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Canada is a country known for its stunning natural landscapes, diverse culture, and vibrant festivals. While events like the Calgary Stampede and Montreal Jazz Festival are well-known worldwide, there are many lesser-known festivals across the country that offer unique and enriching experiences. In this article, we’ll explore some of these hidden gems that deserve your attention.

1. Lumière Festival – Vancouver, British Columbia

Nestled in the heart of Vancouver, the Lumière Festival is a celebration of light, art, and community. Held annually in November, this festival transforms the city into a mesmerizing wonderland. Local and international artists contribute to a series of stunning light installations that illuminate streets, parks, and public spaces.

Visitors can stroll through the brilliantly lit streets, take in the captivating displays, and even participate in interactive art installations. The Lumière Festival’s enchanting atmosphere and focus on the interplay between light and art make it a must-visit event for those looking to experience Vancouver’s creative side.

2. Festival du Voyageur – Winnipeg, Manitoba

For a taste of Canadian history and Francophone culture, head to Winnipeg for the Festival du Voyageur. Held in February, this winter festival pays homage to the fur-trading past of Canada. Festival-goers can enjoy a wide range of activities, including snowshoeing, ice sculpting, and traditional French-Canadian cuisine.

One of the festival’s highlights is the International Snow Sculpting Symposium, where talented artists from around the world compete to create intricate sculptures from massive blocks of snow. The Festival du Voyageur is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Canada’s rich heritage while embracing the beauty of winter.

3. Inuvik Sunrise Festival – Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The Inuvik Sunrise Festival, held in January, is a celebration of the return of the sun to Canada’s northernmost communities. Located in the Arctic Circle, Inuvik experiences 30 days of darkness during the polar night. The festival marks the first sunrise of the year with a series of cultural events and outdoor activities.

Visitors can participate in dog sledding, snowshoeing, and witness traditional Indigenous performances. The Inuvik Sunrise Festival offers a unique opportunity to connect with the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in people and experience the resilience and warmth of northern communities.

4. Reelout Queer Film + Video Festival – Kingston, Ontario

For film enthusiasts and LGBTQ+ communities, the Reelout Queer Film + Video Festival in Kingston is a hidden gem. This annual event, which takes place in January and February, showcases a diverse selection of queer cinema from Canada and around the world.

The festival’s mission is to promote and celebrate LGBTQ+ stories and voices in film. It features a variety of film genres, from documentaries to shorts to feature films, ensuring there’s something for every cinephile. In addition to screenings, Reelout offers workshops, panel discussions, and art exhibitions, making it a vibrant hub for queer culture and cinema.

5. Ice on Whyte Festival – Edmonton, Alberta

The Ice on Whyte Festival, held in January, is a celebration of ice and snow sculpture artistry. Located in the heart of Old Strathcona in Edmonton, this event features professional ice carvers from around the world who transform massive blocks of ice into intricate and beautiful sculptures.

Visitors can watch these artists at work, take part in ice carving lessons, and enjoy delicious winter treats. The festival also includes an ice slide, live music, and a variety of family-friendly activities. The Ice on Whyte Festival is a delightful way to embrace the magic of winter in Alberta.

6. Festival International de Jazz de Rimouski – Rimouski, Quebec

While the Montreal Jazz Festival is world-famous, the Festival International de Jazz de Rimouski offers a more intimate and charming jazz experience. Held in late August, this festival takes place in the picturesque coastal town of Rimouski, Quebec.

With a focus on traditional and contemporary jazz, this event attracts talented musicians from across Canada and beyond. Festival-goers can enjoy open-air concerts by the St. Lawrence River, savor local cuisine, and explore the scenic beauty of the region. The Festival International de Jazz de Rimouski is a hidden gem for jazz aficionados looking for an authentic and relaxed atmosphere.

7. Dragon Boat Festival – Ottawa, Ontario

The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, held in June, is one of North America’s largest dragon boat festivals and a vibrant celebration of Asian culture. While not entirely unknown, it often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves on the international stage.

Teams from across the globe compete in thrilling dragon boat races on the Rideau Canal, but the festival offers much more than just sporting events. Visitors can enjoy live music performances, cultural displays, and a diverse range of Asian cuisine. The festival’s inclusive and lively atmosphere makes it a great way to experience the multicultural tapestry of Canada’s capital.

8. Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival – St. John’s, Newfoundland

If you’re looking for a taste of Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich musical traditions, the Folk Festival in St. John’s is the place to be. Held in August, this festival features a lineup of local and regional musicians who showcase the unique folk music of the province.

With the backdrop of historic St. John’s and its picturesque harbor, festival-goers can enjoy traditional folk tunes, storytelling, and even join in on a traditional Newfoundland “kitchen party.” The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and hospitality of Canada’s easternmost province.


Canada’s festival scene is not limited to the well-known events. These hidden gems offer a chance to explore the country’s diversity, creativity, and unique regional cultures. Whether you’re a fan of art, winter adventures, film, jazz, or simply want to immerse yourself in the local culture, these lesser-known Canadian festivals have something special to offer. So, the next time you plan a trip to Canada, consider adding one of these hidden gems to your itinerary for a truly unforgettable experience.