The best music festivals to check out in and around Ontario this summer

With the summer comes festival season — food festivals, shopping festivals and, best of all, music festivals. In Ontario, we’re lucky to be so close to some of the best festivals of the year. Here are 12 to put on your radar for 2024.

1. NXNE

When: June 16-20

Right here in Toronto is Canada’s own discovery music festival, North by Northeast. The event served as a foundation for many of this country’s most popular artists, including The Arkells, Daniel Caesar, Feist, The Weeknd and more. Artists will perform at over 20 live music venues across the city, making it the perfect event for those looking for a more lowkey and local music festival experience. Highlights from this year’s lineup include singer-songwriter Talia Schlanger, hip-hop artist LTtheMonk and Toronto’s own Maya Killtron. 

2. Gov Ball

Courtesy governorsballmusicfestival.com

When: June 7-9

Right in the heart of New York City, just a short flight or day-long drive from Toronto, is Gov Ball — also known as The Governors Ball Music Festival, this weekend festival is great if you want to make a trip of it to NYC. This year’s lineup will certainly sweeten the deal; from Post Malone and The Killers to SZA, Sabrina Carpenter and Canada’s own Carly Rae Jepsen, there’s something for everyone at this all-ages fest.

3. Sound of Music Festival

Courtesy @soundofmusicfest/Instagram

When: June 13-16

This Burlington festival is an undersung (pun intended) gem of the music festival circuit, and as Canada’s largest free music festival, the organizers always manage to secure a stellar lineup. If you’re into more than just music, there’s plenty to keep you busy — The Sound of Music Festival also includes StreetFest (with shopping, dancing and music), the Grande Festival Parade, a Midway with all the best rides and games and even a Battle of the Bands. The lineup is being announced on Instagram, with highlights including Priyanka, The Jim Cuddy Band, Restless Road, Tyler Shaw and more.

4. Festivoix Trois-Rivières

When: June 27-July 7

Located just north of Montreal, fittingly along the St. Lawrence River, Festivoix Trois-Rivières is a massive, nine-day festival with an amazing lineup that includes a mix of English and French artists. Tent and RV camping is possible in the Trois-Rivières area, and if you’re making the trip there, you might as well enjoy all the perks this beautiful city has to offer — there’s plenty to do, see and eat in the historic centre. This year, the lineup includes Flo Rida, Rise Against, Charlotte Cardin, Cypress Hill and more.

5. Ottawa Bluesfest

Courtesy @ottawabluesfest/Instagram

When: July 4-14

Ottawa Bluesfest has got a stacked lineup this year, so this nine-day festival will have plenty to keep you busy. The event features three outdoor stages and one unique indoor stage, the Barney Danson Theatre in the Canadian War Museum, which is great if you’re looking for a bit of respite from the sun. The Ferris wheel that usually is a fixture of the Bluesfest skyline won’t be there this year, but it’s been replaced with a Western-themed saloon. This year, prepare for Nickelback, 50 Cent, Maroon 5, The Zac Brown Band, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Mother Mother, Orville Peck, Nas, Tokyo Police Club… we could go on!

6. Born & Raised

When: July 5-6

The inaugural Born & Raised festival in 2022 was born out of the sweetest idea — to act as a celebration and homecoming for a few artists that started out in St. Catharine’s, including Alexisonfire and City and Colour (the bands have Dallas Green in common). The all-ages festival brought thousands to the region in 2022 to see artists including Sam Roberts Band and Broken Social Scene perform, and after a 2023 hiatus (in classic band fashion), Alexisonfire and City and Colour are bringing the festival back to life. This year, it will be two days — day one features City and Colour, Metric, Sloan and Dooms Children, while day two includes Alexisonfire, The Used, Counterparts and Ekkstacy.

7. Hillside Festival

When: July 19-21

Get hippie with it at Guelph’s longest-running festival, which offers one of the most eclectic music festival experiences out there. Located in the secluded Guelph Lake Conservation Area, there’s something magical about gathering here to see intimate performances under tents from local and international artists. Known for being environmentally-conscious and involving more than just music with plenty of activities to engage the mind, body and spirit, you’ll end your weekend feeling like you were a part of something bigger — and you will be! Festival-goers will enjoy performances from Patrick Watson, NOBRO, Aysanabee, Dwayne Gretzky, Terra Lightfoot and more.

8. Osheaga 

Courtesy osheaga.com

When: Aug. 2-4

This Montreal music festival is the place to be for the most authentic music festival experience in Canada — the Osheaga lineup never disappoints, the location is right in Montreal and easy to get to, and the grounds, while chaotic, are relatively easy to navigate. Plus, you’re in Montreal, so when you’re done for the day or if you’re planning on heading to the festival later in the evening, there will be so much to keep you entertained in the city. This year’s lineup is pretty incredible: we’ve got Noah Kahan, Hozier, SZA, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins, Toronto’s own Alvvays, Renée App, Chappell Roan and so much more. Grab a weekend pass (the festival also offers accommodation packages for easy booking) and you’ll manage to see enough concerts to last you at least a year!

9. VELD

Courtesy veldmusicfestival.com

When: Aug. 2-4

Another made-in-Toronto music festival, VELD is a hit every year for a reason — as Canada’s biggest electronic music festival, 60 of the world’s top artists will descend upon Downsview Park for three days and bring high energy to three different stages across the park. Festival-goers will be treated to a special Holo set from Eric Prydz, which involves immersive holograms and has been featured at top festivals including Coachella. Other headliners include Alesso, Martin Garrix, Fisher, Marshmello, Kaskade and more.

10. Boots and Hearts

When: Aug. 8-11

Courtesy bootsandhearts.com

When: Aug. 8-11

Located just outside Toronto at Burl’s Creek in Oro-Medonte, Boots & Hearts is the place to be if you’re a country fan. Frequent attendees of this festival know that one of the best ways to really get into the spirit of the event (if you don’t mind going rustic for a few days) — tent and RV camping are available for reservation, or on a first come, first serve basis. This summer’s festival is gearing up to be a good one, with headliners that include Carly Pearce, Thomas Rhett, Cody Johnson and Jason Aldean.

11. Riverfest Elora 

When: Aug. 16-18

What began as a backyard festival has now transformed into one of the most charming music festivals in Ontario. Held on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Elora, this festival is as chill as it gets — you get in-and-out privileges all weekend long with your wristband (something not many festivals can boast), you can bring your own food (though there are plenty of food vendors to keep you fuelled for the next artist on your list) and cannabis is allowed in small amounts. And the lineup matches the vibes, with headliners including Violent Femmes, Fleet Foxes, Josh Ross, Wild Rivers and plenty of incredible local performers.

12. All Your Friends Fest

When: Aug. 23-24

You only need to take one look at All Your Friends Fest’s lineup to see who the organizers had in mind with the creation of this new festival. The inaugural event is taking place at Burl’s Creek and includes some big names such as Fall Out Boy, Billy Talent, Jimmy Eat World, Plain White T’s and The Maine. Emo and pop-punk fans will be able to camp out on the camping grounds if you’re planning on hunkering down for the weekend, catching every last act and dousing yourself in sweet, sweet nostalgia.

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