While the summer is the busiest time for festivals in Toronto, the spring festivals is no slouch in that department either. Indoor events dominate the schedule earlier in the spring, while the focus moves outdoors by the time June rolls around.
List of Spring Festivals
Here are a few of the season’s highlights, listed in chronological order.
Toronto Comic Book Convention: Held at the end of March in the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, this weekend-long event is a popular spot for nerds and geeks of all types.
The event has a focus on comic books, but has also branched out to broader pop culture in an effort to increase its audience. Celebrity guests at the most recent edition included Billy Dee Williams (Yes, Lando Calrissian himself) and Julie Benz of Dexter fame.
Images Festival: The Images Festival is the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent “moving image culture.” It is held at the beginning of April, and takes places in dozens of venue across the city, including the Bell Lightbox Theatre, Bloor Cinema, and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The festival features live performances, media art installations, films and other media projects by many renowned Canadian and international artists.
Sprockets Film Festival: Organized by the folks behind the Toronto International Film Festival, the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children and Youth takes place over a dozen or so days at the beginning of April.
This aim of this film festival is to provide younger film fans with exposure to the best of Canadian and international cinema for children and youth. Films are screened across the city during the weekend as well as during the week, when special programs are organized for elementary and secondary school students.
Hot Docs: Now known as North America’s largest documentary film festival, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival takes place every year at the end of April and into May.
The most recent edition (2011) featured over 200 films from 43 countries, including many that have gone on to win major awards. Think of Hot Docs as the TIFF of documentary films, but by no means is that meant as a slight.
The event attracts big celebrities and takes place across some of the best cinema venues in the city, including The Isabel Bader Theatre, Bell Lightbox Theatre, and the beautiful Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge Street.
Toronto Comic Arts Festival: TCAF is a festival dedicated to comics, graphic novels and their creators, with a specific focus on the Canadian perspective.
The event takes place in early May at the Toronto Reference Library, located just north of the intersection of Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Artists, illustrators and authors are on hand offering readings, interviews, art installations, and of course shopping.
Contact Photography Festival: Occurring throughout the month of May, CONTACT is an annual festival of photography with hundreds of local, national and international artists exhibiting at more than 200 venues.
The event is said to be the largest photography event in the world, and features many critically-acclaimed pieces. The anchor for the festival is The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, located on Queen Street West, which is also generally the neighbourhood the area where one can find many of the participating galleries and art spaces.
Doors Open Toronto: For one weekend every year at the end of May, the City of Toronto organizes a program called Doors Open Toronto. Across the city 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance open their doors to the public, including both government and private buildings.
The event allows visitors free access to buildings that are either not usually open to the public, or would normally charge an entrance fee. Many locations have guided tours, displays and activities to add to the experience.
Some popular spots include the Don Jail, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre and Toronto City Hall.
Luminato: This large-scale arts festival is held annually for 10 days each June. Luminato features artists from diverse fields including classical and contemporary music, dance, theatre, film, literature, visual arts, fashion, food and design.
Events take place in indoor and outdoor locations that are generally concentrated within Toronto’s downtown core, many of which are free to the public. This includes a series of concerts held at the festival’s main outdoor stage situated adjacent to Roy Thomson Hall.
North by Northeast: One of the city’s biggest annual musical events is the North by Northeast festival in mid-June, which brings together rock, pop, electronic and hip hop artists from Canada and around the world.
Also known as NXNE, its centrepiece is a series of free concerts held at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring big-name artists. Of course, while these shows have the highest profile, the true heart of the festival is the set of shows spread out over dozens of bars, clubs and other venues across the city.
As an added bonus, during those events many bars have extended hours with some serving drinks until 4 a.m.
Taste of Little Italy: Foodies flock to this culinary festival that shuts down College Street from Bathurst Street to Ossington Avenue. Held in mid-June, the event takes full advantage of the season’s improved weather.
The neighbourhood comes alive as vendors and entertainers pack the vehicle-less streets, while the area’s restaurants and bars expand their patios out into the street. Each restaurant offers up a few choice items served from booths on the street, with a particular focus on tasty grilled foods like lamb skewers and roasted corn.
Toronto comes to life after the long winter and celebrates the sun with Spring Festivals. Browse around Totally Toronto to find out more.