2020 Festival Guide

These are the festivals worth travelling for throughout the year.
 

Lake Louise, photograph by wwing/iStock

When it comes to attending some of the world’s most beloved annual events, it’s always best to plan ahead. Why not make 2020 the year for checking one or two bucket-list festivals off your list?

Here are the top festivals to travel for this year.

January

Ice Magic, Lake Louise, Alberta, Jan. 15 to 26

What to expect: As part of the SnowDays winter festival, artists from around the world come to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to create incredible ice carvings. There will also be ice castles and ice bars to visit while you take in the stunning views of the snowy Rocky Mountains.

February

Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec City, February 7 to 16

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

Modernism Week, Palm Springs, February 13 to 23

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.

March

Calle Ocho, Miami, March 15

What to expect: Calle Ocho, the largest Latino music festival in the United States, is a roaring street party with food, dancing and lots of culture in Little Havana.

SXSW Conference and Festival, Austin, Texas, March 13 to 22

What to expect: This epic event, which showcases film, media and music,  brings together innovators, industry leaders and emerging talent from around the world for 10 days of networking, musical performances, film viewings, trade shows and more.

April

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, California, April 10 to 12 and 17 to 19

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

May 

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia, May 3 to 12

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

Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas, May 15 to 17

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 nine stages. Some 400,000 neon-clad partiers descend on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the festivities each year.

Mondial de La Bière, Montreal, May 21 to 24

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. Hosted at the historic Gare Windsor and Rio Tinto Yard in downtown Montreal, beer-lovers soak up the summer sun in a garden-party atmosphere.

Boston Calling, Boston, May 22 to 24

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 Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Banff Yoga Festival, Banff National Park, Alta., May 29 to 31

What to expect: Back for its fifth 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.

June

The Governors BallNew York City, June 5 to 7

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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.

San Francisco Pride, San Francisco, June 27 to 28

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 25 to July 4

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

TRNSMT Glasgow, July 10 to 12

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 at Glasgow Green, an inner-city park, this festival has featured the likes of Britpop legends such as Liam Gallagher and the hugely popular Arctic Monkeys.

July

Calgary Stampede, Calgary, July 3 to 12

What to expect: The city all but shuts down for 10 days of rodeos, cowboys, midways and lots of parties. In past years, iconic chart-toppers such as Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Katy Perry have performed at the Calgary Saddledome for the Stampede Virgin Mobile Concert Series, and this year, Blake Shelton will be taking the stage. 

Cavendish Beach Music Festival, P.E.I, July 10 to 12

What to expect: What was once a cow pasture is now the largest, multi-day country music festival in Atlantic Canada, taking over the red sand beach town of Cavendish.  This year’s headliners include Miranda Lambert and Dan + Shay.

Festival Internacional De Benicàssim, Benicàssim, Spain, July 16 to 19

What to expect: Located on the Spanish coast between Barcelona and Valencia, this quaint beach town hosts one of Europe’s best summer music festivals. This year, the festival features over 30 musical guests including chart-toppers such as Khalid, Martin Garrix and the Lumineers.

Comic-Con International, San Diego, July 23 to 26

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 30 to August 5

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.

Osheaga, Montreal, July 31 to Aug. 2

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.

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).

August

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 7 to 31

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What to expect: 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.

Boardmasters, Cornwall, UK, Aug. 5 to 9

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 6 to 9

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

Outside Lands, San Francisco, August 7 to 9

What to expect: A huge celebration of music, food, beer, wine, art and comedy, and seriously big-name acts in Golden Gate Park.

Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, August 21 to September 7

What to expect: “The Ex” is one of North America’s biggest fairs and it’s been going strong for more than 140 years. It all takes place at Exhibition Place with midway rides, an air show, live music and more.

September

Toronto International Film Festival, September 10 to 20 

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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.

Life is Beautiful, Las Vegas, Nevada, September 18 to 20

What to expect: Taking place in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, this celebration of art, music, and food features chart-topping musicians, renowned visual artists, inspiring speakers, up-and-coming comedians and more.

POP Montreal, Montreal, September 23 to 27

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

October

Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., October 9 to 18

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

November

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.

December

Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ont., November to January 31 (exact date 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.

[This story was originally published in the January 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.]

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