Explore the city by circumnavigating Toronto’s fall festival circuit. There’s something for almost every interest and taste, so dive in and explore our local culture!
Toronto’s festival season goes into overdrive each fall, with action-packed events celebrating the arts, food and cultural traditions. It all starts with the star-studded Toronto International Film Festival just after Labour Day, then ends with the magical Cavalcade of Lights, the official kick-off to the holidays in Toronto.
Here are 10 fantastic fall festivals worth discovering.
The annual VegTO Fest (September 9–10, 2023) is North America’s largest vegan festival. With over 150 vendors serving delicious plant-based foods, drinks and sweets, this is one festival worth attending hungry so you can maximize your noshing opportunities.
Whether you’re a committed vegan or a curious omnivore, there’s something for everyone at this two-day vegan Toronto gathering at City Hall’s Nathan Phillips Square (home to the iconic TORONTO sign that you’ll want to snap pics of!).
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
Known colloquially as TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival (September 7–17, 2023) assembles A-listers at its event hub on King Street West, the TIFF Bell Lightbox. A number of nearby theatres will play host to red-carpet galas, while the city’s top restaurants will be heavily booked by bold names and lavish parties.
This year’s hot movie tickets include the world premiere of Taika Waititi’s sports drama Next Goal Wins, starring Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss; the Sylvester Stallone documentary Sly; and Women of the Hour directed by and starring Anna Kendrick.
Book your tickets and dinner reservations early to glimpse—and possibly rub elbows with—some of the biggest celebrities on the planet.
JFL42 - Just for Laughs Toronto
Just for Laughs Toronto, aka JFL 42 (September 21–30, 2023) gathers some of today’s most popular comedic talents at venues across town.
If you love to laugh, buy a festival pass to see headliners like Ronny Chieng, Leslie Jones, Marlon Wayans and Jonathan Van Ness, plus the rest of the crew making the 42-comic-strong line-up.
For free giggles, from September 22–24, head over to the Beneva Stage located near Berczy Park for outdoor shows by Food Truck Alley.
Toronto International Festival of Authors
Known for being Canada’s longest-running literary festival, the Toronto International Festival of Authors (September 21–October 1, 2023) takes flight with readings, interviews, critical conversations, master classes, poetry slams and other events featuring top talents like Margaret Atwood, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Patrick deWitt, Michelle Good, Sarah Polley and others.
This year’s festival includes Bite the Book (a food-focused event) plus Taking Flight: Dreams of Democracy, a spotlight on Arabic writers including author, journalist and freedom of speech advocate Kamel Riahi. There is also a full program of children’s events to promote a love for literacy in the young.
Once a year, at sundown, the city of Toronto transforms into an all-night wonderland of immersive and experiential contemporary art exhibits. Nuit Blanche (September 23, 2023) stretches across the city from west-end Etobicoke to downtown Toronto to east-end Scarborough, with a mind-blowing array of installations with art, design, and light to ignite the five senses of attendees.
This year’s theme is “Breaking Ground,” exploring themes around the natural world, change and innovation. Nuit Blanche provides the perfect opportunity to check out the best bars in Toronto while wandering one of the best nightlife cities.
Ontario Culture Days
Ontario Culture Days (September 22–October 15, 2023) hosts events across the province, with over 200 events in Toronto alone. Celebrate the range of cultures and talents that call the city home through photography, painting, music, theatre, dance (and more!) in over a dozen languages.
Can’t-miss events in the three-week-long festival include Commemorate Truth & Reconciliation: Julian Taylor, Andrew McAnsh, Zoey Roy and more (September 29, 2023), beginner salsa and bachata dance lessons with Araguacu Latin Dance Company (October 10, 2023) and Ballet Jorgen’s open rehearsal of Cinderella (October 11, 2023).
Raise a stein at the lively Bavarian-style Toronto Oktoberfest (October 6–7, 2023) for a two-day event that brings the beer halls of Munich to the city.
You’ll want to snag your tickets early as this event tends to sell out with guests staying all evening to dine on German-style dishes and drink lager beer while listening to live music from George Kash (The Oktoberfest King).
Also known as The Lord of the Lederhosen & the Oktoberfest Express, Kash and his band will put on their iconic oompah-pah show, sharing the stage with Old Weird Eyes and Fräulein E and her Bavarian Cabaret show.
Afterdark Film Festival
The annual Toronto Afterdark Film Festival (October 18–22, 2023) jampacks five nights of cinematic thrills and chills into one crowd-fave festival of horror, science fiction, action shorts, and feature-length films. This low-key festival is a great way to meet your favourite directors and discover up-and-coming talent from behind and in front of the screen.
Next Stage Theatre Festival
The Next Stage Theatre Festival (October 18–29, 2023) is a fringe-style festival with dance, musical theatre, gaming, stand-up comedy and theatre presented over 12 days.
Set at the iconically queer Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, this festival welcomes six dynamic performers in each category to delight attendees with their craft. Post-show, hit Church-Wellesley Village for 2SLGBTQ+ positive vibes, eats, drag shows and club nights.
Cavalcade of Lights
A Toronto tradition since 1967, the Cavalcade of Lights (November 25, 2023–January 7, 2024) bookends the city’s festive season. The opening night includes live music and lighting the city’s official Christmas tree, followed by weeks of ice skating amongst over a half million glittering LED lights.