2018 Festival Guide

These are the festivals worth travelling for throughout the year.

Photo by PA Images/Alamy

When it comes to attending some of the world’s most beloved annual events, it’s always best to plan ahead. Why not make 2018 the year for checking one or two “bucket list” festivals off your list?

Here are the top festivals to travel for this year.


Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec City, January 26 to February 11

What to expect: The world’s largest winter carnival is fun for all ages, complete with a snow sculpture competition, ice canoe races and live shows.


Modernism Week, Palm Springs, February 15 to 25

What to expect: 10 days of celebrating Palm Springs’ iconic midcentury architecture and design through neighbourhood tours, home tours, fashion shows and a new film series.


Wanderlust, Oahu, Hawaii, March 1 to 4 

What to expect: Yogis of all skill levels gather on the pristine beaches of Turtle Bay Resort for four days of yoga classes, workshops, lectures and musical performances.

Calle Ocho, Miami, March 11

What to expect: The last day of Miami’s 10-day Carnaval celebrations, Calle Ocho is a roaring street party with food, dancing and lots of culture in Little Havana.

St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin, Ireland, March 17 

What to expect: Pretty much exactly what you’d think—public parades, Guinness and revelry in the streets.


Snowbombing Canada, Sun Peaks Ski Resort, B.C., April 5 to 9

What to expect: Four days of spring skiing, music and partying in the mountains. This is the European festival’s second year in Canada where snow bunnies will take in more than 50 musical acts at venues that include a mountaintop stage and a bar in the woods.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, California, April 13 to 15 and 20 to 22

What to expect: Hipsters and Hollywood stars dancing in the desert for two weekends of pop, rock, electronica and indie music.


Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia, May 6 to 13

What to expect: Hundreds of musical performances and art shows from jazz and R&B superstars and Caribbean artists.

Boston Calling, Boston, May 25 to 27

What to expect: Boston’s biggest music fest is a three-day extravaganza of big-name acts and emerging talent at Harvard Athletic Complex. This year’s headliners include Eminem, Jack White and The Killers.

Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas, May 18 to 20

What to expect: A three-day spectacle in the Nevada desert, Electric Daisy Carnival is a colossal dance party. Pyrotechnics, light shows and circus performers create a hair-raising backdrop for the main attraction: 200-plus artists blasting techno, trance and dubstep from the event’s eight stages. Some 400,000 neon-clad partiers descend on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the festivities each year.


The Governors BallNew York City, June 1 to 3


What to expect: A roaring party with all the cool kids that draws huge names in the world of pop, rock, indie, hip-hop, electronica and more. Plus art installations, lawn games and plenty of delicious food to keep you fuelled all weekend long.

Getting around: Hop on the Manhattan Ferry, which runs every 15 minutes. Or, take the shuttle from Williamsburg. Purchase tickets in advance for both.

Insider tip: The Governors Ball After Dark concert series keeps the party going at venues around the city. Check the website for the schedule. 

Must book by: Single day tickets sell out faster than weekend passes, so book by mid-April.

Banff Yoga Festival, Banff National Park, Alta., June 1 to 3

What to expect: Back for its second year, this Rocky Mountain town is the perfect spot for a yoga vacation. Classes of all levels happen throughout the weekend at The Fenlands Recreation Centre, but you can also get outside for morning mountain-top meditations, stand-up paddleboarding on the lake and jogs through the forest. See the full schedule of events here.

Mondial de La Bière, Montreal, June 6 to 9

What to expect: Marked on connoisseurs’ calendars the world over, Mondial de La Bière is a celebration of the global art of brewing. Sample and savour from a selection of more than 500 beers—ranging from Quebec microbrews to Belgian witbier—at this year’s 25th edition. Hosted at the downtown Palais des Congrès, tastings spill onto the tree-filled esplanade where beer-lovers soak up the summer sun in a garden-party atmosphere.

San Francisco Pride, San Francisco, June 23 to 24

What to expect: This world-renowned street festival is a massive party complete with a grand parade and exhibitions celebrating the LGBT community.

Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal, June 28 to July 7

What to expect: Two million people flock into downtown for this festival that features 3,000 performers from around the world.

TRNSMT Glasgow, June 29, 30, July 1, 6, 8

What to expect: Like music festivals, but hate camping? TRNSMT (pronounced “transmit”) is a rock-filled fest where you can crawl into a hotel bed—ears still ringing—30 minutes after the final encore. Taking place over two weekends at Glasgow Green, an inner-city park, this festival, only in its second year, is already drawing Britpop legends such as Liam Gallagher and the hugely popular Arctic Monkeys.


Cavendish Beach Music Festival, P.E.I, July 6 to 9

What to expect: This year is the 10th anniversary of the massive country music festival that takes over the red sand beach town of Cavendish.  It’s the  largest multi-day outdoor music festival in Atlantic Canada and this year attendees get an extra day of fun. This year’s headliners include Shawn Mendes, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge and Dallas Smith.

Calgary Stampede, Calgary, July 6 to 15

What to expect: The city all but shuts down for 10 days of rodeos, cowboys, midways and lots of parties. This year is the 50th anniversary of the nightly Grandstand Show and it will celebrate by highlighting some of the city’s most iconic moments along with the history of the Calgary Stampede. 

Comic-Con International, San Diego, July 19 to 22

What to expect: Hardcore comic fans, industry leaders and A-list celebrities celebrate all things comics and popular culture. 

George Street Festival, St. Johns, July 26 to August 1

What to expect: A good ol’ East Coast party complete with live music and dancing in the streets in the heart of downtown St. John’s.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 3 to 27


What to expect: In its 70th year, the world’s largest arts festival takes over beautiful Edinburgh for most of August, spilling out into the streets, pubs and restaurants. Choose from nearly 50,000 performances that include concerts, plays, improv and ballet.

Getting around: Fringe happens at more than 300 venues and many spots are within walking distance. Edinburgh also has excellent public transit that includes a tramline.

Insider tip: There are plenty of free and discounted tickets available. Check the festival’s website for details.

Must book by: Tickets for select events go on sale early in 2017 and the rest are available in June. 

Osheaga, Montreal, August 3 to 5

What to expect: This arts and music festival attracts more than 100,000 people to Montreal’s Île Notre-Dame. Festival-goers can see more than 100 bands ranging from emerging local talent to big name national and international artists. This year’s headliners include Florence + The Machine, Khalid and Travis Scott.

Insider tip: It’s only a 30-minute metro ride to Osheaga from downtown, but give yourself some leeway, as the crowds can be hefty.

Must book by: Weekend passes are on sale now and always sell out fast, so book by the end of April. Single-day passes will be on sale later in the spring (check the website for updates).

Boardmasters, Cornwall, UK, Aug. 8 to 12

What to expect: Tell people you’re going to a beach festival in England and you’re bound to get a few strange looks. But that doesn’t stop 50,000 sun-seekers from heading to the Cornish coast each summer for Boardmasters, a raucous, five-day surf and music festival. Surf competitions and lessons are held on some of Britain’s best breaks while musicians, playing the dozen or so stages, bring tunes and good vibes to this idyllic corner of southwest England. ­

Edmonton Music Folk Festival, Edmonton, August 9 to 12

What to expect: Four days of dancing, eating and tarping at one of Canada’s best folk festivals.

Outside Lands, San Francisco, August 10 to 12

What to expect: A huge celebration of music, food, beer, wine, art and comedy, and seriously big-name acts in Golden Gate Park. This year’s headliners include The WEEKND, Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson.

Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, August 17 to September 3

What to expect: “The Ex” is one of North America’s biggest fairs and it’s been going strong now for 140 years. It all takes place at Exhibition Place with midway rides, acrobats, an ice skating show and more. New additions this year include the world’s largest indoor Chinese Lantern Festival and an Asian street food market in honour of the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism.


Toronto International Film Festival, September 6 to 16


What to expect: A-list actors, big deal directors, Oscar-contender films and lots of eager fans—TIFF has become a world-renowned film festival, luring film buffs and stargazers to the streets of Toronto for 11 days of movie-going, partying and celeb-hunting.

Getting around: Stay downtown to be within walking distance of most venues. Or, if you’re outside of downtown, stay near the Yonge Street subway line, which takes you right to all the action. 

Insider tip: If you want to spot a celeb, there are designated areas for the public at red carpet venues.

Must book by: It’s best to start securing tickets by the end of August and to reserve hotels by May.

POP Montreal, Montreal, September 26 to 30

What to expect: More than 400 artists put on a multi-day festival complete with musical performances, film screenings, fashion shows and art exhibits.


Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., October 5 to 13

What to expect: The world’s second-largest celebration of Bavarian culture featuring plenty of beer, lederhosen and oompah bands.


Day of the Dead, Mexico, various locations, October 31 to November 2 

What to expect: A heritage-rich celebration honouring lost loved ones via elaborate costumes, traditional food and street parties.


Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ont., November to January 31 (exact dated TBD)

What to expect:  Millions of colourful lights and animated displays adorn Niagara Parks, the Dufferin Islands and surrounding areas at Canada’s biggest illumination festival.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the January 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.