has been creating one of the sickest events in the city.

Typically when a festival gets bigger and better, the cost goes up, making it almost impossible to get tickets (cough, cough—looking at you, Coachella), but not at NXNE. Wristbands for the week only cost $25. They don’t charge artists to apply, and they’ve done a stellar job at making and keeping it accessible to all.

I can confidently say that this festival is one that stands by its principles and delivers each and every year. You gotta get out to this one asap.

Where to Stay

While the festival might not be pricey, unfortunately, the rest of Toronto is, so staying at this cozy hostel is a great way to keep your spending low and even meet some other travelers who are in town for the festival.

Toronto Pride Festival

Toronto Pride Festival
  • When: June
  • Where: Toronto

A lot of cities have a Pride weekend, but Toronto goes all out in full support of the LGBTQ+ community. Enjoy 10 days of full-on love, parades, marches, drag shows, masterclasses, and seminars to educate, empower, and celebrate the community.

Personally, I think this is one of the best Pride events in the world and the best festival in all of Canada. The rainbow flags are flying high all month long, and they seem to fly even higher during this week. The whole community is involved, including the mayor and police, making everyone feel supported and safe.

The festival is a massive celebration with people from all over the world to participate, love, learn, and grow in one of the most diverse cities in the world. And they don’t just celebrate gay pride; they host events like the Trans March, Dyke March, Black Pride, and many more.

So regardless if you identify with a specific group or you are just you, the Toronto Pride Festival will wrap you up with love and support!

Where to Stay

This downtown suite has everything you need for a week-long stay in the city. Enjoy the views of the skyscrapers while you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning before hitting up all of the parades, pool parties, and events.

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    Honda Indy Toronto

    Honda Indy Toronto
    Vrrrm Vrrrmmm
    Photo: Jason O’Halloran (Flickr)
    • When: July
    • Where: Exhibition Place

    Whether you’re a fan of motorsports or not, the Honda Indy Festival will definitely rev your engine… okay, that sounds a little weird now that I write it. But I’m gonna go with it!

    This Canadian Grand Prix is the second longest-running street race out of all the Indy races. Oh, and every year it comes back bringing along fans from all over.

    If you’re big into racing, then you probably already know more about this than me. But, for all my newbies, this race has 11 turns and is 2.8 kilometers long, which makes it perfect for some great racing! Turns are typically where drivers can gain some time and pass other racers, so having 11 of them makes this an exciting nail-biter.

    The entire Exhibition Place area comes alive with activities that the whole family can enjoy. There’s something for everyone, from live entertainment to autograph sessions with your favorite drivers, and a beer garden for the parents. Result.

    It’s definitely one of the most family-friendly festivals in Toronto.

    Where to Stay

    Located on the exhibition grounds, Hotel X is the perfect place to stay. You’ll be within walking distance of all of the activities going on, and the hotel offers incredible waterfront views and a luxe pool to relax in when you’re not watching the race.

    Taste of Danforth

    Taste of Danforth
    Photo: Danielle Scott (Flickr)
    • When: August
    • Where: Greek Town, Toronto

    Thought about going to Santorini this summer, but your bank account said otherwise? Ha, me too! Thankfully, we can get all the yummy goodness of Greek food and culture right here in Greek Town, Toronto.

    Taste of Danforth is a cultural festival in Toronto like no other. It brings together the warmth of summer with the delicious smell of grilled meats, delicious feta, and a whole lot of dancing. Enjoy traditional Greek music played by live bands. All as you stuff your face with some of the best food in the world, with dishes like souvlaki, dolmades, and moussaka.

    And you won’t be alone in that; over one million people attend this event each year, and trust me, all of the lines are worth it. You can OPPA your way through the crowd, grab hands with those around you, dance in a circle, and fully immerse yourself in Greek culture. All without stepping foot outside of North America.

    This is the type of festival that makes the melting pot of Toronto shine so brightly.

    Where to Stay

    The Only Backpacker’s Inn is a lifesaver during Taste of Danbury. It’s located on Danbury Street, making it the perfect place to crawl into bed after a long day of celebrating Greek culture. So make some friends and take them along.


    Caribana Toronto
    Caribbean vibes = best vibes
    Photo: Caribana Toronto
    • When: August
    • Where: Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Boulevard

    Caribana is everyone’s favorite festival in Toronto, also known as Caribbean Carnival. We all know what Carnival means… Elaborate costumes, feathers everywhere, and some booty-shaking music to dance down the street too!

    I’m obsessed with Caribbean culture, and this is one of the biggest Carribean-influenced festivals in all of North America.

    Now typically, in most countries, Carnival is associated with Catholic holidays and is the big celebration before a time of fasting. But, Caribana is celebrated in Toronto to honor the full Emancipation of slaves in Canada in 1838. I think this is a way bigger and better thing to celebrate, and it seems like Toronto feels the same with how big and bright the festival is every year.

    As the street party makes its way down Lakeshore Boulevard, you can feel the liberation in the air. It’s a perfect representation of Toronto’s multicultural population with dances and food from the best Caribbean islands. Spend the day eating some of the best jerk chicken you’ve ever had and dancing to the drums of the marching bands.

    Where to Stay

    This 1 bedroom Waterfront Condo Toronto, has everything you need to enjoy a relaxing vacation and gives you easy access to the parade. It’s right down the road, and you can pop in and out of the festival whenever you’d like.

    Have you sorted your accommodation yet?
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    Fringe Festival

    Fringe Festival
    Look at that queue!
    Photo: ByoLogyc (Flickr)
    • When: July
    • Where: All over Toronto

    Fringe Festival is your one-stop shop for all things in the arts. For 12 days in July, artists from all over make their way to Toronto to exhibit all that they’ve been working on.

    It’s amazing to see how creative people are through their storytelling, musicals, dance, and even a few stand-up comedians. There are over 30+ venues and 1200 artists taking the spotlight, making this a jam-packed event.

    One of the awesome things about Fringe is that all of the acts had a fair chance to make the stage. It’s a non-juried festival, and the organization has stood by its lottery program to ensure everyone who applies has an opportunity.

    When you think about it, that’s truly remarkable. We live in a world that’s all about who you know, and this automatically casts people away regardless of their talent. Fringe said no thank you, everyone deserves to be here.

    This is also what makes this festival so unique because people who have been in the game for years or are just getting started can showcase their artistic expression, and the audiences get to take in all of it.

    Where to Stay

    Stay right downtown during the Fringe Festival, Hilton Toronto has everything you need for a comfy stay and easy access to all of the shows.

    Toronto International Film Festival

    Toronto International Film Festival
    Photo: Peter Kudlacz (Flickr)
    • When: September
    • Where: Downtown Toronto

    TIFF is the biggest festival in Toronto and has become a worldwide name over the years. If you’re a movie buff then I know this is already at the top of your must-attend list, and rightfully so. Since 1976 TIFF has been changing the way films are created and watched (heavy on the watching part for me).

    During the pandemic, I found myself watching so many movies on my tiny laptop screen that I had forgotten the captivating feeling of watching a film on the big screen, the surround sound flooding your ears and changing the whole experience. Thankfully, TIFF has always been here to remind us of how directors and movie producers want their films to be watched, fully immersed on the big screen.

    Toronto has long been the hub of cinema in Canada. TIFF proves that every year by providing film enthusiasts with the ability to engage with the film industry and watch some of the world’s best films.

    People fly from all over the world to attend lectures and panel discussions, along with some late-night events over cocktails. Whether you want to be moved by art or be inspired to create art, TIFF is the place to be.

    Where to Stay

    Splurge a little by staying at King Blue Hotel Toronto during TIFF. It’ll be packed with other attendees, and 3 of the most popular theatres are less than a 5-minute walk away!

    Nuit Blanche Festival

    Nuit Blanche Festival
    Photo: GothamNurse (Flickr)
    • When: September
    • Where: Downtown Toronto

    Every year for one night in September, Toronto shuts down its streets to welcome the Nuit Blanche Festival. The entire city is taken over by local and international artists, expressing themselves in different forms of art with performances, sculptures, installations, etc. and it’s awesome!

    Each year there is a new theme for the evening, with this year’s being “breaking ground”. This invites artists to delve into the realms of climate change, the effects of urban development on communities, and the shared responsibilities we hold towards land and stewardship.

    Heavy stuff, right? But, it’s so important to continually inspire those around us through art, so I’m excited.

    The creative energy this event brings to Toronto is unlike any other festival. I went in 2022 and would say it was one of the most unique and best things to do in Toronto.

    It’s thought-provoking as well as entertaining. It’s one of the best ways to see a different side of the city. As a place that’s always evolving, this festival allows and encourages artists to call the residents of Toronto into action and engage with the city in a whole new light.

    This is an extremely important festival in Toronto, and it’s just getting bigger each year.

    Where to Stay

    Seeing as it’s an all-night festival, you won’t really be needing somewhere for the night, but when morning hits, you’re going to want a bed more than you do after a 30h flight. Stay at this cozy hostel to save some money and meet some other festival goers.

    Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
    Active Roots Security Belt

    Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

    It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

    Hide Yo’ Money!

    Luminato Festival

    Luminato Festival
    Idk what the hell is going on here
    Photo: Loozrboy (Flickr)
    • When: June
    • Where: All over Toronto

    The Luminato Festival is a multi-arts festival that celebrates the people and the creativity of Toronto. It’s such a cool event where you honestly never know what you’re going to see, as artists have completely free reign. The event runs for 10 days and showcases theatre, music, dance, visual arts, film, and more from some of the best local and international talent around.

    The festival started in 2007 and is always doing its best to give unseen artists platforms across the city. Of course, there are plenty of big names and big-name shows, but one of my favorite things about this festival is they also sprinkle hidden shows throughout the city. This makes it so special when you find one, and who knows, they might become your next favorite artist.

    Step into the museums, and the galleries, walk into small theaters, and discover the streets of Toronto because I promise, Luminato takes over all of the city, and art is just about everywhere you look!

    Where to Stay

    Gladstone House is just a quick bus ride away from downtown and will give you a great opportunity to explore the blocks away from the main festival streets.

    Beaches International Jazz Festival

    Beaches International Jazz Festival
    This is my kinda festi
    Photo: synestheticstrings (Flickr)
    • When: July
    • Where: East End Beach

    The Beaches International Jazz Festival is a month-long music event held in Toronto’s lakeside Beaches community every July, and it brings the blues better than anywhere else in town.

    The event showcases local and international artists all along Queen Street East. Everything is within walking distance, so if you’re not catching a vibe at one show, just mosey on over to another. With nearly 1,000,000 attendees every year, it’s become the largest free jazz festival in Canada.

    No matter if you’re in town for a week or weekend in July, you have to make your way over to the beach neighborhood to witness the smooth saxophone playing of local icons and international stars. It would literally be a crime to miss this soulful event.

    Where to Stay

    Enjoy this Stunning Retro Rooftop Apartment in Toronto and hear the sounds of the festival all night long. It’s located right in the heart of Toronto. You’ll have a wonderful view of both jazz and city lights!

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    Grab an eSIM!

    What to Pack For Your Toronto Trip

    A solid travel plan starts with a good packing list. Trust a broke backpacker, these little extras will save your trip.

    Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
    Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

    Ear Plugs

    Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

    Keep your laundry organized and stink free
    Keep your laundry organized and stink free

    Hanging Laundry Bag

    Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

    Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
    Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

    Sea To Summit Micro Towel

    Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

    Make Some New Buddies…
    Make Some New Buddies…

    Monopoly Deal

    Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

    Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
    Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

    Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

    Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

    Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

    Traveling without good travel insurance is not the way to go. It’s not the type of crazy we are looking for here. Festival crazy > insurance crazy.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

    Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

    Final Thoughts on Festivals in Toronto

    Toronto festivals offer so many different things to its attendees, just like the city itself. It’s full of surprises, different cultures, and some really unique events!

    Whether it’s a music festival, a food and drink event, or an arts and culture showcase, the city is going to be buzzing with excitement. You’ll be fully immersed in the electric atmosphere, and who knows, you might be looking to visit the city more often than you think.

    But for those that are coming from far away, or you’re like me and can only afford one trip to the Canadian Metropolis, then you absolutely have to be in town for Caribana. The Carribean festival goes balls to the walls and will show you all that Toronto is made of. Different cultures, delicious food, and dang good time!

    Looking for more info on visiting Toronto

    Made it this far?
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