When you think of festivals in Canada, you might think of the world-famous Calgary Stampede (The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!) or of Canada Day on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. But there are lots of lesser-known, unique festivals dotted across the country that you can visit. For example, did you know that Canada is home to an Elvis festival, an ice carving event or a festival that celebrates hot chocolate?
For a fresh take in 2018, we guide you through some of the most distinctive festivals in Canada with unique things you can see and do this year.
Dine Out Vancouver Festival
Date of festival: 19 January – 4 February
If you’ve booked flights to Vancouver then you can experience 17-days of delicious culinary events that are sure to please your palate.
The Dine Out Vancouver festival this year boasts the largest number of participating restaurants of any festival of its kind in Canada, with over 300 eateries involved.
This unique festival includes more than 40 culinary events from guided dining adventures and neighbourhood food tours to wine brunches and cocktail classes.
Some of the brand-new events for this year include a Grand Tasting opening gala at the Orpheum Theatre (home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), a rail car pop-up dinner aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a Caribbean cooking class at the Calabash Bistro and dim sum tasting tours by A Wok Around Chinatown.
Lucas Pavan, festival coordinator, says, “Whatever the craving, this year’s Dine Out Vancouver Festival is sure to satisfy.
“In its 16th year, Dine Out will feature a record-breaking 308 participating restaurants, a diverse roster of food and drink-themed events led by the city’s top chefs and wine and spirit experts, and a selection of ‘Dine and Stay’ hotel packages. It really is the perfect way to experience the city’s exceptional culinary talent and distinctive food scene.”
The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival
Date of festival: 20 January-14 February
The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is a great excuse for you to treat yourself to a gourmet hot chocolate from the best cafes in the city.
A range of cafes, chocolatiers and bakeries throughout Vancouver will be offering one-off hot chocolates on their menus. Each venue will offer a range of special hot chocolates from white chocolate to dark chocolate and Belgian chocolate during the event.
Boardwalk Ice on Whyte
Date of festival: 25-28 January & 1-4 February
This popular festival in Edmonton showcases internationally-acclaimed, professional ice carvings and is one of only three professional ice carving competitions in Canada.
This year’s Boardwalk Ice on Whyte Festival is welcoming professional ice carving artists from China, Russia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, France, Poland, Quebec and Alberta.
The festival’s competition will take place inside a giant tent to keep all the carvings in great condition and you will be able to taste locally brewed beverages such as beers and spirits at the ice bar. There will also be ice carving lessons on offer to all visitors on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Great International World Championship Bathtub Race
Date of festival: 20-22 July
Since 1967, the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia has been the home of the Nanaimo Marine Festival and Great International World Championship Bathtub Race.
One of the marine festival’s main attractions is the 36-mile bathtub race along the Strait of Georgia with the finishing line located at Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park.
Though this may appear to be nonsensical, it is actually really competitive – especially as most bathtubs cost thousands of Canadian dollars and have 8 horsepower motors. Most of all, it’s a brilliantly fun day out, so get cheering those tubs!
On top of the race there will be live music, food stalls and fireworks.
The Collingwood Elvis Festival
Date of festival: 27-29 July
— XperienceCollingwood (@ExperienceCwood) July 21, 2017
Every summer this small Canadian town two hours north of Toronto welcomes thousands of visitors who pay tribute to music legend Elvis Presley.
Here you’ll find Elvis impersonators, tribute artists, lots of diehard fans and more gold sequins and curled lips than you would ever find in Las Vegas.
The Elvis impersonators take part in a competition that sees them perform in front of a panel of judges in three different rounds. The overall winner will then go on to perform at the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis.
The Collingwood Elvis Festival also features a range of unique shops where you can pick up themed gifts and lots of restaurants that serve up some great food.
Spend a Day in Kensington’s Diagon Alley
Date of festival: 29 July
For all you Potterheads out there, the third annual Kensington Diagon Alley event will see the Calgary neighbourhood transform into the wizarding alley that featured in the famous books and films.
The event, which is called Spend a Day in Kensington’s Diagon Alley, will be open from 10am-5pm. You will get a copy of the marauder’s map that will act as a guide to the neighbourhood and you will be able to see a real-life Quidditch match, street performers and magical demonstrations as well.
Honda Celebration of Light
Date of festival: 28 July, 1 August & 4 August
Another unique festival in Canada is the iconic Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver where you’ll experience fireworks, music, food and more.
The festival, originally named the Symphony of Fire, is the longest-running offshore fireworks event in the world. The event attracts more than 1.3 million regional and international visitors every summer.
This year’s festival is extra special as the fireworks will incorporate three Canadian songs into the display that are voted in by the festival’s followers on Twitter and Facebook.
So if you’re ready to spark some extra fun into your Vancouver holiday, then visit the festival and take in the spectacular firework displays, listen to great music and enjoy the best food on four wheels.
Celtic Colours International Festival
Date of festival: 5-13 October 2018
The Celtic Colours International Festival is a unique island-wide celebration as Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia comes alive with music and energy. People visit from far and wide to celebrate the region’s traditional culture.
You will be able to enjoy hundreds of concerts, dances, workshops and even community suppers, all of which will be set against a stunning backdrop of autumn colours.
There will be up to six concerts a day and some of the world’s finest musicians will perform. So whether it’s Gaelic singing, Cape Breton fiddling, bagpiping or local dances, there’s plenty to see.
Make time to explore Cape Breton as the festival is held during the island’s most spectacular season when the leaves turn red, yellow and orange. Try to visit the pristine Bras d’Or Lake, Canada’s largest saltwater lake, or the Cabot Trail, which is regarded as one of North America’s most scenic drives.
Date of festival: TBC
Pingfest takes place four times a year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Coronation Street fans to meet-up and celebrate the beloved British soap. Fans of Corrie can get involved in food, games and showings of the popular drama.
Fans will get together and discuss old storylines as well as future ones and have been doing so since the launch of the event in 1996.
When it first launched, the event only attracted around 20 people. Now fans from across Canada make the journey to meet up and Pingfest now attracts around 50-90 people.
The Pingfest last November was held at the Brewster’s Pub and Grill in Halifax.