Toronto Art Festivals

By Ayngelina Brogan / 21 May 2019

Toronto Art Festivals

By Ayngelina Brogan

A world class city, there is no bad time of the year to visit Toronto. There are so many arts and cultural events happening that whenever you visit you’re sure to find a festival happening in Toronto.

ALSO READ: 5 Family Friendly Brunch Spots in Toronto

Yet, there are a few festivals that are particularly special and not to be missed. If you’re planning a holiday in Toronto you may want it to coincide along one of these events where you’re sure to be elbow to elbow with locals.

Toronto Light Festival

Like most Canadians, Torontonians embrace the cold, mostly because there’s no way around it for several months of the year. The Toronto Light Festival in the historic Distillery District makes the most of the cold evenings but lighting up spectacular light works from local and international artists.

Light festival in Toronto
Photo credits: wyliepoon

Every year from late January to early March after sundown the pedestrian pathways of the Distillery District are filled with locals wandering the open air art gallery. It’s a great way to celebrate the chilly wonderland of the city, and bright some light into the dark nights.

Toronto Light Festival


This international festival of arts and ideas started in 2007 and is now one of the best arts festivals in Canada. It lasts for three weeks each June in Toronto. Venues across the city feature music, photography, art, film and performances.

Luminato festival of Toronto
Photo credits: Patrick Dinnen

The city truly becomes a place for artists to share their creations everywhere from private theatres to parks and public spaces.



Although the Just for Laughs Festival is well known in its home city of Montreal, each September the comedy organization lands in Toronto.

Show at the JFL42 festival of Toronto
Photo credits: Andrew Currie

Comedy is not new to the city, some of Canada’s most famous comedians have performed at Yuk Yuks and Second City in Toronto. And for 10 days in Toronto there are 42 comedic events to attend. A festival pass offers access to 10 days of shows, with local and national comedians performing as well as headlines like Aziz Ansari, Ali Wong and Sarah Silverman.

JFL 42

Contact Photography Festival

Each May the city hosts a month of photography exhibits featuring local and international artists in a variety of venues and exhibits, most of which are free. The festival launched just over 20 years ago and is already the largest photography festival in the world, with more than 200 exhibitions featuring 1500 artists. With a mission to encourage emerging artists of all ages there is an open call to participate be part of the exhibition.

Contact photography festival of Toronto
Photo credits: Chris Huggins

There are also events and photography workshops each year to further the art of photography in the city, including portfolio reviews, lectures and tours.

Contact Photography Festival

The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival

This annual festival happens each July and really encapsulates the spirit of art for everyone in the city. It started in 1989 with organizers who wanted to do things differently, featuring unknown productions and offering affordable access to theatre, something once badly needed in the city.

Show at the Fringe festival of Toronto
Photo credits: Kevin Konnyu

Each year over 150 Canadian and international productions are featured, but they are not chosen by a jury like other festivals. Instead everyone has an equal opportunity with a lottery system.

Toronto Fringe is a grassroots organization that continues to survive with the help of volunteers, grants and donors. It is notorious for launching successful theatre productions such as the  Tony Award -winning  musical  The Drowsy Chaperone. In 2011 Kim's Convenience, won the 2011 Best New Play award, which is now a successful TV show on CBC.

One of the most exciting events in the festival is the 24-hour playwriting contest. The festival chooses the terms for which participants write a play in one day. The winning play is performed on the final day of the Fringe Festival.

The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche is a contemporary art event that begins at sunset and concludes at sunrise one evening of the year.

Nuit Blanche festival of Toronto
Photo credits: VV Nincic

Although it is held in other cities around the world, it has a unique flair in Toronto as the downstair is transformed into a nighttime art exhibition with incredible installations, performances, and some interactive pieces that you could never imagine.

It started in 2006, featuring nearly 5000 artists and is organized by the City of Toronto and all events and exhibits are free. It’s a family friendly event and you can find Torontonians walking the streets all hours of the night.

To encourage attendees, the TTC extends its subway service all night long and the city encourages leaving cars at home and instead walking or biking. It’s only one night a year and is one that you won’t forget.

Nuit Blanche

Choose your favorite festival and fly to Toronto when it pleases you.

Cover photo credit: Patrick Dinnen

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