6 Canadian Festivals to Check Out in 2017

For festival-goers, winter can be a pretty tough season. For the next several months, we’ll have to live off nothing but faint memories of last summer’s big events. At this time, I’ll have to politely ask you to hang up your flower crown and/or bucket hat and grab yourself a tuque. There’s some good news, though. The festival off-season can be a great chance to think about new festivals to check out for next year. Questions to ask yourself: Should you hit up that festival you loved from last year or try something new? Can you afford to try something more expensive or should you go cheaper? Should your cousin Jimbo get the invite again after he puked all over the tent last year? And so forth.

There’s a proper way to go about making this decision. Things like cost, travel time, and accommodations should all be considered. Now, I realize that it’s only November… festival season is still a long ways away. As such, there are unfortunately no line-up details for 2017’s events. That’s okay though, because there’s lots more to think about for next year. Start by deciding what type of festival you’re looking for. Ready to rave? Get a little crazy and let off some steam at a festival made just for that! Alternatively, there are great options if you’d rather just chill and enjoy the music. Consider this post a guide to help you explore your options and get informed so that you’re ready to make the right decision.

Apologies to some of my readers, but there will be no mention of country festivals in this article.

#1: Osheaga

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Osheaga returns to Montreal, Quebec once again in 2017 – taking place the days of August 4th to 6th. If you’re looking for that big festival atmosphere in the heart of the city, this is likely the option for you. The festival has been a huge success since its inaugural year in 2006. Attracting some of the biggest names in music, it routinely reaches its capacity. Just take a look at the absolutely stacked 2016 Osheaga lineup. Or, if you’re one of those visual learners, the Osheaga 2014 recap video will give you an idea of what it’s all about.

The reason that I personally have avoided Osheaga is the cost. Last year, a three day pass for full-access to the festival cost $310, which is pretty reasonable. The issue for me was finding cheap accommodations in Montreal. Say you choose to stay in a hotel… Once you add on the ticket, food, and drinks, you’re looking at a pretty expensive weekend. Anyone have friends in Montreal they could introduce me to? 🤔

#2: Pemberton

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Hopefully you’ve caught your breath after seeing this stunning picture. In terms of views, that’s pretty tough to beat. Pemberton, or “Pemby” as it’s affectionately known, has yet to release its lineup for 2017, but it’s pretty obvious what the biggest attraction is. If you aren’t already aware, Pemberton is in British Columbia; about a two hour drive north of Vancouver. The drive seems well worth it for scenery like that.

Like Osheaga, it’s been successful at attracting some pretty remarkable artists over past years. Take a look at last year’s lineup poster:

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If it’s any indication of next years lineup, Pemberton seems like a great festival choice for anyone looking to escape the city and check out the mountains.

#3: Bestival

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If you can’t scrounge together enough dough for a road trip out west, you may need a more manageable option. Bestival is a slightly smaller festival that happens right here in Toronto. It began in the UK and has been brought to Toronto with huge success. Last summer, the festival took place on June 11th and 12th at Woodbine Park. It’s easy to get to, doesn’t require a hotel or camping (assuming you live near the city) and is open to all ages. It’s pretty unique to be able to take the streetcar or bus to a festival that provides a pretty similar experience to the likes of Wayhome & Pemberton. Here’s last year’s lineup:

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There are certainly some great acts in there. Be sure to keep close watch on Bestival’s social media accounts for 2017 announcements. Also worth mentioning that it’s got a pretty damn good name.

#4: Mad Decent

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Mad Decent Bloc Party is a unique type of festival. It tours various venues across North America, holding events that provide a party-like atmosphere with a lineup full of electronic music. Like Bestival, Mad Decent is a smaller event that takes place for one night only. Last year, it was set up at the Fort York Garrison Common, which  is a small outdoor field right downtown Toronto. Whether you’re from the city or not, Mad Decent is an awesome way to do something different on a summer night. Why not get out and enjoy some great music in a unique space? Stay connected with all of the Mad Decent updates through their Twitter.

#5: RBC Ottawa Bluesfest

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Don’t be fooled by the name, Ottawa Bluesfest isn’t really a festival dedicated to a specific genre of music. Over time it’s grown to incorporate a variety of music acts. The 2016 Bluesfest lineup was full of just that, as it featured acts from basically every genre you could ask for.

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Bluesfest is easily the largest festival of those I’ve featured on this list. It takes place over 9-12 days and features a large number of acts. It’s estimated that the 2015 festival attracted more than 300,000 fans. Ticket options vary, so you don’t have to break the bank if you’re only interested in a specific night of shows. It’s likely this versatility that makes the festival so successful.

Year after year, Bluesfest manages to provide entertainment for all types of music fans in one place. This year’s event is scheduled to take place July 6th to the 16th. Be sure to check out the Bluesfest site to stay on top of lineup details.

#6: Wayhome

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I’ll be honest, I’m a little biased here. Wayhome is the festival I’ve chosen to go to for the past two years. This year, it drew a much bigger crowd, despite its weaker lineup. The header image for the article is one I took from atop the ferris wheel on-site this year. In mentioning it, I’d say that one of Wayhome’s strengths as a festival is the overall experience it provides. The grounds are huge, and there’s lots to do beyond attending the shows. There are various attractions, art displays, and four stages that all offer something slightly unique from the others. There’s even a renovated barn available to VIP ticket holders.

Last year, camping was sold separately from the ticket – an extra $125 per camp site. All things considered, I think Wayhome provides the best value. But here’s a tip: if you’re thinking of attending next year – bring sunscreen. Burl’s Creek Event Grounds has very limited shade, don’t end up roasted like I was!


So have you made your decision? If not, there’s tons of time left. I hope that what I’ve shared here has been helpful. All that’s left now is the waiting, which is never fun. But it’s not all bad. There are plenty of ways to keep busy. Try guessing which yearly lineup rumours and leaks will come true OR get started thinking about your crazy outfit for next year. Most importantly, be sure to keep your ears open and regularly scan the Internet looking for details (and deals)!

Drop a comment and let me know which festival sounds best to you!

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