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A festival of festivals

Hamilton is a city of festivals, meaning you can spend each of your summer weekends taking in all the city – and Burlington! – has to offer. 

When someone asks what you’re doing on the weekend any time this summer, just say “Hamilton.” Festival season is upon us, and those with an abundance of energy and even a titch of extroversion can fill virtually every weekend from now through September with something amazing to do.

Hamilton and Burlington definitely know how to throw a great party, because they gets so much practice. Grab those calendars and start saving some dates – you’ve got plans.

June

Battle of Stoney Creek re-enactment weekend – June 1-2

Come for: A real-time history lesson at the longest continually running War of 1812 reenactment in Ontario at historic Battlefield House. Costumed volunteers do some old-timey cosplay as they re-create the British defeating an American force in the 1813 battle that became a turning point in the defence of Upper Canada.
Stay for: the Indigenous programming, musical entertainment, and old-fashioned games while meandering along the same grounds that housed the epic battle.
More info: hamilton.ca

Hamilton Arts Week – June 5-14

Come for: A city-wide celebration of Hamilton’s many artists whose combined passions make our city more vibrant, more colourful and more unique than any other around.
Stay for: Workshops, large-scale installations, writers’ talks, film screenings and more.
More info: hamiltonartscouncil.ca

Concession Streetfest – June 8

Come for: A stroll through the dynamic, spirited Concession Street community. Take in the live performances at the multiple stages, a car show, do a little shopping, and grab a snack or two (or three) from a selection of food trucks or the local restos.
Stay for: A Zoetic screening of Mean Girls, resting up before heading back out to the festivities to make the most of your second wind.
More info: concessionstreet.ca

The Sound of Music Festival – June 13-16

Come for: The unofficial kick off to summer, held just around the bay in Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park. Now Canada’s largest free outdoor music festival, it has come a really long way since its 1980 debut as a marching band parade.
Stay for: A weekend music festival of non-stop tunes, big-name headliners, family activities, midway, and good eats. Too big to be just contained in the park, the party spills up Brant Street, where the cars are relegated to the side streets until the music finally stops.
More info: soundofmusic.ca

Brott Music Festival  – June 20-Aug.15

Come for: The 37th season of one of the largest orchestral music festivals in Canada, founded by the late Boris Brott, renowned Canadian conductor. With 15 eclectic concerts taking place at various locations – including the waterfront and the historical Church of the Ascension – the festival takes audiences on a musical field trip throughout the city.
Stay for: An East Coast kitchen party at Liuna Station (Aug. 9). This laid-back raucous foray into Maritime musical culture will get the audiences whooping it up, with much more foot stomping (and plaid shirts) than at a traditional trip to the symphony.
More info: brottmusic.com

FrancoFEST, Gage Park – June 21-23

Come for: A three-day fête of Francophone art and culture through music, art, and interactive family activities.
Stay for: The opportunity to discover new musical acts (there is going to be a bunch so be sure to bring a chair), and - for the non-francophones – the chance to see how many of those high school French lessons made a lasting impression.
More info: francofesthamilton.ca

Something Else Festival – June 20-23

Come for: A festival presented by the Zula Music & Arts Collective, featuring a weekend chock full of music - both ticketed and free performances - at various locations in the city.
Stay for: The energetic and raucous festival wrap up with King Balsam and the Shuffle Demons at the Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool.
More info: somethingelsefestival.com

It’s Your Festival – June 29-July 1

Come for: A community Canada Day celebration at Gage Park. A true crowd pleaser since its 1969 beginning, the event routinely draws 150,000 patriotic visitors - a spectacular turnout for a birthday party. Canada should be very proud, eh?
Stay for: Non-stop activities and entertainment for every member of your family – Three stages of live music, a family fun zone, vendors, and a beer garden all encouraging visitors to stay a while. It is a festival for all of us, after all.
More info: itsyourfestival.ca

July

Because Beer Craft Beer Fest – July 12-14

Come for: The chance to learn about and sample some of the hundreds of craft beers and ciders at the bayside Pier 4 Park while noshing on the offerings a selection of specialty food vendors. Pro tip: come thirsty.
Stay for: The party atmosphere that comes complete with a live concert each day. The scheduled performers this year include Billy Talent, Tokyo Police Club, and PUP.
More info: becausebeer.ca


Hamilton Fringe Festival – July 17-28

Come for: A 12-day lottery-selected festival of eclectic live performances taking place in venues throughout the city. Theatre, comedy, music, spoken word, dance, and more are on the docket to the delight of the throngs of fans that descend on the city for the event which last year drew 20,000 attendees.
Stay for: The Fringe Benefit Button, given in exchange for donating to the festival. With 100 per cent of base ticket sales given back to the Fringe artists, this financial support helps keep the festival running – and creators creating – for years to come.
More info: hftco.ca

PHOTO: Dave Pijuan Nomura

August

Festival of Friends – Aug. 2-4


Come for: Hamilton’s historic outdoor festival of arts, music, and crafts in Gage Park. This festival has been around since 1978, and a trip to the festival has become many Hamiltonians’ favourite family (and friendly) traditions.
Stay for: The friendliest of free fairs offering guests a midway, vendors, great food, and incredible concerts. Keep an eye on their site for announcements on this year’s performers.
More info: festivaloffriends.ca

Dundas Cactus Festival – Aug. 16-18


Come for: The kick-off parade in downtown Dundas (aka the Cactus Capital of the Universe). This marks the 49th year of the festival that celebrates both the prickly plant and the residents of Dundas, and everyone is invited to join in.
Stay for: Family activities, tasty treats, live entertainment on the mainstage and retail therapy. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for some fun cactus-themed merch.
More info: dundascactusfestival.ca

Winona Peach Festival – Aug. 23-25

Come for: A free community fest in Stoney Creek organized by seventeen not-for-profit organizations. Take in the midway, live entertainment, vendors, a crafter’s marketplace, and more than a few fuzzy fruits.
Stay for: All the peachy treats you can handle, including crepes, cobblers, and the festival’s famous peach sundae.
More info: winonapeach.com

Hamilton musician Brian Melo headlined the Winona Peach Festival in 2023.

Burlington Ribfest – Aug. 20 - Sept. 2

Come for: Canada’s largest celebration of ribs at Spencer Smith Park. The weekend event showcases the delicacies of ribbers from the U.S. and Canada cooking up something great from their colourful booths. Plenty of non-rib options are also available, as are treats for the vegetarians who walk among us.
Stay for: A really good time. The midway, beer garden and live music performances that run all weekend long lend a party atmosphere fitting for the last weekend of summer.
More info: canadaslargestribfest.com

September

Supercrawl – Sept. 13-15

Come for: A colossal multi-disciplined celebration of arts. Visual arts, fashion, Spoken and written word and more are showcased at this free event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors and takes over James Street North in the most amazing way. The jewel in the Supercrawl crown is the music, with ongoing live performances providing the booming soundtrack to the event. The musical lineup will be announced on their website – be sure to bookmark it and check it often.
Stay for: An awesome street party that must be seen to be believed. Go home to sleep, then crawl back to stay some more.
More info: supercrawl.ca

Supercrawl Hamilton

Binbook Fair – Sept. 12-15

Come for: A trip to the country for a quintessential fall agricultural fair. Filled with hay, horses and livestock, and more this year marks the 171st of causing visitors’ allergies to flare up.
Stay for: All the good stuff that a perfect fall fair has to offer, like a demolition derby, rodeo, and a baby show with a twist – do you know a baby with really long toes? Sign them up – there is an award for that.
More info: binbrookfair.org

Ancaster Fair – Sept. 19-22

Come for: An autumn weekend filled with all things agricultural - and cotton candy - at the 174th Ancaster Fair, and to learn about how vital Hamilton’s neighbouring farmland is to each of us. It’s also a good opportunity to use up any allergy meds leftover from the week before.
Stay for: The livestock shows, homecrafting competitions, beer tent, live entertainment, and much more.
More info: ancasterfair.ca