The warmer weather brings lots of opportunities for outdoor fun, and with so many concerts, activities and competitions to choose from, there really is something for everyone in your brood. We’ve rounded up some family-friendly events across Canada for you to check out.
A version of this article appeared in our June 2013 issue with the headline "All the best: Summer fairs & festivals," pp.123-128.
August 16 - 19
This festival celebrates the history of the Klondike with a ton of events. The kids will love learning interesting facts and stories about the gold rush, and the crafts and face painting are just plain fun. Tweens can try their hand at the writing competitions or take walking tours, and if you’re brave, the whole family can practise their moves at the cancan show.
Most activities free.
Dawson City, 867-993-2353
Get more information at travelyukon.com
Small and awesome are the adjectives that apply to this music-under-the-midnight-sun festival. Spanning three days and six venues in the historic Dawson City, the festival is a dream, with children’s music delighting the wee folk while the adults groove to rock, blues and jazz. The KidsFest portion is a great way to entertain the tots, with performers like Al Simmons, instrument making, crafts and more. The event is also the perfect springboard for exploring the Klondike region. Outdoorsy types can hike through the Tombstone Mountains and paddle along the Yukon River.
Weekend pass $135 per adult, free programming available at two venues; children 12 and younger get in free.
Dawson City. 867-993-5584
Get more information at dcmf.com
We love the premise behind this festival, which celebrates an industry that keeps the local economy strong. This event does just that by commemorating the workers and companies of the exploration and mining industry. Spectators cheer on their teams in the annual Mine Rescue Championship, and quash hunger pangs at the free community BBQ, which fuels the kids for an afternoon of face painting and arts and crafts.
Yellowknife Community Arena and Parking Lot. 867-873-5281
Get more information at ykonline.ca
When looking to celebrate summer, why not go where there’s almost 24 hours a day of sunlight? The only thing shining more brightly is the northern talent, including artists, street performers and musicians. It’s also a great way for kids to learn about community outreach, and indigenous history and culture, as the event features presentations and displays from many non-profit organizations. The festival kicks off on National Aboriginal Day.
Sombak’e Park, Yellowknife
Get more information at ykonline.ca
Most kids love water, especially splashing, paddling and riding big waves, which explains why Paddlefest is a hit with the whole family. Slave River plays host to a variety of kayak-training workshops, river trips, races, games, and competitions for paddlers of all ages and skill levels. Participants love the “meet the river” hikes and community feast, but the hallmark event is “Introduction to Awesome,” where beginner paddlers get to experience the thrill of running the rapids in a two-person whitewater kayak or a raft.
Prices for clinics and activities vary.
Various locations in Fort Smith. 867-872-3593
Get more information at fskayak.webs.com
June 28-July 1
This is a truly special festival featuring musicians, artists and performers from across Nunavut and around the world who come together to celebrate summer and the arts. Little ones adore the storytelling and circus arts in particular, while parents soak up the music, films, dance and theatre.
Various locations in Iqualuit. 867-979-6000
Get more information at alianait.ca
May 27-June 2
It’s back – and it’s become even more hip with a recent move to Granville Island. The festival focuses on kid-favourite performers like Bobs and Lolo, as well as the theatrical production of “Baobab.” The show ticket also provides access to all activities and workshops, including a Magical Mystery Maze, Twist and Toddle dance party, magic tricks, making music with found objects, African dance, shadow puppetry and more.
Tickets $5 to $25, activity site pass $8.
Cartwright St., Vancouver. 604-708-5655
Get more information at childrensfestival.ca
June 1 & 2
Any festival that starts with pancakes is bound to be good. And that sustenance is definitely needed for the weekend-long ball tournament and the Main Street parade. Kids are bewitched by bingo, while parents slink off to the flea market to score some vintage finds. The whole family can meet up again at one of the awesome food booths to refuel for the next event.
Most activities free.
Highway 95A, Marysville, south of Kimberley. 250-427-3666
Get more information at hellobc.com
June 7 & 8
Culture is the cat’s meow at this event, where kids can bang the djembe drums, carve soapstone, practise circus yoga, or even play in the mud. Be sure not to miss the parade – it’s sure to be purr-fect.
$5 per person or $15 per family of four.
Waterfront Park, Kelowna. 250-860-4911
Get more information at fatcatfestival.ca
Have some fun while fundraising for the community of Cherryville. We’re enamoured with the baking contest and tea garden, and so are our little princes and princesses. The kids’ dance is very cute, and the live music keeps everything groovy. Pony rides are a perennial hit with the children.
Free admission, varied activity charges.
Cherryville Community Hall, 158 North Fork. 250-547-6540
Get more information at hellobc.com
This nostalgic event celebrates entertainment from another era with a gamut of heritage activities, like horse-drawn wagon rides, panning for gold and even ice cream making. The hamburgers-and-hot-dog BBQ is delicious (and thankfully not leftover from heritage times!).
Admission to the site is half-price ($5) for the whole family.
4660 Barkerville Hwy, Quesnel. 250-992-2071
Get more information at cottonwoodhouse.ca
Got a toddler who loves her trike? Saturday’s Little Crit Race features cyclists 11 and younger barrelling down Banff Avenue in the heart of downtown. There’s also the Cruiser Crit for parents who don’t want to miss out on the fun. After working up an appetite, indulge in a family lunch at one of the great downtown Banff restaurants post-race. Add some seriously good competitive cycling to that, and this is a festival not to be missed.
Spectator events are free. $4 entry fee for Cruiser Crit race.
Get more information at banfflakelouise.com
May 28-June 1
The main stage and outdoor performances are amazing, but we’re truly won over by the plethora of on-site activities (each with a connection to the Alberta public school curriculum). There’s an entire schedule of Aboriginal activities, including Métis weaving and papermaking, as well as a storytelling circle framed within a buffalo-hunting tale. Other activities include a dino dig and tile painting.
Adults $20; children $15 for all-day wristband.
Various locations in St. Albert. 780-459-1609
More informtaion at childfest.com
Discovery Wildlife Park, with all its resident bears, tigers, jaguars, wolves and an alligator, invites you to monkey around. The park promotes education about animals, and you’ll find a star-studded cast – many of its animals were featured in movies like Air Buddies and Dr. Dolittle 2. Fans of Diego the Animal Rescuer will love that the park’s mandate is all about rescuing orphaned wildlife and providing them with a safe new home. They’ve also got free face painting, minigolf, clowns and a bouncy castle. Hot dogs, ice cream and cotton candy are offered as toonie deals.
Adults $16; kids 13 to 17 years $14; three to 12 years $10; up to two years $1; special events included.
Get more information at discoverywildlifepark.com
We can almost guarantee that for every passion your kids possess, there’s a corresponding activity on-site at this amazing festival. A few highlights include participating in the community Lego-build project under the supervision of a Lego master, interactive literacy games in the story tent, and digging for real fossils at the Fossil Find station.
Kiwanis Park, Saskatoon. 306-664-3378
Get more information at potashcorpchildrensfestival.com
Ostensibly a festival for the BBQ-fiend in the house (be it Mom, Dad or a tween Bobby Flay), this event will entice the entire family. Is it the thrill of the competition as grill masters from across Western Canada fight for prizes and bragging rights, or the award-winning food that captivates? It’s really all of the above, especially when a pile of family activities are provided like bouncy castles, face painting and visits with Beeper the Clown. Come for the BBQ, stay for the arts and crafts, and go home with a tummy full of good grub.
Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. 306-652-1400 ext. 4
Get more information at saskatoonbbq.com
It’s all about the wide array of activities here: Decorate a hat, tie, pinwheel or flower; take part in a tae kwon do demonstration, or learn about healthy living at the Heart and Stroke Activity station; play with clay, perfect a puppet, or get immersed in an animal tale with storytellers. There’s also a Kindermusik session, wand-making fun, a fossil discovery centre, and an orchestra petting zoo, where kids can play with a variety of instruments.
Advance tickets $14 each or a family pack of four for $48; kids younger than two free.
The Forks, Winnipeg. 204-958-4733
Get more information at kidsfest.ca
Get hopping over to the Tadpole and Green Zone (for preschoolers and school-agers, respectively) and check out the face painting, balloon sculptures, obstacle courses and bouncy castles – with the lure of a prize from the Treasure Chest for every five activities you partake in. After that, kids and adults alike will find themselves doubled over with laughter at the Canadian Frog Jumping Championships, in which participants race their pet frogs by making them jump three times – the frog who jumps the farthest wins! More games, sports, music and entertainment round out this hoppin’ good time.
Carillon Park, St. Pierre-Jolys.
Get more information at frogfollies.com
July 27 & 28
This lovely festival takes you back to the 1800s and highlights Mennonite food and craft. Featuring a petting zoo, bouncy rides and a massive parade, the kids will be content as the adults peruse the quilt exhibit and Legends Car show. Meet up at the Farmers’ Market to sample some delicious Mennonite delights – Dutch Apple pie, anyone?
Various locations in Altona
Get more information at altona.ca
Privateers and treasure hunters can get on board and tour the full fleet of Tall Ships as part of the Bicentennial for the War of 1812 celebrations. Kids will get a history lesson about when and how the Pirates of the Caribbean-style ships were used. In between, make sure to visit the Wharf at York, where actors recreate village life and put on a show of pirate intrigue, complete with town criers, blacksmiths and apprentices.
Free. Toronto Waterfront (Queen’s Quay and York)
Get more information at towaterfrontfest.com
Mudcats — a.k.a the unofficial catfish mascot of Dunnville — will be doing the rounds at this fun-filled event. They’ll be swimming between the parade, midway, fireworks, reptile show, bed races, duck and canoe races, magician and juggler. Good luck getting your kids to leave as they experience everything this town has to offer.
Get more information at dunnvillechamberofcommerce.ca
July 20 & 21
An entire weekend of good times await you at Blue Mountain. Kids six and up will clamber for the low-and high-ropes courses, which test their agility and nerve. A guided hike stretches your muscles in preparation for the sandcastle competition. And the whole family, from babies to bubbies, will love the gondola trip up the mountain.
Activity fees vary.
Blue Mountain Village. 705-444-7398
Get more information at bluemountainvillage.ca
This two-day event in Almonte celebrates the art of puppetry. Keep an eye out for the international puppet troupes (past performers have hailed from France and the Czech Republic) as they perform for families downtown. With many Almonte natives taking part in puppet-making workshops held throughout the year, there will be lots of puppet stories and passion filling the streets.
Get more information at puppetsup.ca
From the thrill of a great flight to learning about what leads to a successful launch, kite flying is exhilarating and educational. And it’s definitely awe-inspiring to see all those bright colours flapping in the breeze. You’ll witness the true skill of professionals, and get to try your hand at repeating their prowess while learning through aviation-related activities and enjoying on-site entertainment. The tiniest tots will love seeing the giant inflatable kites that in the past have included a pink squid, a friendly teddy bear, and pals Ernie and Bert.
Age 13 and up $5; kids six to 12 $3; kids five and younger free.
Airport Chicoutimi - St-Honoré, 2, Rue Aéroport, Saint-Honoré. 800-918-8368
Get more information at danslvent.com
There’s so much to do in Place de la famille le Lait (the kids’ section of this festival) that we don’t even know where to start. There’s the skateboard park, equestrian workshops and children’s performances every day, as well as wacky stage makeup artists who can turn your kid into anything from a clown to a canary. A bevy of hands-on events will tire out the kids so that you can book a babysitter and check out the hundreds of evening shows (like the UK’s Belle and Sebastian).
12 years old and up $30; kids 11 years and younger accompanied by an adult are free of charge. Place de la famille le Lait free at all times.
Espace 400e, Port of Québec; 418-529-5200
Get more information at infofestival.com
June 28-July 7
This festival celebrates the world-famous Restigouche salmon. Yes, really. All you need to know is that there is fun to be had for all ages. You’ll fall hook, line and sinker for the Little Miss Salmon Festival pageant, Canada Day fireworks, salmon suppers, live music, book sale, and pet show, all topped with renowned Maritime hospitality.
Various locations around Campbellton, 506-759-7856
Get more information at salmon-festival.com
Kids of all ages love buskers, and parents love the casual approach embraced by street theatre, including everything from hilarious comedy (a nice respite from knock-knock jokes) and acrobatic entertainers (hello, future Cirque du Soleil cast!). Performers come from around the world to entertain, so don’t forget to bring a pocketful of change.
Market Square. Saint John, 506-658-3600
Get more information at tourismnewbrunswick.ca
This sweet festival has something for everyone — even non-birdwatchers. For grub, there’s a pancake breakfast, Victorian tea, watermelon-eating contest, bake sale, and the famous “sandpiper” chowder (a.k.a. clam chowder). The kids love the sandpiper egg hunt and rubber duck race, and the adults enjoy the people’s choice photo exhibit and art shows. There’s music, entertainment, and, oh yes – birdwatching. Those sandpiper flocks really are quite cute.
Free, charges for food.
4984 Main St. Dorchester. 506-379-3030
Get more information at tourismnewbrunswick.ca
An iceberg festival in the summer fairs listing? Incongruous? Nah! Wouldn’t you rather watch for islands of ice on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula (Iceberg Alley) in the summer than the chilly winter months? The whole family will by thrilled by the majestic beauty of the North Atlantic. You’ll learn from iceberg experts, enjoy boat tours and nature walks, and listen to traditional music all while feasting on delectable Newfoundland fare.
Tip of the Northern Peninsula
Get more information at theicebergfestival.ca
May 29-June 3
The kids will be so besotted by the battle of the apple pies, ice cream-eating competition and fire department skills demonstrations that parents may even get the chance to soak up all the splendour – or at least chow down on some apple crisp. A scavenger hunt and apple-bin maze are great activities to work off all those indulgences.
Various locations in Annapolis Valley. 902-678-8322
Get more information at appleblossom.com
July 17-August 15
It’s all about celebrating the past at the oldest Acadian festival in the world. There’s music, food, a craft show and a beautiful parade celebrating the culture and history. Come for the talent, stay for the supper and nature hike. Monsieur Crapaud in concert will keep the little ones grooving. Parents won’t be able to stop themselves from making a few purchases over at the craft show that offers wonderful handmade creations. And the sand-sculpture contest epitomizes the best of summer.
Get more information at festivalacadiendeclare.ca
Who loves wild blueberries? Umm, who doesn’t? At this festival, celebrating the teeny blue fruit, there’s music, a dog competition (everything from agility to best in class) and a kid-pleasing bouncy castle. From dessert parties to pick-your-own blueberries, this is one berry-bountiful festival. You also won’t want to miss the blueberry-pie-eating contests. But take our advice: Wear blue.
Truro and surrounding communities
Get more information at wildblueberryfest.com
This province-wide,18-day event features 40 artisans, countless musicians, dancers and actors to entertain and engage you. You’ll find a true cultural mosaic with a backbone of Scottish history featuring piping ceilidhs, bluegrass, storytelling and more. Learn from master potters, tour the studios of metalworkers and weavers, and provide the family with amazing experiences that will last a long time (or at least until Labour Day).
Locations across PEI
Get more information at islandfusion.ca