Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods and they all seem to come to life once the summer sun peeks out from those spring rainclouds. While you may have checked out a patio or two already, summer officially begins on June 21st and we’re getting excited about all the summery things to do in Toronto. So, to celebrate the start of summer, we’re sharing a little guide of some of our top summer fun picks, from festivals to locations to hit up this summer whether it’s with the whole family, alongside a furry or human friend, or solo. We’ve got something for everyone here, so start exploring—and don’t forget to check out our suggestions of some summer essentials we've got at the shops!
This city definitely has food and drink covered! For those looking for a new dinner or brunch go-to, Summerlicious starts up July 5th to the 21st. Reservations begin June 20th and a full list of participating restaurants and their menus can be found on the official Summerlicious event site.
Next up, the travelling Vegandale Food and Drink Festival, featuring all vegan food, drink, and retail vendors, will land at the historic Fort York and Garrison Common on Saturday, August 10th. Can’t make it out that day? Check out Parkdale’s Vegandale brewery, which features a bakery, ice cream shop, retail shop, and a couple restaurants all within the same complex.
That same weekend, just a little north of us in the east end, Taste of the Danforth will see Greektown shut down its main strip for a pedestrian food and drink festival from August 9th to the 11th. Smash some plates and enjoy entertainment while trying out some of the Danforth’s best food dishes and refreshing beverages. More info on the weekend’s events will be updated on its official website.
Finally, don’t miss out on Toronto’s creative craft beer scene. Explore some of the best brews the city has to offer at the Leslieville Beer Festival on Saturday, August 24th. The old-fashioned street party shuts down Dundas Street East from Carlaw to Logan, with food vendors and artisans onsite alongside local breweries. Grab a ticket online. Steam Whistle’s Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, held just across from the CN Tower, is also on August 9th and 10th (a popular weekend for food and drink events in the city it seems!). Thirty-five Ontario breweries are currently confirmed and not all of these beers will be hitting the LCBO this summer, so miss it and you might miss out.
Photo credit: Mike Palmer of Roaming Focus for Steam Whistle Brewing
If beer isn’t your favourite, soak in some sun and enjoy a little wine on the patio of Wynona on Gerrard Street East or enjoy one of the city’s best caesars with brunch at The Ace, featuring homemade pickles (you can purchase a jar to take home). Alternatively, create your own Toronto cocktail tour by visiting some of the top cocktail bars in the city. We recommend Famous Last Words for bibliophiles, Civil Liberties for custom-crafted cocktails (just tell them what you’re craving and they’ll take care of the rest), and the Broadview Hotel’s rooftop bar for a great view of the city alongside rotating cocktail creations.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Your Drink Local swag and reusable cocktail straws! Show your support for the local craft beer scene with Drink Local swag from BRFC—we’ve got patches and pins in-store and shirts both online and in-store. For cocktail sippers who prefer a straw, not all of Toronto’s hotspots have eco-friendly options available yet, though they also may have cut out straws altogether. Be prepared by taking along your own reusable option. Shop our fun Ban.do Drink Up straw set online or in-store or go for a shorter option with our stainless steel cocktail straws, available in four-packs at both our Roncesvalles and Leslieville locations.
Pride events have been running all month throughout the city, but the big parade is coming up in just a couple days. Show your pride or support as an ally to Toronto’s LGBTQ2SIA+ community and hit the parade route on Sunday, June 23rd. Featuring more than 200 groups—floats, music, performers, and marchers included—the parade officially begins at 2:00 p.m. on the corner of Church and Bloor streets and ends at Dundas Square Stage, rain or shine! Looking for a spot to meet for food, drink, or a little retail therapy throughout the events? Check out the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce business directory or Pink Pages to find LGBTQ2SIA+ businesses you can support in your neighbourhood.
Of course, the events don’t end in June—Toronto is host to plenty of LGBTQ2SIA+ events throughout the summer and beyond. Check out the launch of Flamingo Market on Sunday, June 30th. Flamingo Market is a new bi-monthly event for the city’s LGBTQ2SIA+ business owners and makers hosted in the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
On the third Saturday of every month, Glad Day Bookshop hosts free drag bingo. The longest-running LGBT bookshop internationally, Glad Day Bookshop also offers up a bar, coffee shop, restaurant, and events space. For drag bingo, they call out numbers between a rotating line-up of kings, queens, and drag performers for an inclusive, positive, and affirming night. Show up for pre-show and snag a seat at the bar for free or upgrade to a table seat for $15 apiece. Food and drinks available; bingo cards are free. Check out the website for details on the next event or see what else Glad Day is hosting throughout the summer.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Your flair! Find colourful and fun temporary tattoos designed by real artists from Tattly in store and online, and plenty of buttons, patches, and stickers from Ash + Chess, Lucky Horse Press, and The Button Machine, all available in our Roncesvalles and Leslieville stores.
Photo Credit: Queers for Dinner
For the budget-conscious, Toronto has a lot to offer with plenty of free and low-cost things to do in the city, starting with a day in the park. Pack a picnic, some games, your walking shoes, and maybe even a kite (classic red kites available in-store!) for those windier days and hang out in one of the city’s many greenspaces. Head to High Park for basically everything you’d want at a park and more, Riverdale Park East for plenty of picnicking space and one of the east side’s best views of the Toronto skyline (best at sunset!), or Evergreen Brickworks to hit the trails and access the city’s ravine system. The latter is also home to a sustainable community hub that hosts festivals and farmers’ markets during the summer weekends.
Extend your park day with a free outdoor movie screening, held in various parks throughout the city. Check out the Toronto Outdoor Picture Festival for screenings in Christie Pitts, Corktown Common Park, and Bell Manor Park, as well as other outdoor film screening events in Kew Gardens, Ivan Forrest Gardens Park, and Trinity Bellwoods. Leslieville will be hosting its own movie night in the park on August 1, movie and park TBD. Keep updated on their Facebook event page!
Photo credit: Toronto Outdoor Picture Festival
We always enjoy a beach day, too, particularly with a good book, some snacks, and a little cooler full of chilled refreshments. While we’d recommend Sunnyside Beach more for the volleyball enthusiast, most of Toronto’s beaches are safe for swimming and there are even a few so-called “secret” Toronto beaches that may be a better bet if you’re not so fond of crowds. Outdoor pools, wading pools, and splash pads are dotted throughout the city too and make for a fun day for the little ones. Finally, a day of Toronto Island fun is just a ferry away. Host to three beaches, including one clothing-optional pick, the islands offer a great view of the Toronto waterfront, lots of perfect places for picnics, bike rentals, gardens, walking tours, and more.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Stick to the shade when you can and pick up some sunscreen safe for the littlest ones in-store with Substance SPF 30 Natural Sun Care Creme, a mineral sunscreen featuring soothing organic calendula and shea butter, or Substance SPF 30 Baby Sunstick for touch-ups along the way. We also carry Cocoon Apothecary’s Reflector SPF 30 All-Natural Sun Protection, a mineral facial sunscreen that provides protection while feeling light on skin and not clogging pores. You might also want to tuck one of our Lualoha turkish towels (available online and in-store) in your tote. Lightweight for travel and quick-drying, these towels make for the perfect throw-down blanket, too!
For those weekends you need a little city break, consider grabbing a shuttle bus from Toronto to one of Canada’s nearby parks. Prices vary by route but there is one free option and various pickup points for your convenience. Buses operate all summer long and if you’re looking to meet new people, why not try out one of the group hikes heading to locations like the terracotta Badlands near Caledon, the Warsaw Caves, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, and more.
Photo credit: Jason Williams
For an extra relaxing stroll, explore the lavender fields of Apple Hill Lavender farm at the Norfolk Lavender Festival (just remember to be respectful of the flowers, stick to the paths, and take any waste with you). Open each weekend with free admission, pets and kids are welcome and lavender goat’s milk ice cream is available for tasting! Alternatively, head to Niagara for Pick Your Own Lavender Days, running now to the end of August, where you can gather your own lavender bouquets to take home and enjoy a lavender picnic lunch, with new recipes you can take and try at home.
For those with a sweet tooth looking for some open air, take a daytrip to Trent Hills and check out Dooher’s, a family-run operation voted Canada’s sweetest bakery in 2018 and going strong since 1949. Arrive early on a Saturday for fresh cream-filled donuts, pizza bagels, sticky buns, bread, and pies among other baked goods—all made from scratch. The Campbellford Cheese Factory also has some delicious curd you won’t want to pass up. Swing by the suspension bridge in Ferris Provincial Park that spans the Trent River, then take in an evening or matinee concert at Westben, which hosts performances all summer long in a large timber structure dubbed “The Barn” that sits framed by wide-open fields. If you get the chance, you should also venture to Warkworth’s Main Street to shop the boutiques before exploring some scenic country backroads.
Don’t Forget to Pack: Snacks and refreshments for the ride. Cut down on plastic waste with reusable snack bags and keep everything cool with a So Young cooler bag or lunch box, all available in different patterns and sizes online and in-store. So Young coolers are designed in Roncesvalles, Toronto and all snack bags and coolers are ethically manufactured in China. Plus, they’re all easy to clean—just pop them into your machine on the gentle cycle and they’re fresh and ready for the next adventure.
For those rainy days in the city, there are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore while keeping dry. For sunnier days, there are arts markets throughout the city as well as several arts and cultural celebrations and festivals.
To get started, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair is celebrating its 58th year on July 12th to the 14th. Admission is free and you can expect to see more than 350 emerging and established artists and makers mapped out across Nathan Phillips Square. One of the main draws: the artist is always present, meaning you get to meet the person who made any treasures you’ll be taking home.
Photo credit: Beaches Jazz Festival
Also in July, the Beaches Jazz Festival is a month-long internationally-acclaimed music festival that celebrates jazz musicians from near and far across the Beaches, Leslieville, and Riverside neighbourhoods. While there are events throughout the month, Sounds of Leslieville & Riverside is a neighbourhood block party that features live music in businesses along Queen Street East with a main stage set up in Jimmie Simpson park, running the weekend of July 5th to the 7th, with the Leslieville Sidewalk Fest joining the events on July 6th. Expect lots of great music, discounts and promotions at some of the local businesses, and lively fun!
Lastly, we couldn’t miss the Roncesvalles Polish Festival to round out the summer fun on September 14th and 15th. For the weekend, the street is shut down and pedestrians flock for local and international music—Polish folk and polka included—delicious eats, art booths, a car show, plenty of great goods from the local boutique shops, and Saturday night’s Dance Under the Stars polka party! The festival spans 18 blocks, so wear comfy shoes. We’ll also have a sidewalk sale set up with items up to 75% off, so mark your calendars!
Don’t Forget to Pack: A reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated! Festivals and markets often mean lots of strolling, dancing, and time spent in the summer sun, meaning water is a necessity. Cut down on single-use plastic waste with a glass bkr bottle or an insulated Asobu tumbler, designed in Montreal, to keep it nice and cold, both available in-store and online.
Are we missing something big? What are you doing this summer in the city? Share some highlights on what’s going on in your neighbourhood in the comments below so we can keep exploring Toronto together!