NOW MagazineLifeThe best summer 2019 festivals, concerts, movies and free events in Toronto
The best summer 2019 festivals, concerts, movies and free events in Toronto
Slap on your sunscreen and enjoy more than 70 festivals and events happening over June, July and August
By NOW Staff
May 29, 2019
Jordan Radics, Winner of the Face of NOW contest, at Cherry Beach.
We’ve survived another winter, and it felt like a particularly long one this year – after all, it snowed in April, remember? With brighter, hotter days ahead of us, we’re determined to get outside and make this the best summer yet. Once again, we’ve compiled over 70 of the best events in Toronto this season – from food festivals to outdoor movies, concerts, plays and more. And if you make it through our list, we’ve also got ideas for getting out of town.
Pedestrian Sundays shut down the streets of Kensington Market once a month from June 30 to October 27.
DECOLONIZE AT THE INDIGENOUS ARTS FESTIVAL
The city’s seventh annual festival of contemporary Indigenous music, dance, theatre, storytelling, food and more takes over Fort York in time for National Indigenous Peoples Day. Details are still sketchy – the Na-Me-Res Pow Wow happens June 22 (noon-4 pm) – but past performers at the festival, produced in co-operation with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Friends of Fort York, have included recording artist Susan Aglukark, throat singer Tanya Tagaq and educator Morningstar River.
June 18-23 at Fort York NationalHistoric Site (250 Fort York Blvd). Free. fortyork.ca
GO LONG AT THE JUNCTION’S SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
The Junction’s eighth annual Summer Solstice Festival celebrates the longest day of the year with its biggest blast yet. Live music, art market, street performers, food and more run from noon to midnight. This year’s theme is retro-inspired beach party, so dress accordingly.
RECLAIM THE STREETS AT PEDESTRIAN SUNDAYS IN KENSINGTON
The monthly ode to community, culture, ecology and car-free streets (and changing the way we perceive them) kicks off its 16th year. The showcase of music, local vendors and performance art takes place on the last Sunday of every month until October. The streets are yours from noon to 7 pm. Smaller evening closures will take place from 7 to 10 pm.
June 30, July 28 and August 25 throughout Kensington Market (Augusta south of College). Free. kensingtonmarketbia.com
SEE A HOMER AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS BASEBALL
The other Leafs franchise in town, the one that plays baseball (not hockey) at Dominico Field (aka Christie Pits), is in a league of its own when it comes to breathing some fun into the west-end community it’s called home since 1969. Is there a better way to spend a lazy Sunday than under the shade of a giant maple taking in the Leafs? The Intercounty Baseball League franchise’s home games are free to boot.
There’s nothing more nostalgic than a trip to the Ex. Hop on the Sky Ride and stuff your face with mini donuts before trying to win a prize at the midway. Even if you hate long lines, the thrill of winding through the crowd and bright lights on a sticky summer night with the sound of a cover band playing Sweet Home Alabama is worth the price of admission. The Canadian National Exhibition has been around for 140 years and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Bandshell concerts will be announced closer to the date.
August 16-September 2 at Exhibition Place (210 Princes’). $20, srs/child $16 (rides/ride passes extra). theex.com
GET CULTURED AT THE CHINATOWN FESTIVAL
The 19th annual Toronto Chinatown Festival takes over Spadina for two days, with Asian food stalls, knick-knack vendors, live entertainment, martial arts demonstrations and more. Don’t miss the dragon dance launching the festival on August 17 at noon, and learn about the neighbourhood’s rich history on a free walking tour.
August 17-18 on Spadina, from St.Andrew to Sullivan. Free. chinatownbia.com
MAKE A SPLASH AT THE BEST OUTDOOR POOLS
Toronto is home to 58 public pools, each its own turquoise glistening reprieve from the summer heat. Head to Alexandra Park (275 Bathurst) for a no frills but expansive pool with a pretty view of the CN Tower, Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pools (1867 Lake Shore East) for its diving boards or the Alex Duff Memorial Pool (779 Crawford) for its two-storey water slide and splash pad for kids. If it’s an especially hot day and you’re worried about capacity, go to Sunnyside Gus Ryder (1755 Lake Shore West), the biggest in town – and outdoors.
Centre Island is home to some of Toronto’s best beaches, but only Hanlan’s is named after a famous rower – and has been officially clothing-optional since 2002. Other extras include daytime dance parties, lounge chairs, lockers and great view of the city skyline. Take the ferry to Hanlan’s dock, walk from there toward the circa-70s concession stands and hang a right at the boardwalk. Bike trails, firepits and picnic areas are nearby. Also, it’s a prime location to catch the air show during the Ex, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Revellers dress up in bold costumes for the Caribbean Carnival Parade on August 3.
SUPPORT LOCAL QUEER TALENT AT PRIDE
The LGBTQ’s month-long celebration scales down with a slightly smaller, more tightly programmed fest. Gone are the big pop star headliners (although Big Freedia, Tweet and Mya are among the American acts playing Pride Weekend) replaced by a focus on indie parties, drag performers and DJs that keep Toronto’s queer scene lively all year. The big weekend kicks off with Moonshine, Pierre Kwenders and Hervé Kalongo’s party for Montreal’s African diaspora, and culminates in the Pride Parade on June 23. The 519 Community Centre is also hosting its concurrent Green Space Festival at Barbara Hall Park – though the buff TreeHouse circuit party is relocating to the Ex. And Buddies in Bad Times’ Queer Pride events will run all month.
June 1-30 at various venues. Various prices, parades and outdoor stages free. pridetoronto.com
POUND THE PAVEMENT AT DUNDAS WEST FEST
If it feels like Dundas West Fest keeps growing every year, it’s not just your imagination. The neighbourhood festival has turned into one of our biggest summer romps, spanning 12 city blocks and featuring dozens of businesses, musicians, artists and community members. Last year’s festival brought out over 80,000 people, and this year you can expect the same – both days go until midnight. Grab some street food and sit on the curb to people-watch while enjoying the sounds of salsa, indie rock and more.
Head on down to Lakeshore and chant “Famalay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay.” Soca icons Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin’s collab tune Famalay won the Trinidad Carnival’s Road March, which means it’ll be sounding off plenty at Toronto Caribbean Carnival. Watch the parade, or get in on the action with Mas Bands like the Toronto Revellers, Tribal Carnival, Louis Saldenah Mas-K-Club and so many more.
August 3 at Lakeshore (from Dufferin to Strachan). $15-$195 (kids under 12 free). torontocarnival.ca
WINE IT UP AT CARNIVAL KINGDOM
Last year’s Carnival Kingdom, a flagship outdoor soca fete held every Carnival weekend, was abruptly cancelled. The city of Vaughan revoked SOS Fest’s permits at the 11th hour, citing noise complaints from a previous night’s event hosted by promoters SOS Fest, but many suspected racism. Thousands were sent home, including headlining talents Machel Montano and Destra. Montano is returning for this year’s Carnival Kingdom, an event that year after year consists of the biggest soca talents and most jubilant crowds. This year the SOS team is boasting a new tag line: “Back Like We Never Left.”
Queer parties are becoming a staple of Caribbean Carnival weekend, essentially giving queer Black Torontonians a second Pride. One of the biggest jams is the day-long, family-friendly Blockobana, organized by Blackness Yes (the team behind Pride’s Blockorama). DJs Blackcat and Craig Dominic and Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance are among the confirmed acts for the ninth edition. More details will be announced in the summer months.
Get your jerk with rice and peas and a rocksteady beat. The cultural festival celebrating Jamaica’s food and music has bumped around the city over the years: York University, a Jane and Finch mall parking lot, Downsview Park and now Pioneer Village. There will be food, singers, drummers, dancing and activities for the kids at the festival, which this year is honouring Marcus Garvey’s birthday.
August 17 at Black Creek Pioneer Village’s North Property (7060 Jane). $10-$20 (kids under 12 free). rastafest.com
FOOD & DRINK
Eat, drink and be merry at Union Summer, outside Union Station from May 31 to August 3.
BASK IN THE SUN AT UNION SUMMER
Amid the commuters rushing home from work, a small oasis returns to Union Station. The annual outdoor market Union Summer features food options, live music and film screenings as well as free daily programming in a lush, green space. Vendors include Union Chicken, Wvrst, Bangkok Buri, Cabano’s, Fiasco Gelato, Carbon Bar, El Catrin, Kathi Rolls and Panchos Bakery, as well as a licensed bar.
Always a staple of the summer food event lineup, The Stop’s Night Market rolled out a major change this year: a shiny new location at shipping-container market Stackt (pretty big upgrade from that vacant lot in the Junction). What hasn’t changed is the broad selection of 85-plus restaurants and drink purveyors, each bringing choice bites and samples for all-you-can-eat munching. This year’s roster includes Woodlot, Tuk Tuk Canteen, Roselle Desserts, Donna’s, Farmhouse Tavern and more.
June 18 and 19 at Stackt Market (28 Bathurst). $125. thestop.org
RAISE A PINT AT A BEER FESTIVAL
Summer and suds go hand in hand, especially when it comes to Toronto food fests. Toronto Craft Beer Fest returns to Ontario Place with 30 breweries and cider companies (and some fun cover bands in tow). Next up is the Toronto Festival of Beer, featuring hip-hop legends Public Enemy Radio, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, plus Ja Rule and Ashanti (along with a massive lineup of craft breweries). And if you’d rather skip the crowds in favour of a more educational approach, Toronto Beer Lovers Tour offers a handy local crash course for beer geeks, whisking guests around to guided tastings and tours at four breweries in a single afternoon.
Toronto Craft Beer Festival, June 21-23 at Ontario Place (955 Lake Shore West). $15-$48.50. tcbf.ca
Toronto Festival of Beer, July 26-28 at Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place (100 Princes’). $55-$115. beerfestival.ca
Toronto Beer Lovers Tour, various dates, starting at Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner). $149. beerloverstour.com
SAVOUR SHAWARMAS AT TASTE OF LAWRENCE
Metro Morning’s food guru Suresh Doss dubbed the eclectic Middle Eastern joints scattered across a small stretch on Lawrence Avenue in Scarborough “Shawarma Row.” If you’ve never made the trip, use Scarborough’s answer to Taste of the Danforth as motivation. The street festival boasts midway rides, musical performances and food vendors covering Scarborough’s international cuisine scene. Expect Hakka, vindaloo and kothu roti.
July 5-7 at Lawrence East (from Warden to Birchmount). Free. wexfordbia.ca
CHOW DOWN AT THE WATERFRONT NIGHT MARKET
The Waterfront Night Market returns to Ontario Place for its 10th anniversary. Indulge in dishes and snacks from over 150 pan-Asian vendors, including Japanese takoyaki, Hong Kong-style bubble waffles, Taiwanese bubble tea and those ever-popular tornado potatoes. Then head over to Beercraft, an on-site ticketed beer market to wash it all down.
JET TO BRAZIL AT THE PAN AMERICAN FOOD & MUSIC FESTIVAL
Savour the diverse cultures of Central and South America at this free outdoor event at Yonge and Dundas. Now in its fifth year, the Pan Am Fest promises live music and dance performances, including the fest’s first-ever talent competition. But the food lineup is an even bigger draw, with a vendors’ market and demos running all weekend. A particular highlight: two cooking contests – the Superheroes of Ceviches and Empanada Armada competitions – will let audience members vote for their favourite bite.
Dress in cosplay, like the characters from Hocus Pocus, at Fan Expo Canada on August 22 to 25.
LET YOUR FELINE FLAGFLY AT MEOWFEST
Why should dog owners have all the fun? This “global celebration for cat lovers” is about to touch down in our city for the first time. Shop for pet products, cat-themed apparel and home goods and meet celebrity “supurrstars” (both animal and human). Bringing your own furry friends along is, understandably, forbidden, though the organizers stress that “cat-themed attire is encouraged.” All ticket proceeds benefit Toronto Cat Rescue.
July 6 at Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview). $17-$20. meowfest.com
SHOP WITH PURPOSE AT THE BLACK OWNED SUMMER MARKET
Expanding from last year’s event at Wychwood Barns, Black Owned Unity’s summer market is cozying up at Exhibition Place. Vendors in skin care, fashion, food and more will set up shop amidst music and spoken word performances. Donations will be accepted to help fund development programs supporting Black youth entrepreneurs.
Toronto’s annual celebration of fan culture returns for a weekend of cosplay, merch tables, signing sessions and mass gaming. Events are still being announced, but confirmed attendees include Shazam’s Zachary Levi, Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi, RoboCop’s Peter Weller and sex-god-without-portfolio Jeff Goldblum. Eighties kids can look forward to a Blade Runner reunion with Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos, and a Goonies reunion with Sean Astin, Corey Feldman and Ke Huy Quan. And if your first thought was “Cool, a Goonies reunion!”, you are exactly the sort of person who should go to that.
August 22-25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West). Starting at $20. fanexpocanada.com
Enjoy free outdoor concerts during Play the Parks from June 10 to October 7.
DANCE IN THE SUN AT PROMISE CHERRY BEACH
You don’t need to go all the way to Ibiza– to dance to electronic music on the beach. I Love Promise presents its 19th season of afternoon DJ jams on Lake Ontario, which includes 14 consecutive Sundays (or Monday long weekends) from 3 to 11 pm. Big names include Kevin Saunderson and Galcher Lustwerk, plus local support by Azari, Babygirl, Edna King and Stacey Sexton.
June 2-September 2 at Cherry Beach (1 Cherry). $20 suggested donation, kids free. ilovepromise.com
SINK YOUR TEETH INTO VAMPIRE WEEKEND
It’s been six long years without a new album or show in Toronto from indie rock band Vampire Weekend. In that time, founding member and in-house producer Rostam Batmanglij left to pursue a solo career, while vocalist/guitarist Ezra Koenig moved from New York City to Los Angeles, created the Netflix anime Neo Yokio and had a baby with his partner, Rashida Jones. Vampire Weekend finally return to celebrate their recently released Father Of The Bride. Expect plenty of songs from the new album, but also a smorgasbord from Vampire Weekend’s back catalogue that’s made them a household name in indie rock.
There are still some big names yet to be announced for this year’s city-wide festival, but its 25th anniversary seems like it’ll be a big one. After tweaking its format over the last few years, NXNE is doubling down on the Festival Village in Yonge-Dundas Square, expanding to three stages around Yonge, Dundas and Queen. And club-hopping wristbands are back to their 1993 prices – $29. Acts include American Football, CupcakKe, Santigold, Cold War Kids, Greys and more.
June 7-16, various venues. Club Land wristband $29. nxne.com
FEEL THE GROOVE AT PLAY THE PARKS
Downtown Yonge’s free summer concert series Play the Parks returns for its seventh season. Fifty lunch-hour and after-work performances pop up at parks and courtyards across the city (from Trinity Square to College Park) on various dates through to October. You can chill to the Latin funk sounds from Santerias (June 25), soul from Bywater Blues (June 19) and CaneFire’s Carib-Latin jazz (July 10), to name a few.
If you’re not one of her zillion followers on Instagram – or if you don’t have anyone younger than 20 in your life – you might think this 17-year-old star came out of nowhere. Her debut album, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, introduced a wider audience to her gothy, playful and personality-filled take on pop music, and smashed records in the process. Catch her here with pulse-quickening rapper Denzel Curry and likely lots of teenagers.
June 11 at Echo Beach (909 Lake Shore West). $67.05. ticketmaster.ca
RELIVE YOUR YOUTH WITH BOY BAND IDOLS OF YORE
Music never hits as hard as when you’re in your youth. Relive it with a handful of (no longer) teen idols returning to Toronto stages this summer. There’s Canadian 80s synth-popper/nocturnal-sunglasses-wearer Corey Hart. New Kids on the Block headline the 90s nostalgia Mixtape Tour at Scotiabank Arena, while their later-boy-band counterparts Backstreet Boys play the same arena a month later. And finally, some of the original bad-boy teen idols: the Rolling Stones, on Canada Day weekend in cottage country. No matter your age, rediscover those hormones.
Corey Hart, June 14 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). $43-$107. ticketmaster.ca
New Kids on the Block as part of The Mixtape Tour, June 19 at Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay), also featuring Salt-N-Pepa, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Naughty By Nature. $34-$185. ticketmaster.ca
The Rolling Stones, June 29 at Burl’s Creek (8th Line S, Oro-Medonte). $179-$660. ticketmaster.ca
Backstreet Boys, July 17 at Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay). Starting at $224. ticketmaster.ca
STROLL THE SWANKY STREETS OF YORKVILLE AT TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL
If you’re the type to buy a ticket and sit, you can catch some big-name headliners like Norah Jones, Tower of Power and the legendary Diana Ross. But if you like your jazz cheap yet surrounded by expensive designer goods, check out the many free shows on the Bloor corridor of Yorkville, including an all-star tribute to Downchild Blues Band (including Dan Aykroyd, David Wilcox and Paul Shaffer), a hip-hop night headlined by Shad and a show featuring gospel icon Shirley Caesar.
BE A BEATNIK AT THE BEACHES INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
The more neighbourly answer to the Toronto Jazz Festival is enjoying its 31st anniversary this year. The Beaches Jazz Festival is a month-long music celebration that culminates on the final weekend street fest (July 25-27). Queen East shuts down in the evenings. Singers, salsa drummers and bands tune up. Families and revellers gravitating over from the parks and boardwalk sample the vibes and food trucks.
July 5-28 at Woodbine Park (1695 Queen East) and other Queen Eastlocales. Free. beachesjazz.com
HAVE A FULL BLOWN MELTDOWN WITH PUP
Hometown boys PUP have had a whirlwind year so far – they’ve released their universally lauded new record, Morbid Stuff, performed on Seth Meyers and toured the world – so this upcoming big-ticket gig at Echo Beach promises to be one hell of a victory lap. Along for the ride are Chicago indie act Twin Peaks, queer stoner-rock goofs Partner and melodic punks Cayetana.
June 7-8 at Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). Sold out. ticketmaster.ca
Tame Impala make the kind of heady psychedelia perfect for introspective headphone-listening, but they can also transfix a big outdoor summer crowd – they proved that while headlining Coachella this year. When you get the chance to catch the Australian band and their kaleidoscope of colours and sounds out in the sun – whether in the desert or at a beer-named amphitheatre – you should do it.
July 26 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). $29.50-$75. ticketmaster.ca
WAIT FOR THE DROP AT VELD
This festival has found a double niche of big-tent mainstream EDM and big-name rappers, and this year is its ultimate expression. The headliner is Cardi B, one of the biggest names in any genre right now, and she’s joined at the top of the bill by Kygo, Skrillex and Tiësto – three electronic titans. If all goes to plan, the crowd will be going ape shit for approximately 48 hours straight.
REACH PROGRESSIVE JAZZ NIRVANA WITH HERBIE HANCOCK AND KAMASI WASHINGTON
There are some co-headlining shows you don’t know you need until you get them, and that’s definitely the case with the Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington concert. Hancock was a pioneer in breaking the boundaries of jazz and embracing modern elements of hip-hop and turntablism, while Washington is 21st century hip-hop’s favourite saxophonist – not to mention a cosmic jazz titan in his own right. Both are progressive musicians and big thinkers – a dream double bill.
La Compañía Cuerpo perform at Luminato Festival, which runs from June 7 to 23.
CHECK OUT THE HOTTEST PERFORMANCES AT LUMINATO
The cultural festival, now in its 13th year, offers showgoers the opportunity to see stellar homegrown productions before they set off on the road – or experience international works in Toronto for a limited time. Colombian dance company La Compañía Cuerpo’s Flowers For Kazuo Ohno (And Leonard Cohen) pairs the work of the late Butoh dancer with the legendary Canadian’s song catalogue, while Triptych (Eyes Of One On Another) pays tribute to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe through projection, poetry and music. And if you’re looking for something a little more experiential, take a trip through the maze-like House Of Mirrors installation.
Who needs to travel to New York City when Broadway comes to town via the Toronto Symphony Orchestra? Every year, conductor Steven Reineke, the TSO orchestra and a couple of musical theatre stars deliver show-stopping numbers from new and classic shows. This year pairs Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) and Betsy Wolfe (Falsettos) since both have been in The Last Five Years (Wolfe off-Broadway and Jordan in the film) and Waitress (both on Broadway), expect songs from those two shows, as well as The Book Of Mormon, Little Shop Of Horrors and Les Misérables.
Principal dancer Xiao Nan Yu has been one of the National Ballet of Canada’s superstars, as elegant and dramatically spellbinding as she is technically impressive. Now, after 22 years with the company, she hangs up her pointe shoes in the bittersweet role of Hanna Glawari in Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow. Expect a huge ovation… and lots of tears.
June 19-23 (Yu performs June 19 and 22) at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen West). national.ballet.ca
FIND SOME FRINGE FAVES
The Fringe of Toronto is, hands down, the premiere local stage event of the summer. This year’s edition sees a continuation of the POSTSCRIPT pop-up patio, complete with a great lineup of artists headlining each night (we’re particularly looking forward to Lauren & Amanda Do It At The Patio, a special Fringe version of Ottawa duo Lauren Cauchy and Amanda Logan’s refreshingly frank interview show, on July 6). New this year is the use of Crow’s Theatre as a venue. Check out the Fringe My Way campaign, in which artists like Aurora Browne (Baroness Von Sketch), Catherine Hernandez (Scarborough) and Mitchell Marcus (artistic and managing director of Musical Stage Co.) share their advice on how to Fringe. And of course check out NOW’s pre-fest coverage and reviews.
Among the 150 shows this year – as always, chosen by lottery – look for Clotheswap, starring Second City alums Dale Boyer, Ashley Comeau and Karen Parker stand-up Courtney Gilmour’s autobiographical solo show Congratulations!Dandelion, by James & Jamesy creator Aaron MalkinThe Huns, by Michael Ross Albert, whose play Anywhere was a big hit last year News Play, by the same folks who made last year’s Everyone Wants A T-Shirt! The Resistance Improvised, featuring local comedy titans Jon Blair, Kat Letwin, Carmine Lucarelli and others Three Men On A Bike, from the company that brought us Three Men In A Boat Tita Jokes, a Filipina-based comedy by Toronto SketchFest sensation the Tita Collective Scadding, an immersive, walkabout audio play set in around Queen and Bathurst The Big House, a solo show about a child visiting her father, written by Fringe veteran Tracey Erin Smith and directed by Sarah Garton StanleyBoy Falls From The Sky, a cabaret by Degrassi alum and former Broadway Spider-Man Jake EpsteinDrama 101, A New Musical, about secrets surrounding a high school drama teacher, by Steven Gallagher and Kevin Wong and Horseface, a new storytelling show by Alex Dallas.
Innovative site-specific company Outside the March takes you back to the time of VHS rentals with The Tape Escape, a hybrid theatre/escape room experience set, appropriately enough, in the former Queen Video on Bloor. Created by Vanessa Smythe, Mitchell Cushman and Nick Bottomley, the show lets you choose one of three different stories: Love Without Late Fees is about singletons possibly finding romance by sharing video rentals A Grown-Up’s Guide To Flying follows an eight-year-old taking you on a treasure hunt through her neighbourhood video store and Yesterday’s Heroes is a quest to find a story buried somewhere in the walls of the store. The one-hour experiences run from 1 to 11 pm daily, so go once, twice or thrice. (Perhaps between Fringe shows?) OtM shows sell out quickly.
William Shakespeare was a populist playwright, so no wonder his works are still performed outdoors for thousands each summer. This year Canadian Stage pairs the charming comedy Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Liza Balkan, with the darker, morally complex Measure For Measure, helmed by Severn Thompson. Both run in rep from July 4 to September 1 at the High Park Amphitheatre. If you’re in the east end, you’ve got a few outdoor options. Bard in the Park presents the gentle romantic comedy As You Like It in two separate locations: from May 30 to June 1 in Norwood Park, and then June 10 to 15 at Kew Gardens. And then there’s Shakespeare in the Ruff’s summer offering at Withrow Park, a production of the late romance The Winter’s Tale, directed by Sarah Kitz. August 14 to September 2.
And you can’t beat the cost for all of these shows: most tickets are pay what you can.
The lineup hasn’t been announced yet for the always innovative SummerWorks Performance Festival (that info comes out June 18), but the fest has released a lineup of artists involved, ranging from award-winners like Alan Dilworth, Nina Lee Aquino, David Yee, Frank Cox-O’Connell, Tedd Robinson, Julie Tepperman, Nicolas Billon, Itai Erdal and Karin Randoja to exciting emerging artists like Bilal Baig and Bessie Cheng. A running theme will be the idea of “public: what is public space, how is it made and negotiated?” Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged.
Brian Jungen: Friendship Centre takes over the AGO from June 20 to August 25.
JUST DO IT AT BRIAN JUNGEN: FRIENDSHIP CENTRE
BC-based artist Brian Jungen is getting a hugely anticipated solo show in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s largest temporary exhibition space this summer. Best known for creating sculptures out of Nike Air Jordan sneakers, the artist’s work references pop culture, his Indigenous heritage and the environment. The exhibition Brian Jungen: Friendship Centre will include new and recent work, “an epic film installation,” his archive – on display for the first time – and well-known works like Cetology, a 48-foot sculpture of a whale skeleton made from plastic patio chairs.
June 20-August 25 at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West). $25. ago.ca
PLUG YOURSELF IN AT THE POWER PLANT SUMMER PARTY
The lakefront contemporary art gallery kicks off its summer season with an outdoor party and opening for the first Canadian solo shows by two rising European artists. Berlin-based Mario Pfeifer will exhibit three video installations (including a collaboration with Brooklyn band Flatbush Zombies), and multidisciplinary London-based Thomas J Price will present a series of sculptures that reference portrayals of Black men in art. Rounding out the program is an exhibition by Beirut- and Paris-based duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, who present a series of installations and videos about scammers. These exhibitions run to September 2.
REFRESH YOUR ART COLLECTION AT THE TORONTO OUTDOOR ART FAIR
For one weekend in July, the foot of City Hall transforms into a maze of booths of more than 360 artists and makers. Rebranded last year, Toronto’s longest-running outdoor art fair also features a lounge, a beer garden, performances and panel talks. The work on display is by a mix of student, emerging and established artists so there’s a variety of price points.
NERD OUT OVER KIRK HAMMETT’S HORROR MEMORABILIA AT THE ROM
Did you know Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett is a huge collector of vintage horror movie posters, artwork, costumes and props? So much so that he has organized a touring exhibition, and the second stop is the Royal Ontario Museum. It’s Alive! Classic Horror And Sci-Fi Art From The Kirk Hammett Collection will feature posters from the 1920s to the 1980s, including the only surviving copy of the original 1931 Frankenstein poster, plus a new original instrumental song and a selection of the shredder’s one-of-a-kind guitars.
July 13-January 5 at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park). $20 ROM Speaks event with Kirk Hammett on July 23 ($15-$20). rom.on.ca
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
Honor Swinton-Byrne (right) stars in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir.
GET DRAMATIC WITH THREE FILMS BY JOANNA HOGG
English writer/director Joanna Hogg has built a reputation on small, intimate dramas about people in the middle of profound life crises – so why are we mentioning her in the Hot Summer Guide? Well, because TIFF is holding a mini-retrospective of her earlier films to support the arrival of her latest drama, The Souvenir, and because her debut feature, 2007’s Unrelated, gave Tom Hiddleston his big break as a sun-dappled young man desired by Kathryn Worth’s older protagonist on a Tuscan holiday. The actor also plays a key role in her follow-up, Archipelago, and pops up as an estate agent in Exhibition, so you can consider this a Hiddleston festival if that gets you down to the Lightbox. Come for his intensity, stay for the excruciating emotional revelations.
The lineup for the 10th anniversary season of the outdoor movies-and-music festival – once again setting itself across from MOCA – kicks off with Jordan Peele’s Us. Details for the rest of the program will be revealed closer to the date, but organizers promise “some great Canadian indie titles,” as well as food trucks and beer on site and themed bands playing before each film.
June 19-August 21, 181 Sterling. $15. openrooffestival.com
PARK YOURSELF AT AN OUTDOOR CINEMA
Toronto’s outdoor summer cinema offerings are as plentiful and eclectic as always – wherever you are in the city, you can always find something to watch. On Tuesday nights, City Cinema at Yonge-Dundas Square features movies starring Second City veterans Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, June 25), Steve Carell and Tina Fey (Date Night, July 2), John Candy (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, July 9) and Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard and Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind, July 16) – and preceding every screening is a live improv set by members of the Toronto company. Meanwhile, Toronto Outdoor Picture Show returns to Christie Pits on Sundays with a “Dynamic Duos” program, including recent TIFF sleeper Rafiki (June 30) and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s knockout Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs (July 28), which Martin Scorsese remade as The Departed. Looking for superheroes? Captain Marvel screens at Liberty Village Park on June 21, and Regent Park’s Under The Stars screening series opens with Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (July 10) and closes with Black Panther (August 14). Into The Spider-Verse will also be swinging into Parliament Square Park (July 25). Oh, and there’s a Crazy For Swayze double bill of Dirty Dancing and Ghost in Sorauren Park on August 24. He was a superhero, too.
It’s been a while since David Lynch made a movie. The iconoclastic master of unnerving imagery has been more focused on music, art and meditation lately, though he returned to TV two years ago with the 18-hour follow-up to his cult series Twin Peaks. If you haven’t caught a Lynch classic on the big screen or have the itch to revisit Mulholland Drive, TIFF is hosting the retrospective David Lynch: The Big Dream, which will screen nine of his 10 features (Inland Empire is sadly not playing due to rights issues) plus a program of six shorts.
July 5-August 10 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 350 King West). From $14. tiff.net
TAKE AN UBER TO STUBER
Kumail Nanjiani is an unassuming Los Angeles Uber driver whose life becomes an action movie when he picks up a hardened detective (Dave Bautista) on the case of his career. Boasting a cast of crack comic performers that includes Bautista’s Guardians Of The Galaxy frenemy Karen Gillan, Glow’s Betty Gilpin and Santa Clarita Diet’s Natalie Morales, it’s Michael Mann’s Collateral meets the French cult action hit Taxi with a dash of Nanjiani’s autobiographical dramedy The Big Sick, and it sounds like the delirious, goofy sleeper every summer needs. Plus, it’s directed by Michael Dowse, who’s demonstrated solid odd-couple comedy chops with Goon and The F Word – which, you may recall, starred Nanjiani’s Big Sick screen partner Zoe Kazan. Buckle up.
Opens July 12
BRING A BOX OF TISSUES TO THE FAREWELL
In Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical breakout, Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Crazy Rich Asians) plays a young woman who returns home to China to visit her dying grandmother, only to discover that a) no one’s actually told her beloved Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou) she’s dying, and b) the family is planning an elaborate wedding to give her one final party. A generational drama, a culture-clash comedy and an all-around crowd pleaser at Sundance, it looks to be one of the most promising indies of the summer.
Opens July 19
ZIP AROUND AT FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the villain in one Fast & Furious movie will be a hero in the next, and Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw are living proof. Despite having tried very hard to kill each other back in Furious 7, they became colleagues in The Fate Of The Furious – and now they’re getting their own spinoff, zipping around the world to take down a “cyber genetically enhanced villain” played by Idris Elba. Also along for the ride are Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s Vanessa Kirby, Baby Driver’s Eiza González, Gosford Park’s Helen Mirren and Joe Anoa’i, better known as WWE wrestler Roman Reigns. Atomic Blonde’s David Leitch directs.
Opens August 2
OUT OF TOWN
Cape Verde’s Elida Almeida headlines Sun Fest, which runs in London from July 4 to 7.
HIT THE ROAD FOR MORE DRAMA
While the Toronto theatre scene gets quieter during the summer – with the exception of Fringe and SummerWorks, of course – there’s lots going on an hour or two outside the city. At the Stratford Festival, for instance, you can see Nigel Shawn Williams’s production of Othello, with Michael Blake as the jealous Moor (to October 27) Graham Abbey’s production of the classic newspaper comedy The Front Page, newly adapted by Michael Healey and starring Ben Carlson and Maev Beaty (July 30 to October 25) the inspiring Billy Elliot The Musical, directed and choreographed by Donna Feore (to November 3) and Mother’s Daughter, the much-anticipated finale to Kate Hennig’s Queenmaker Trilogy, starring Shannon Taylor as Mary I (to October 13).
At Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival’s big novelty this year is Bernard Shaw’s epic comedy Man And Superman, complete with the often-cut third act, Don Juan In Hell, starring Gray Powell and Sara Topham. There are only 17 performances (August 17 to October 5), which begin at 11 am and end around 5 pm. (Don’t worry – there’s a 75-minute lunch break.)
Some of the more intriguing offerings are at the Studio Theatre space, including Peter Hinton’s production of Mae West’s raunchy comedy, Sex (June 21 to October 13) a production of The Glass Menagerie featuring Allegra Fulton as Amanda and André Sills as Tom (to October 12) and Shaw artistic director Tim Carroll’s production of Howard Barker’s political play Victory, starring Tom McCamus and Martha Burns, often considered one of the most brutal and offensive modern works (July 14 to October 12).
Some highlights of the other summer theatre festivals include local playwright Sean Dixon’s new work Jumbo, based on a visit by P.T. Barnum to southwestern Ontario in 1885 (June 12 to August 10), as part of the Blyth Festival a version of Duncan MacMillan’s Every Brilliant Thing starring CBC’s Gavin Crawford (August 3 to 17), which is part of the Festival Players of Prince Edward County season and Toronto writer/actor/musician Beau Dixon’s Bloom: A Rock ’N’ Roll Fable, based on stories from Peterborough’s rock personalities (July 2 to 27), part of the 4th Line Theatre season.
Let the Canada Day long-weekend vibes continue with a getaway to London, Ontario, for Sunfest. Now in its 25th year, the music and arts festival celebrates world cultures with headliners 47Soul, Elida Almeida and Bozá arriving from places like Palestine, Cape Verde and Colombia. Enjoy over 40 musical ensembles, plus 225 food, craft and visual art exhibitors spread over Victoria Park. It’s free and all ages.
July 4-7 at Victoria Park (580 Clarence, London). Free. sunfest.on.ca
GET A BIT OF EVERYTHING AT FESTIVAL D’ÉTÉ DE QUÉBEC
If you’re going to go out of province for one festival this summer, it should be to Quebec City for this one. It’s huge, yet strangely under the radar, with big-name acts of just about every genre: Diplo, Mariah Carey, Blink-182, alt-J, Slipknot, Logic, U.S. Girls, Courtney Barnett and many more. The festival offers different vibes over each of the 11 nights, and the pass is cheap and shareable so you can pick and choose what you like without feeling guilty. Spend the rest of your time climbing forts and eating cheese curds.
For a few years, Hillside faced a lot of competition from Toronto festivals, but it endured in its understated way. If you’ve never experienced the Guelph-area camping fest, you should at least once – it’s the perfect combo of laid-back hippie vibes, one-off jams and workshops and performances from top-notch Canadian talent. This year, catch NOW faves Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Haviah Mighty, Chippy Nonstop, Orville Peck, Ellis, Fucked Up and Foxwarren, plus Steve Earle, Bruce Cockburn and many others.
July 12-14 at Guelph Lake Conservation Area (7743 Conservation, Guelph). $57-$129. hillsidefestival.ca
PRACTICE YOUR FRENCH AT THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Montreal is ridiculously cold in the winter, so summer is the time Torontonians head east to take in the city’s perfectly chewy bagels, smoked meat and bustling arts scene. This summer, visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the world premiere of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, a retrospective on the visionary French designer featuring more than 150 garments made between 1977 and 2014, and Riopelle: The Call Of Northern Landscapes And Indigenous Cultures, which explores Montreal painter Jean-Paul Riopelle’s love and fascination with Canada’s north.
Even in cottage country, light pollution obscures unfettered views of the stars, but the world’s first permanent dark sky reserve offers an oasis. Other galaxies and planets are viewable – with the naked eye and amateur telescopes – at Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve, just a three-hour drive north from the city. The 1,990 hectares of Crown land, which was designated a reserve in 1997, is full of low ridges, wetland and stunted trees, meaning visitors get a 360-degree view of the sky. The northern lights are sometimes visible in late fall and early summer.