Edmonton Folk Music Festival photo by Daniel Greenways
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in April 2016 and was updated March 2017.
Music festival season is nearly here. So, we’ve created this handy guide outlining all you need to know—from who’s playing to what to bring—to help you make the most of summer’s biggest Canadian music festivals.
Sled Island, Calgary, June 21 to 25
Sled Island is the perfect opportunity to discover a new artist or see your favourite underground band in a small, intimate concert space. More than 35 venues host some 250 multi-genre concerts, film screenings and comedy and visual art shows. This year, headliners include metal band Converge, Montreal-based band Land of Talk (back after much acclaim for their 2016 performance), and a special solo performance by indie-rocker Waxahatchee.
Purchase tickets by: Passes are on sale now and single-show tickets will be available later this spring (check the website). Passes don’t usually sell out, but many single-show tickets do, so purchase those early.
Do: Hop from venue to venue. Unique performance spots include the historic King Eddy (a former hotel and legendary 1980s blues bar), Central United Church, Central Memorial Park and Sloth Records.
Don’t: Be afraid of musicians you’ve never heard of. Discovering new sounds is what Sled Island is all about.
Where to stay: Most festival venues are downtown, so stay close to a C-Train line. Select hotels offering discounted stays (for a limited time) include Fairmont Palliser, Hyatt Regency and Ramada Plaza Calgary Downtown.
Insider tip: A few of Sled Island’s venues also serve up some of the city’s most beloved dishes, like barbecue at The Palomino, super-loaded hot dogs at Tubby Dog and small plates at Wine-Ohs. So grab some grub while you take in a show.
Seventy thousand people flock to Atlantic Canada’s largest multi-day outdoor music festival every year to celebrate the best in country music. More than 30 artists perform on three stages, from superstar-level concerts to interactive songwriters circles with East Coast musicians. This year’s headliners include Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town, Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne.
Purchase tickets by: Tickets are on sale now, but prices can increase as the festival gets closer, so sooner is better.
Do: Don your best western gear—this is a country music festival, after all.
Don’t: Bring a selfie stick or GoPro as they obstruct people’s view and are banned.
Where to stay: Cavendish offers hotels, B&Bs and cottages within 30 minutes or less of the festival site. Reserve a spot at Cavendish Campground in PEI National Park and hang out on the beach or by the campfire in between shows.
Insider tip: Shuttles are provided at a daily cost to and from Charlottetown and Summerside, but be sure to book your spot on the bus early.
Osheaga, Montreal, August 4 to 6
This arts and music festival attracts more than 100,000 people to Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau. Festival-goers can see more than 100 bands ranging from emerging local talent to big name national and international artists on six stages. This year’s headliners include Lorde, Foster the People and Alabama Shakes.
Purchase tickets by: Weekened 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).
Do: Take the time to walk around and explore the on-site art.
Don’t: Bring lunch boxes or coolers. Clear plastic water bottles and snacks (like sandwiches and granola bars) are allowed.
Where to stay: Downtown Montreal provides easy access to metro stations, which are the easiest way to access the festival. Plus, you’re right in the heart of world-class dining, shopping and sightseeing.
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.
Since 1980, indie and folk music lovers have taken over the hill at Edmonton’s Gallagher Park for this popular festival. Expect tarps and lawn chairs galore, barefooted festival-goers dancing in the grass and downtown skyline views behind four stages. The lineup comes out May 31, but past performers have included big names like Of Monsters and Men, Blue Rodeo and Vance Joy.
Purchase tickets by: Tickets go on sale June 3 and sell out quickly every year (sometimes on the first day), so act fast.
Do: Bring a tarp, blanket or low-legged chair to sit on.
Don’t: Bring a chair with a back higher than 26 inches from the ground or legs taller than eight inches.
Where to stay: The Bennett Centre offers private, modern and secure hostel-style rooms right across the street. The Campus Tower Suite Hotel near downtown is just a 10-minute walk from the Butterdome where a festival shuttle departs every 30 minutes.
Insider tip: Snag prime seating by lining up daily at designated lottery areas at the north and south gates. Check lineup and cut-off times.
The Big Feastival, Burl’s Creek, Ontario, August 18 to 20
This U.K. music and food festival is making its Canadian debut this year at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, about an hour south of Muskoka. This festival is a family event with fairgrounds, lots of all-ages activities and gourmet street food from top Canadian chefs like Chuck Hughes and Matthew DeMille. See performances by emerging and international artists including headliners Weezer and The Strumbellas, plus live children’s music from PAW Patrol, Splash ‘N Boots and Fred Penner.
Purchase tickets by: Weekend, camping and single-day tickets are on sale now. It’s best to book soon since this festival is in its first year and there’s no telling when tickets will sell out.
Do: Bring everyone from the kids to grandparents. There’s a lot to keep everyone busy including yoga, crafts, sack races and a petting zoo.
Don’t: Eat before you go—there’s plenty to snack on. Plus plenty of food-centric activities such as cooking classes and tastings and chef demos. Bonus: street food vendors offer kid-sized portions.
Where to stay: Camping and glamping (large two-,four- and six-person tents) is available at the festival grounds.
Insider tip: Kids aged 12 and under get in free with the purchase of an adult weekend or adult single-day tickets.