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Unique Canadian Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss

Canada’s lesser-known music, art, food and lifestyle festivals emphasise the country’s diversity and offer unique experiences tailored to all different interests.
By · April 16, 2024
Unique Canadian Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss

While Canada’s major festivals are exciting and unforgettable, there’s a lot to be said for smaller, niche gatherings and events. Canada’s geography, cultural diversity and lifestyles vary from region to region and contribute to endless options for entertainment through festivals and community events.

Keep reading to learn more about some of Canada’s unique and memorable smaller festivals.

2 Rivers Remix

The path towards reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations includes ongoing support and promotion of Indigenous arts.

2 Rivers Remix is an outdoor annual celebration of contemporary Indigenous music and culture, offered free to the public. Showcasing a blend of local, regional, and national Indigenous musicians, the event presents a dynamic grassroots sound that challenges stereotypes and celebrates Indigenous identity. This year’s event is held in July in Tk’emlúps/Kamloops, B.C.

Organised by the 2 Rivers Remix Society, a newly established BC Non-Profit Society led by a majority of First Nations directors, the festival aims to educate, empower, and inspire Indigenous people, particularly youth, women, and 2-Spirit individuals, to share their stories through contemporary cultural expression.

With a mandate to explore cultural collaborations and intersectional narratives, the festival offers original performances, workshops, and activities on Interior Salish territories and beyond. This year’s 2 River Remix Festival takes place in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops), BC, July 5th-7th.

Supporting Indigenous music in Canada is not only a matter of cultural preservation but also an act of solidarity, empowerment, and recognition of Indigenous rights, contributions, and resilience in the face of historical and ongoing injustices.

Water Lantern Festival

What if we told you that there’s a festival that is entirely based around floating lanterns?

Vancouver’s Water Lantern Festival celebrates by illuminating the city’s waterfront with thousands of glowing lanterns. Attendees adorn their floating lanterns with messages of hope, love, goals and tributes and release their lanterns onto the waters of False Creek, creating an enchanting scene that symbolises unity and community spirit.

The Water Lantern Festival is accompanied by live music, food vendors, and interactive activities. Festival dates for 2024 TBA.

Kaslo May Days

Nothing says community spirit, history and tradition like a small-town event that has been taking place since 1892.

This 3-day celebration at Vimy Park in Kaslo, B.C. marks the arrival of summer by offering arts and crafts vendors, artisanal food and live music performances. Memorable moments include witnessing the longest consecutive annual Maypole Dance in North America, a burly logger sports competition and the Show ‘n’ Shine event where one can admire a dazzling display of shiny classic cars.

May Days takes place in Kaslo, BC, May 18-20, 2024.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival started as a pancake breakfast event in 1965 in Elmira, Ontario and was estimated to have around 2500 participants. Well, 10,000 people showed up that first year!

EMSF continues to welcome Canadians and visitors all over the world and in 2000 the festival made it to the Guiness Book of World Records - boasting 66,000 visitors that year.

EMSF offers scenic wagon and train rides, a huge breakfast that includes way too much maple syrup (of course). You can also find a variety of unique maple syrup treats. The Family Fun Area features interactive farm displays and pony rides. There's also a pancake flipping contest, live music and food trucks. Local farms offer sugar bush tours and vendors offer crafts, collectibles, toys and more.

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival takes place on April 6th, 2024.

Complètement Cirque

One would expect nothing less that an 11-day circus festival from the city brought Cirque Du Soleil into the world.

Montreal Completement Cirque is held in Montreal every July, featuring an array of circus performances that take place from July 4th-14th. Venues, streets, parks, and sidewalks transform into stages for captivating acts from both local and international artists. Celebrating diversity in all its forms, the festival showcases the talents of local and international performers. This immersive event is for audiences of all ages.


For patrons of the arts and history buffs alike, there’s nothing like an arts festival that takes over an entire historic Canadian town for three days.

Artswells is an eclectic arts event that is held every August in Wells, B.C. The festival unites artists, musicians, performers and art enthusiasts from Canada and around the world.

ArtsWells offers live music, theatre performances, visual art exhibitions, workshops and interactive installations, all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cariboo Mountains. Festival venues are dispersed throughout cafes, galleries, community halls and outdoor stages. The focus of ArtsWells is creativity, community and collaboration in celebrating the arts in all of its forms.

Artswells run from Aug 2nd - 4th, 2024.

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To all the night-owl and insomniac art lovers out there - this one’s for you.

Nocturne is an annual art festival held in Kjipuktuk/Halifax, Nova Scotia. The festival transforms the downtown core and surrounding areas of Halifax into an immersive art gallery, after dark.

Nocturne showcases a range of contemporary art installations, performances and interactive exhibits produced by local and international artists. Visual arts, sculpture, light shows, music and dance are all part of the program. Nocturne brings the community together to engage with exhibits and appreciate the arts under the cover of night.

Nocturne takes place from October 17-20, 2024.

Bard on the Beach

To Bard or not to Bard? That is the question that BC theatre enthusiasts ask each other every summer.

Western Canada’s largest non-profit Shakespeare festival takes place in Vancouver’s Sen̓ákw/Vanier Park. Bard on the Beach runs from June to September and features Shakespearean plays, related dramas and other special events. The event is produced by Bard Education, a local company providing year-round opportunities for youth, theatre artists and community members to engage with and explore the works of Shakespeare.

Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival

Yes, even the “Queen’s City” has rhythm and culture.

The Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, a.k.a. "SkaFest" is a music festival that takes place every summer in Victoria, B.C. The festival is organised and executed by the Victoria BC Ska Society, a non-profit organisation, with the help of over 200 volunteers. It is the longest running ska festival in North America. Despite its name, it has also featured artists from a broad spectrum of genres including punk rock, hip-hop, soul, calypso, jazz, rocksteady, dub, dancehall, Latin genres, and world beat and more.

SkaFest takes place at various venues throughout Victoria, BC from June 19-23rd.

Garlic Fest

At this annual celebration of garlic and homegrown food, it is in fact possible to overdo it on the garlic.

The Hills Garlic Festival is an annual event always held on the Sunday following Labour Day in Centennial Park, New Denver, B.C. With the theme "Homemade - Homegrown - Organic," the festival hosts over 150 vendors offering a wide array of garlic products, fresh produce, plants, local crafts, and more. From bulk garlic to garlic ice cream, visitors can indulge in a variety of garlic-infused creations, along with delicious food options.

Live music, family entertainment, and raffle prizes add to the festive atmosphere, with all proceeds going towards enhancing recreational opportunities in the area and supporting the Hills Fire Brigade. Committed to being a Zero Waste Event, the festival sets a high standard in the festival and farmers market industries.

Garlic Fest takes place in New Denver’s Centennial Park on September 8th from 10am - 5pm.

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