Summer in Toronto has it all: festivals, live music, outdoor movies, pools, and beaches. The season may be short, but it’s easy to make the most of it. Whether you're interested in food festivals, theater shows, or picnics in the park, there’s something to add to your summer itinerary. Ready to dive into the season’s best offerings? Here are 18 of the best things to do during the summer in Toronto.
Bask on the Beach
There's no shortage of beaches in Toronto, thanks to its lengthy Lake Ontario shoreline. Even better? Many of the shores are Blue Flag Certified, meaning they meet high standards for water quality, environmental management, environmental education, and safety. Some of the best options in the city include Bluffers Beach at the foot of soaring Scarborough Bluffs; Sunnyside Beach, where you’ll also find Gus Ryder Pool (one of the larger public pools in the city); Toronto Islands beaches, including Ward’s Island Beach and the clothing optional Hanlan’s Point Beach; Cherry Beach; and tranquil Marie Curtis Park Beach in Long Branch.
Hit the Pool
No pool of your own? No problem – Toronto has plenty of places to take a dip. The city of Toronto operates 62 indoor pools, 58 outdoor pools, 100 wading pools and 93 splash pads, making it easy to find a place to swim or splash around on a summer day. Most city pools offer both lane and leisure swimming.
Fill up at a Food Fest
Foodies take note: Toronto turns into a literal feast in the summer, when food festivals pop up what feels like almost every weekend.
Taco Fest, happening June 15 to 17 at Ontario Place, takes care of all of your Mexican cravings, complete with a margarita and sangria bar.
Rib fans will want to check out the annual Toronto Ribfest taking place at Centennial Park in Etobicoke over the Canada Day long weekend, June 29 to July 2.
Love cakes, candy, ice cream and everything sweet in between? Sweetery is Canada’s largest sweets festival and happens August 11 and 12 at David Pecaut Square.
For anyone who loves their food from roaming restaurants, the Toronto Food Truck Festival happens August 3 to 6 at Woodbine Park.
And if you want to sample three course, prix-fixe menus from some of the city’s best restaurants, Summerlicious is happening July 6 to 22.
Enjoy a Movie Under the Stars
Summer in Toronto means the chance to enjoy free, outdoor movies in several parks across the city, which makes for a fun way to spend a warm evening without spending any money.
Watch movies in Christie Pits Park June 24 to August 19, Under The Stars: Movies in The Park happens throughout July and August in Regent Park, Yonge-Dundas Square hosts movies throughout the summer right in the heart of the city, watch movies from your boat or from land at Sail-In Cinema August 10 and 11, Sorauren Park offers free movies the fourth Saturday of every month June to September, and watch movies by the water courtesy of Harbourfront’s Free Flicks July and August. All you need to do is remember the popcorn.
Take the Ferry to the Toronto Islands
One of the best things to do in Toronto in the summer is taking a day trip the Toronto Islands. A short and very scenic ferry ride takes you to various islands, including Wards Island, which has a low-key, neighborhood vibe and nice beach; Hanlan’s Point, with a lovely beach area; and Centre Island, where you’ll find Centreville Amusement Park. You also have the option of sports facilities; bike, canoe and kayak rentals; playgrounds, and picnic areas.
Shop Local at a Farmers’ Market
Stock up on local, seasonal produce, baked goods, prepared foods, and other delicious items all summer long at Toronto’s wide variety of farmers’ markets, happening most days of the week all over the city. Markets usually run through the end of September or into early October, while others operate year-round, heading indoors in the colder months.
Stroll Through a Street Festival
Nothing says summer in Toronto quite like a street festival, of which there are many to choose from. The city’s street festivals offer food and drinks, entertainment, and the chance to explore some of Toronto’s best neighborhoods in a whole new way. Some great options include Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Little Italy, Salsa on St. Clair, Festival of India, Big on Bloor, Redpath Waterfront Festival, and Festival of South Asia.
Enjoy Some Live Jazz
There are two opportunities to enjoy jazz music this summer, at both free and ticketed events. First up, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival happens June 22 to July 1 at several venues throughout the city, many of which are free to attend. You’ll need tickets for some of the performances, but there are many no-cost shows to enjoy. Another way to get your summer jazz fix comes courtesy of Beaches International Jazz Festival happening July 6 to 29; festival admission is free.
Check out the CNE
One of the most quintessential summer activities in Toronto is attending the annual Canadian National Exhibition, which happens August 17 to September 3. You’ll have your pick of numerous things to see and do, including live music, carnival games, rides for all ages, lots of fun food to try, shopping, and much more.
Head to a Beer Festival
Love beer? You’re in luck. Summer in Toronto is a great time to test out numerous brews thanks to several beer-focused festivals that happen during the warmer months.
Toronto Craft Beer Festival happens at Ontario Place June 22 to 24; Liberty Village Libation offers the chance to sip craft beer as well as other alcohol on July 14 in Liberty Park; Toronto’s Festival of Beer offers beer, food, and music at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place July 26 to 29; Brews and BBQ happens just outside the city at Canada’s Wonderland June 23 to 24; and for cider drinkers, there’s Toronto Cider Festival at Sherbourne Common August 24 to 25.
See Some Shakespeare in High Park
High Park Amphitheatre plays host to the annual Shakespeare in High Park with performances happening June 28 to September 2. Reserve a ticket online for premium seats, or pay-what-you-can on arrival. This year you can catch a performance of Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Explore Rouge Park
What’s better than exploring the great outdoors during the summer? If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without actually leaving, make your way to Rouge National Urban Park for the chance to swim, canoe, hike, bike, fish, kayak, and even camp overnight.
Head to the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair
Pick up some original art this summer and chat with the artists who create it at the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Fair happening at Nathan Phillips Square July 6 to 8. The event is open to the public and free of charge and artists are on hand to talk about their process and inspiration. And if you need a break, head to the Cascading Beer Garden by Henderson Brewing Co. for food, beer, and refreshments.
Listen to Music for Free
Take your pick of free live music throughout the summer. The Summer Music In The Park series takes place throughout the summer in the Village of Yorkville Park; Summer Music in the Garden takes place at the Toronto Music Garden; the Edwards Summer Music Series offers the chance to listen to free music in the courtyard adjacent to the historic barn in Edwards Gardens; and you can enjoy up-and-coming bands courtesy of Indie Fridays at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Enjoy Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market
Kensington Market is a great place to explore year-round, but during the warmer months, you can enjoy the area in a whole new way thanks to Pedestrian Sundays, happening May through October. Fill up on street food, browse shops, listen to live music, and check out artists and performers — all on car-free streets.
Have Fun at the Fringe Festival
The Toronto Fringe Festival is Ontario’s largest theater festival, happening at over 30 venues throughout the city. The festival offers the chance to check out over 150 performances, as well as free events on the Fringe Patio at Scadding Court. This year’s fest runs July 4 to 15.
Hang Out at Harbourfront Centre
Hanging out at Harbourfront Center offers the chance to spend some time by the water along the boardwalk that runs along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Relax in the Toronto Music Garden; take in a wide variety of food and cultural festivals and events; shop; rent canoes, paddle boards and kayaks from Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre; and cool off with a beer or some food at several lakeside venues.
Stroll along Sunnyside Boardwalk
Sunnyside Park is one of a series of parks along the waterfront with a scenic boardwalk for pedestrians. Take a summer stroll to enjoy the beach, stop for a swim at Sunnyside Gus Ryder Pool, hang out on the beach, enjoy a picnic in the park, or sip a cool drink overlooking the lake at Sunnyside Pavillion.