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Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival
Connecting with aboriginal cultures is the aim of this unique festival in the nation’s capital region. An aboriginal artisan village holds art workshops and demonstrations while the main stage heats up with acts like Aboriginal Canada We’ve Got Talent! There are also cultural performances throughout the day. A petting zoo, pony rides and bouncy castles round out the activities.
Free; donations accepted. Various locations including Lebretton Flats Park (behind the War Museum); Museum of Civilization, Ottawa. 613-261-3637; aboriginalexperiences.com
Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival
North America’s largest dragon boating event features more than 200 teams competing in different racing categories. Paddles aside, this free event offers tons of kids’ fun, including a Shakespearean comedy show, magician, a reptile show, and a juggler and circus stunt performer. Spartacat, the Ottawa Senators’ official mascot, will make an appearance.
Free; pledges welcomes. Mooney's Bay Park on Riverside Drive, Ottawa. 613-238-7711; dragonboat.net
The Navy of 1812: Sailors on the Lakes
Kids can learn about the historical importance of the Navy of 1812 while viewing magnificent ships. Five tall ships and 22 longboats set the stage as 200 naval actors re-enact the battle that stopped the United States from seizing Ontario. There’s also music, dance, games and other activities for the whole family to enjoy.
$6 and up. Fort George National Historic Site. 51 Queen's Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 905-468-6614; friendsoffortgeorge.ca
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto
July 17-August 5
The brilliant colours, pulsating beats and mouth-watering cuisine of the Caribbean are intoxicating at this carnival, which draws crowds from all over the world. A highlight for families is the Junior Carnival and Family Day (July 21). Revel in the festivities as young paraders display their best costumes.
Prices vary. Exhibition Place, Downsview Park (July 21) and other locations in Toronto. 416-391-5608; torontocaribbeancarnival.com
Fun activities for kids are set on the shores of Centennial Beach. The YMCA Children’s Village (with pony rides, kite flying and juggling lessons), theme park and midway rides add plenty more reasons to come to the beach. If your kids are not into digging in the sand, they can also fly a kite or devour a barbecue lunch.
Admission free; some ticketed activities. Centennial Beach, Barrie. 705-726-4242; kempenfest.com
Canal, Railway & Music Festival
This festival along the beautiful Rideau Canal offers a mixed bag of entertainment to suit all tastes and ages. You’ll find everything from children’s entertainers to toe-tapping musical performances. Take a tour of the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, or enjoy one of the main highlights: the soapbox derby race with “homemade” entries from the region.
$2-$20. Centennial Park in Smiths Falls and other locations; 613-234-2664; canalrailwayfest.com
Canadian National Exhibition
August 17-September 3
Want a full day of excitement? Go to the Ex. It’s packed with kiddie rides and onstage entertainment, plus a whole whack of other thrills. There’s sheep shearing and cow milking on “the farm” every day, plus magic performances, aerial acrobatics, ice skating shows, SuperDogs and HorseCapades. Of course, don’t leave the grounds before indulging in a bag of Tiny Tom’s mini donuts, a traditional family favourite for decades.
Prices vary. Exhibition Place, 200 Princes' Blvd., Toronto. 416-263-3800; theex.com
Burlington Children's Festival
It’s a safari theme for this year’s fête on Burlington’s waterfront. Kids four and up show off their crafting skills in the sandcastle competition, while older master sculptors demonstrate their technique. There are character meet-and-greets, a jungle parade, play zones, inflatable bouncers and even an infant marketplace where parents can check out the newest in baby gear.
Free. Spencer Smith Park, 1400 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington. 905-335-7766; burlington.ca
Scotiabank Buskerfest (Toronto)
Wacky and wonderful street performances come together in one of the largest North American fests of its kind. There’s something for everyone — silent and slapstick comedy, daredevils and magicians, high-skill circus acts, acrobats, aerialists, musicians, fire jugglers and more. An added bonus: The BuskerPlay area features face painting, balloon art, free workshops and shows for families.
Free; donations welcomes. St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood, Front Street from Jarvis to Yonge Streets, Toronto. torontobuskerfest.com
This fest transforms downtown Windsor into a kaleidoscope of colour with 80 giant cold air balloons and inflatables in a multitude of shapes and characters, including Sesame Street favourites. Children will also enjoy train rides, an amusement park and live music.
Admission free; some ticketed activities. Downtown Windsor. 519-252-5723; balloonapalooza.ca