FOOD & DRINK
Sample Toronto’s new Asian night market, Superfresh
For how alive the city is at night, there are precious few options for late night eats – basically poutine or pizza and not much else. Enter Superfresh, the new Asian night market that’s just taken over the Annex Food Hall space on Bloor. Seven vendors (offering stuff like fried chicken, bao, Indonesian and Korean street food) plus a bodega and cocktails, take over the indoor/outdoor space full of neon and primed for live entertainment. But the best part is that it’s open until 2 am Thursdays to Saturdays and midnight all other days (except Tuesday, when it’s closed).
Open now. 384 Bloor West. superfresh.to
Load up on guac at Taco Fest
Taco Fest got going just as Toronto’s taco scene started making a name for itself between the La Carnitas, Seven Lives and Playa Cabanas. This year’s festival takes place at Ontario Place West Island and will bring out big names like El Catrin, new success stories like Gus Tacos and Birria Catrina (which are both helping Toronto catch up on the whole dipping the shells in consommé trend), and more names we have yet to discover. After you load up on tacos, try some tequila (the festival boasts 26 kinds) and cool off with a paleta from Wrestlers.
June 17-19 at Ontario Place West Island (955 Lake Shore West). thetacofest.ca
Sip some cold ones at Toronto Craft Beer Festival
The largest independent craft brewers’ celebration in the city (according to their site) returns to Ontario Place for a fifth season. Locals like Left Field, Henderson and Saulter Street will be in the mix with more than 20 others offering ales, ciders, stouts and lagers.
June 24-26 at Ontario Place West Island (955 Lake Shore West). tcbf.ca
Get into a T.O. state of mind at Toronto’s Festival of Beer
You can sample over 400 different beers at this fest – if you have enough tickets. After hopping from booth to booth and trying a very good cross-sampling of the country’s beer scene, settle in for a surprisingly good-sounding music lineup (though anything might sound good after enough samples): old-head hip-hop icon Nas on day one and Canrock faves Sam Roberts Band on day two.
July 22-24 at Exhibition Place Bandshell Park (210 Princes’ Blvd). beerfestival.ca
Fingers crossed for Taste of the Danforth
The city announced the return of Canada’s largest street festival but as of this writing, no details have emerged about the tzatziki-flavoured event. The silence could be due to a few hitches. “We continue to work closely with the City of Toronto to resolve the outstanding logistical issues related to the festival,” Mary Fragedakis of the Danforth BIA told NOW. The City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture (EDC) and Transportation Services divisions gave us a similar response, assuring that they are committed to working together with the BIA and festival organizers. Wondering what the issue is? It probably has something to do with how much the Danforth changed during the pandemic. There are now bike lines and a CafeTO program that brings patios onto the street. Both take up a lot of the real estate that the festival once occupied. Here’s hoping they sort that stuff out so the grills don’t stay cold.
August 5-7 (TBC) on Danforth, east of Broadview. tasteofthedanforth.com
Update June 17: Taste of the Danforth has been cancelled for 2022. Scarborough’s Taste Of Lawrence, just east of shawarma row, is looking like a might appetizing alternative. July 8-10 on Lawrence, east of Warden. wexfordbia.ca
Eat out all over town at Summerlicious
Toronto’s Summerlicious and Winterlicious events (and all their knockoffs) are big money-makers for the local food scene. Restaurants advertise their prix fixe menus and then watch the reservations come in. Over the last two years, they’ve had to make do with takeout or hybrid versions. But this year, Summerlicious is back. The program will once again be taking over the city’s dining rooms and patios. It’s a more restaurant-friendly model this year, with more flexibility in setting prices for the special menus.
August 12-28, participating venues, prices and menus to be announced. toronto.ca/summerlicious
Spill onto the street for Do West Fest
Before Dundas gets its name change, its namesake festival, Dundas West Fest, has already changed it. After a two year nap, the neighbourhood street festival is back. The stretch of Dundas West contains a ton of patios and live music venues, all of which spill further onto the street. The Transmit Stage, run by the promoters behind the Garrison and Baby G, get a stage – Metz and Sloan are playing – as does Lulaworld/Lula Lounge. And there’s tons of food.
June 3-5 on Dundas West from Ossington to Lansdowne. dundaswestfest.ca
Rave by the shore at Promise Cherry Beach
For two decades, Promise Cherry Beach has been one of the best things about Toronto summer, a chance to dance to some of the city’s best DJs at one of its prettiest settings. During the pandemic, the idyllic setting was briefly co-opted by anti-maskers, sometimes clashing with people wielding chainsaws (look it up), but now Promise is back to cleanse its weekend beach home with headliners including Soul Clap, Ciel, Kenny Glasgow and Hiroko Yamamura.
Sundays, June 5 to September 5 at Cherry Beach (Cherry south of Unwin). promisecherrybeach.ca
Canadian Music Week returns from Zoom limbo
After a few pandemic years of Zoom-style conferences (if Sartre was writing today, this would be the setting of No Exit), CMW is back in person this year. The industry conference side, as in years past, is filled with panels about radio and touring plus keynotes from folks like legendary rapper Chuck D. The Indies awards show is back – this time at the El Mocambo (on June 11) with performers including Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Haviah Mighty – and elsewhere at the fest you can catch performances by Canrock-centric acts including Bif Naked, Crown Lands, the Glorious Sons and more.
June 6-11 at various venues including Intercontinental Toronto Centre (225 Front West). cmw.net
Hop between shows at NXNE
After a pandemic pause on its music festival (but not virtual esports competitions), North By Northeast (NXNE) is back to what’s made it a summer highlight since the 90s: filling multiple music venues with performers and selling you a wristband to hop between them. These days, NXNE is positioned more as a discovery festival than a spot to see already huge acts at Yonge-Dundas Square, but at $20, it’s cheaper than it’s ever been. They’re planning many more acts to come, but a partial list so far includes Desiire, Lexxicon, Jhyve, Omega Mighty, No Tourists and more.
June 14-19 at more than 20 Toronto music venues. nxne.com
Meet Charlotte Day Wilson at Massey Hall
Local R&B singer/songwriter/producer Charlotte Day Wilson graced the cover of NOW years before she released her full-length debut, but now that Alpha is out there (with some big awards nominations to match) she’s ready to celebrate at the venue that signifies big things to come: Massey Hall. That venue provides the perfect atmosphere for her soulful pipes to shine.
June 18 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). masseyhall.com
Catch some free jams at Toronto Jazz Fest
In its 35th anniversary festival, Toronto Jazz Fest is continuing its expansion out onto the streets of Toronto. There are more free shows than ever this year, with stages at Avenue and Bloor, throughout Yorkville and the U of T campus – and over 90 per cent of the free shows feature Canadian artists. The free and ticketed shows include heavyweights like Smokey Robinson, Gregory Porter, the New Power Generation: Featuring the Music of Prince and more. And there’s an eclectic list of locals too, like recent NOW cover star Savannah Ré and rappers DijahSB and TOBi.
June 24 to July 3 at various venues. torontojazz.com
Take A Chance On The Music Of ABBA
ABBA and Mamma Mia! fans are gonna be singing Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! while trying to get tickets to this tribute show of music by the Swedish pop supergroup. Under Pops conductor Steven Reineke, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Finnish vocal ensemble Rajaton will run through all the catchy tunes in the ABBA catalogue, like Dancing Queen, Waterloo and The Winner Takes It All.
June 28-29 at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). tso.ca
Get on the street at the Beaches Jazz Festival
It’s going to be a big summer for Toronto street festivals, and they’re not only about food. Beaches Jazz Fest’s StreetFest (July 21-23) fills two kilometres of Queen East with over 40 live bands. That’s the highlight, but there’s also a main stage festival at Woodbine Park (July 15-17), a Leslieville and Riverside fest, workshops and more – all free. Artists have yet to be announced, but if you just go for a stroll you’ll probably see something you like.
July 2-24 at various venues in the Beaches. beachesjazz.com
The Weeknd plays his city’s biggest stage
The Weeknd’s tour was scheduled and rescheduled so many times that he’s now got another album (this year’s Dawn FM) since its initial focus (After Hours), and now fills stadiums instead of arenas – a necessary scope for what’s sure to be a huge spectacle befitting a hometown hero who now headlines the Super Bowl halftime show. It’s been a long way from the Mod Club, where he made his debut in 2010. This After Hours Til Dawn stop will be all over your social media feed, so you’ll be seeing it one way or another.
July 8 at Rogers Centre (1 Blue Jays Way). ticketmaster.ca
Follow the beat at Afrofest
While Afrofest had been weathering the pandemic online, the continent’s most popular musical genre, Afrobeat, has grown to chart-topper status. Ckay’s Love Nwantiti and DJ Neptune’s Nobody is on a loop in this house. Afrofest’s return should be a victory lap. The warm, welcoming and bumping festival, which had to deal with the racism of Beach residents who are tellingly selective when they make noise complaints, should get loud about their moment on top.
July 8-10 at Woodbine Park (1695 Queen East). afrofest.ca
Take a long-awaited Field Trip
Like many events on this list, Field Trip is making a long-awaited return. Unlike others, though, the Arts & Crafts music festival’s hiatus actually dates back to before the pandemic. So the anticipation is high for this laid-back, family-friendly event. Expect lots of cool parents toting kids wearing giant sound-dampening headphones to see artists like Kurt Vile, the Halluci Nation, the Rheostatics, Lucy Dacus, Nathaniel Rateliff, Pierre Kwenders, Ombiigizi and more.
July 9 at Fort York Garrison Common (100 Garrison). fieldtriplife.com
Get future nostalgic with Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa released a modern disco classic right as the pandemic made partying together nearly impossible. Now, everybody who’s been hustling and levitating to songs from her Future Nostalgia album alone in their bedrooms can finally get together for a collective blowout. Sometime in the last two years, the British pop star has exploded onto the A-list, so this show is not at a club, but you can still get down.
July 27 at Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay). ticketmaster.ca
Go ham at VELD
Big-tent EDM fans have been waiting two years for the drop. After a hiatus, this electronic and hip-hop festival, which tends to bring in artists who create big moments for crowds to lose their shit, is back with a big lineup: the Chainsmokers, Marshmello, Martin Garrix, Gunna, BBNO$ and more. VELD has expanded from two days to three, so this year is bigger than ever.
July 29-31 at Downsview Park (70 Canuck). veldmusicfestival.com
Celebrate Toronto’s Afro-Caribbean community at AfrowaveTO
Jamaican-Canadian artist and scene-builder Lexxicon launched AFROWAVETO during the pandemic as a way to showcase dancehall and reggae culture in Toronto and build up the Afro-Caribbean musical community. Now it gets to step out of the virtual world with its first in-person festival at History. Dancehall giant Sean Paul (who, let’s not forget, broke out in Toronto first after featuring on Money Jane with the Baby Blue Sound Crew) headlines alongside Stalk Ashley, Projexx, Zenesoul, DOLOTHEGIFTED and Dynesti.
August 3 at History (1663 Queen East). ticketmaster.ca
Croon along with Orville Peck
Sometime after we put him on the cover for his debut album, Pony, masked country outlaw Orville Peck got on his horse and rode out of town. But he’ll still get welcomed as a returning hero at this Massey Hall two-night stand in support of his sophomore effort, Bronco. His beautiful croon and identity play have gained him a serious cult following.
August 9-10 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). ticketmaster.ca
Big step over to see Kendrick Lamar at Scotiabank Arena
Kendrick Lamar is one of the most critically acclaimed rappers in the world – not to mention the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize – so it’s no surprise the recent drop of his latest album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, was treated as a capital-E Event. So will this two-night arena stand, which also features Baby Keem and Tanna Leone (both of whom are featured on the album). Grab an N95 and a ticket and you can dissect the concert for weeks.
August 12-13 at Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay). ticketmaster.ca
Celebrate under the Gardiner at the Bentway Block Party
The winding public walkway underneath the Gardiner has a full summer’s worth of art, food and other free programming, but it’ll go all out for this annual block party. The lineup isn’t announced yet, but the music will be curated by local queer scene stalwarts Yohomo. That means there will be dancing and lots of it. There will also be family-friendly games, workshops, eats, performances and more, all part of this season’s “Street” theme at the Bentway.
August 14 at the Bentway (250 Fort York). thebentway.ca
Pause your doomscrolling with Metric, Interpol and Spoon
Early 2000s indie rock is going through a serious renaissance, and these bands are three of its heavyweights. Metric, the Canadian headliner, went with a more 2020s theme for this album and tour, which is called Doomscroller. But you can safely look up from your phone for their anthemic tunes, and if something unbelievable happens in the world you can catch up on it later.
August 26 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). ticketmaster.ca
Welcome Rolling Loud to Toronto
Rolling Loud is arguably the biggest hip-hop festival in the world, so it’s a big deal that the Miami fest is coming to Toronto this year. The poster is filled with some of the biggest rappers and hip-hop-adjacent artists making music now: Future, WizKid, Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Roddy Ricch, Lil Yachty, Skepta and more. It could be a lot more diverse (not many women on this list), but they didn’t forget to include some local talent, including NAV, Belly, Pressa, Haviah Mighty, Jazz Cartier, Ramriddlz, Chromazz and Roy Wood$.
September 9-11 at Echo Beach (909 Lake Shore West). rollingloudtoronto.frontgatetickets.com
Is OVO Fest coming back this summer?
With Toronto fully reopened this summer, the energy in the air is feeling a lot like the heyday of Drake (summer 16 or 19, depending on how big a Raptors fan you are). So maybe it’s no surprise that he dropped in unexpectedly at a recent Dave show – classic Drake – to hit turbocharge on the local hype train. “They let the city back open so I will see you at OVO Fest soon,” he said. No official word yet on where or when or even if the rapper’s star-studded hometown festival will be happening, but it’s usually around August.
Put Dixon Road on the musical map
Her Next Stage Festival solo show may have been called She’s Not Special, but in it Fatuma Adar proved she is in fact very, very special. Now she’s back with her much-anticipated musical about a Somali family who emigrates to Canada in the 90s and settles in the Dixon Road area in what is still the heart of Toronto’s Somali community. Adar wrote the book, music and lyrics to this show, which features a cast that includes Starr Domingue, Germaine Konji, Danté Prince and Shakura S’Aida. One of her idols is Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, so just you wait and see where she goes. (See related story here.)
June 3 to 19 at the High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor West). canadianstage.com
Take a day trip to the Stratford Festival
It wouldn’t be summer without a trip to Stratford to catch a play or two. After last year’s mostly outdoor season, the festival is back in a big way with the theme “new beginnings.” New certainly defines the Tom Patterson Theatre, whose reopening was celebrated last month with the first public performance of a new staging of Richard III, the same play that launched the festival back in 1953. Other big shows include the iconic musical Chicago, a new production of Hamlet starring Amaka Umeh in the title role and a rare production of Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman, set in British-occupied Nigeria.
In rep through the fall in Stratford, Ontario. stratfordfestival.ca
The Shaw must go on
Although the Shaw Festival presented several shows last summer – some even indoors – they’re back with a full slate of offerings this summer and fall, including at their largest venue, the Festival Theatre. Among the popular offerings are Damn Yankees, Gaslight, The Importance Of Being Earnest and The Doctor’s Dilemma. As usual, some of the more intriguing offerings will be staged at the intimate Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, including Everybody, by the hot playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (whose An Octoroon made several best of lists in 2019), and August Wilson’s Gem Of The Ocean.
In rep throughout summer and into the fall, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. shawfest.com
Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd
Any chance to see Barrie’s Talk Is Free Theatre in Toronto is a treat. We’re still kicking ourselves that we missed their Into The Woods last year. This one-of-a-kind production of Stephen Sondheim’s Grand Guignol masterpiece first played London (UK) in 2018 as part of the company’s extravagant three-day, across-the-ocean experience The Curious Voyage. Mitchell Cushman directs a top-notch cast (Michael Torontow, Glynis Ranney, Tess Benger, Gabi Epstein, Cyrus Lane, Jeff Lillico and others) in a promenade style, immersive performance at the Neighbourhood Food Hub in the east end. Great venue; just beware the meat pies.
June 6 to July 3 at the Neighbourhood Food Hub, Glen Rhodes Campus (1470 Gerrard East). tift.ca
Check out Hasan Minhaj’s latest show
Every Torontonian who caught Daily Show correspondent Minhaj’s JFL42 show in 2016 still talks about it. That material formed the basis of his breakthrough Netflix special Homecoming King, and likely secured him his short-lived but critically acclaimed series Patriot Act. Now he’s back with his latest solo show, The King’s Jester. Demand is so high for this Just For Laughs show, he’s had to add dates. (Read our interview with Minhaj here.)
June 10-11 at Coca-Cola Coliseum (45 Manitoba). hasanminhaj.com
Watch queer comics destroy at Pridezilla
Rush Kazi and Robert Watson host a groundbreaking night of queer laughs to help kick off Pride, with headliner Elvira Kurt, special guest Brandon Ash-Mohammed and comics Coko Daphney, Tom Hearn, Dave Kim, Bobbi Summers, Peter Knegt and more. Read our feature on Brandon Ash-Mohammed here.
June 10 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). Buddiesinbadtimes.com
Dive into Swan Lake
Dance lovers have waited more than two years to see Karen Kain’s newly imagined version of the classic story ballet. The legendary dancer, of course, is intimately associated with the role – in 1971 at the age of 19, she debuted in the lead role while a member of the corps de ballet, replacing an injured Veronica Tennant. Now, inspired by Erik Bruhn’s classic version, the retired National Ballet of Canada artistic director has emphasized the emotion and humanity in the story, set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Dancers Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James, among others, will debut this new staging.
June 10-26 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen West). national.ballet.ca
Celebrate Pride with some Gay AF comics
Producer Robert Watson has been hosting his star-studded Gay AF Comedy shows for several years now, and during the pandemic he let audiences enjoy open-air queer comedy outdoors at the Campbell House Museum courtyard – during the day (which is usually unheard of for comedy). Now, for Gay AF Comedy Pride-Stravaganza, Watson’s assembled a stellar lineup that includes Ted Morris, Tamara Shevon, Vong Show, Hillary Yaas and Jade Niles-Craig for a special Pride show at the same classy venue.
June 18 at the Campbell House Museum (160 Queen West). eventbrite.ca
Enjoy a pre-Broadway run of & Juliet
It’s been a while since Toronto got to see a show on its way to Broadway, so expectations are super high for this West End jukebox musical hit. A comic twist on Shakespeare’s tragedy, the show features a book by Schitt’s Creek’s David West Read and more than two dozen songs by songwriter and producer Max Martin – like Since U Been Gone, Teenage Dream and Oops! I Did It Again. The cast includes Broadway stars like Betsy Wolfe, Stark Sands and Paulo Szot, as well as newcomers Lorna Courtney and Ben Jackson Walker. This could be the most fun at the theatre since Mamma Mia!
June 22 to August 14 at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King West). mirvish.com
Get set to Fringe your ass off
After two years of limited virtual offerings, the Toronto Fringe, the city’s biggest summer stage event, is back in a big way. The complete list of 100 or so shows will be announced later this month, but the festival has teased some names and titles, including the Don Valley Girls, the fierce sketch comedy revue that recently wowed the RISER Festival; Stephen Elliott Jackson’s The Garden Of Alla, starring Fringe veteran Rebecca Perry; Nam Nguyen’s A Perfect Bowl Of Pho, a musical about the Vietnamese diaspora and its foods; and Anesti Danelis: This Show Will Change Your Life, a musical spoof of self-help advice by the hilarious social media viral star. Most familiar Fringe venues are back, but the Daniels Spectrum has been added – as both a theatre and lounge – and the main POSTSCRIPT patio will be at The Tranzac Club, where it was years ago.
July 6 to 17, various locations. fringetoronto.com
Witness the Mashup Pon Di Road
Summer is the time for theatre artists to think way outside the box. And co-directors Bahia Watson and Liza Paul are doing just that with Mashup Pon Di Road, their bashment circus variety show performed on a truck in various Toronto neighbourhoods. The duo are joined by Chelsea Russell and Ayaka Kinugawa to perform the vaudeville-style show with an island vibe and an anti-patriarchal spirit. The pre-show warm-up featuring music and local food and drink should get you in the mood for a series of vignettes, songs and circus. After this show, Watson and Paul are headed down to NYC to perform at the legendary Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre.
July 19 at Assembly Park (80 Interchange Way), July 21-23 at Green P Lot (1531 Eglinton West), July 27 at the Bentway (250 Fort York). welcometodicircus.com
Visit the Dream In High Park for As You Like It
Although many performances happened at the High Park Amphitheatre last year, things weren’t the same without any Shakespeare. Now the decades-long tradition of al fresco Bard continues with Anand Rajaram’s inventive staging of the beloved romantic comedy As You Like It. Rajaram, who has kept a foot in both the theatre and comedy worlds, has cast an eclectic group of performers (among them Marty Adams, Maja Ardal, Belinda Corpuz, Paolo Santalucia and Eric Woolfe), and employed the always popular Shadowland Theatre to create sets, costumes and props. In what seems like a first, there will also be original music by Maryem Toller, Lacey Hill, Serena Ryder and Kiran Ahluwalia to add some different notes.
July 28 to September 4 at the High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor West). canadianstage.com
Get ready to laugh with Patton Oswalt
One of most popular stand-ups on social media, Oswalt brings his Who’s Ready To Laugh? tour to Massey Hall this summer. As well as being one of the funniest comics around, Oswalt is known for a bunch of other things: he voiced the lead role in Pixar’s Ratatouille, got raves opposite Charlize Theron in Young Adult and helped publish his late wife Michelle McNamara’s true-crime masterpiece I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – and took a big role in adapting the book into an award-winning HBO docuseries. Wherever you know him from, you’ll want to catch his comedy act; sure, you can see him in one of his many comedy specials, but there’s nothing like seeing him perform live.
July 30 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). masseyhall.com
TIFF’s Aspect Ratio reframes Indigenous performances
Adam Piron, the director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous program, brings a fascinating new conversation to TIFF. Aspect Ratio: Indigenous Actors Beyond The Expected explores performances by Shannyn Sossamon in A Knight’s Tale, Wes Studi in Michael Mann’s Heat and Lily Gladstone in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. They play characters who are ethnically nondescript. Their presence as Indigenous actors in these movies, who are in no way being stereotyped or tokenized, defy the Hollywood norm. Piron, who gives a recorded intro prior to each screening, will give these anomalies their due.
June 17-19 and June 30 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). tiff.net
Toronto Outdoor Picture Show brings it home
The city’s most reliable open air screening program is inviting crowds to return to its old haunts at Christie Pits, Corktown Common and Bell Manor Park after the pandemic forced them to limit their exposure to Fort York. The Toronto Outdoor Picture Show (TOPS) found the best way to celebrate this re-emergence: opening with Beyoncé’s epic concert doc, Homecoming. Bey’s moves at Coachella 2018 demand the big screen, big sound, wind-in-the-hair treatment. And it’s kicking off a TOPS season that will pay homage to “the vitality of performers and performance.”
June 23 to August 28 at various locations. topictureshow.com
BOOKS & ART
Discover whodunnit at the MOTIVE Crime & Mystery Festival
The Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) presents its first live and in-person events with this three-day festival devoted to crime and mystery. In-person events include interviews and readings with bestselling authors like Kathy Reichs, Ian Hamilton, Linwood Barclay and Thomas King, while Harlan Coben, Walter Mosley, Donna Leon and others take part in virtual events. In addition, there are panels, master classes and even an interactive theatrical event for young people in Brampton libraries. (Read our interview with TIFA director Roland Gulliver here.)
June 3-5 at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) and other venues. festivalofauthors.ca
Light up your life with Luminato
The multidisciplinary Luminato Festival brings art of all kinds to the GTA streets, parks and even public transit. The fest includes the world premiere of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s In The Wake Of Progress, which chronicles the story of humanity’s impact on the planet on digital screens around Yonge-Dundas Square. Other highlights include Oluseye Ogunlesi’s Black Ark, an exploration of Canada’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Dreamwalker Dance’s All In Good Time, an interactive experience you can enjoy in various parks. And if you’re commuting you can enjoy Art In Transit on the GO system, involving a fish (Anand Rajaram), train conductors (Susie Burpee, Alex Dallas), a musician (Roula Said), choreographer (Kevin A. Ormsby) and composer (Aren Okemaysim).
June 9 to 19 at various venues. luminatofestival.com
Book yourself into Word on the Street
Canada’s largest open-air book festival has changed its dates from September to June, providing the perfect timing to find a few beach and cottage reads. In addition to the lively marketplace – where you can peruse books, magazines, comics and more – you can also catch more than 100 authors on five stages reading from their work and participating in panels. This year’s starry lineup includes Heather O’Neill, Jesse Wente, Maude Barlow, Brian Francis, Farzana Doctor, Shani Mootoo and Rollie Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon). And if you can’t make it in person, some events will be livestreamed on the fest’s YouTube channel.
June 11-12 at Queen’s Park. thewordonthestreet.ca
Show your colours at Pride
We could put together a whole separate guide for the month-long Pride 2022 festivities, which kick off on June 8 with The Fierce & The Reckless party at the El Mocambo, hosted by the House of Monroe, and wraps up with the return of the parade on June 26. Between that there’s a litany of parties, shows and a drag brunch. The 519 is hosting their Green Space Festival on the final weekend at Barbara Hall Park, where drag queens, DJs and performers will electrify the outdoor crowds. Those shows will coincide with the much-heralded headliner performances over Festival Weekend. So Mi Like It singer Spice aka the “Queen of Dancehall” is performing at the opening ceremony. Soca star Patrice Roberts will be jumping up atthe Black queer event Blockorama. Canada’s Drag Race’s inaugural winner (and former NOW cover star) Priyanka will perform her EP Taste Test on the main stage at Yonge-Dundas Square.
To June 26 at various locations. pridetoronto.com
Celebrate the summer solstice at the Indigenous Arts Festival
Housing and support organization Na-Me-Res hosts Toronto’s annual Pow Wow in recognition of National Aboriginal Day and the summer solstice on June 18. The Pow Wow will include traditional dancing and drumming, along with a feast of tacos and corn soup with bannock. The Pow Wow takes place on the first day of the Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York. Those visiting the second day can enjoy an Indigenous food market and main stage performances.
June 18-19 at Fort York (250 Fort York Blvd). toronto.ca/iaf
Wine down the road at Toronto Caribbean Carnival
The tabanca was real. Carnival chasers went two years without the road – in Toronto and (due to travel restrictions) in the West Indies. All that pent-up energy led to more creativity. The band launches went down. The bejewelled costumes are finer than ever. A few sections are already sold out. Some are still wary about leaving their social bubbles to catch a bubble wine on the road (typically those who never caught COVID-19). But most of the carnival community is ready to get on bad at the Grand Parade or at the fetes where soca artists like Preedy, Nailah Blackman and Machel Montano will perform.
July 28-31 at various locations. (Kids’ events July 10 and 16; Grand Parade July 30 along Lake Shore West.) torontocarnival.ca
Let’s go (back) to The Ex
The Canadian National Exhibition, or Ex, has always been one of the markers of summer in the city. After two pandemic cancellations, it’s back on, as announced by Mayor John Tory in March. Full details about the huge fair haven’t yet arrived, but expect strange foods, a crowded midway and, most importantly, the feeling that life is almost back to normal.
August 19 to September 5 at Exhibition Place (210 Princes’ Blvd). theex.com
Sample some dim sum at the Toronto Chinatown Festival
Toronto’s Chinatown was devastated early on in the pandemic, especially with the rise in anti-Asian sentiment. So what better way to support one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods than by visiting this free two-day summer festival? The all-ages event features music on two stages, games, displays, a lion dance parade, draws and, of course, more than 30 booths offering up delicious food.
August 20-21, Spadina and Dundas West area. chinatownbia.com
Geek out at Fan Expo
The cosplay itself is a reason to get in on the action at Toronto’s festival of comic and gamer geekdom. But this year’s starry guest lineup is an even bigger draw. Star Wars fans can expect Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) alongside actors from The Mandalorian (Carl Weathers and Giancarlo Esposito) and The Book Of Boba Fett. Star Trek fans will see LeVar Burton and William Shatner, and the entire shire (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monoghan) will represent Lord Of The Rings. They’ll be joined by the casts of Clerks, Cobra Kai, Legends Of Tomorrow and more.
August 25-28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West). fanexpohq.com