The Best Toronto Events to Check out This Fall
Your tan is just about faded, you’re feeling a slight chill in the air, you’ve had to dig your sweaters out from under the bed... it’s official: summer in Toronto is over. While the warm temperatures are officially on their way out, we’re ready to embrace this crisp sweater weather by getting out to all the best fall events that Toronto has to offer -- before we bundle up in our parkas and vow never to leave the house again. This autumn, you can hit up Toronto’s first-ever art biennial, watch the greats of competitive eating inhale kilograms of poutine, bid your Halloween pumpkins a fond farewell, and stay warm in the process.
Through December 1
Art lovers can finally rejoice in the long-awaited arrival of Toronto’s first free, citywide art program: The Toronto Biennial of Art. Across the city and as far as Mississauga and Scarborough, you’ll find free exhibitions, installations, performances, and talks hosted by the Biennial in conjunction with partner institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Power Plant. This is the moment Toronto’s visual arts community has been waiting for, and it’s all free.
Cost: Again, free
Through October 31
Legends of Horror is your chance to explore the bowels of Toronto’s famous castle without having to beg, borrow, or steal an invite to your third cousin’s friend’s wedding. Set in Casa Loma, the Gothic Revival mansion, the immersive theater experience take the form of a two-kilometer walking tour. Attendees will wind their way through gardens, tunnels, and spaces inside the castle that have never been seen by the public before -- and honestly that’s way cooler than sitting through someone else’s nuptials.
Getting treated like a VIP takes any fall festival, party, or sporting event to epic levels, and as a Marriott Bonvoy member, you’ll be able to cash in on luxury experiences across the globe with points. Marriott Bonvoy offers benefits and endless experiences at more than 7,000 hotels worldwide, so whether you’re into live music, Michelin-star restaurants, or box seats, you’re bound to find a perk that fits your lifestyle. Of course, they have you covered on where to stay if you want to make a weekend of it, too.
Cost: Free to join
Wednesday, October 2-Sunday, October 6
Take a master class, watch a panel, see a performance, and just get into all things dance at Fall for Dance North this October. This festival takes place at the beginning of the performance season and hopes to whet your appetite for contemporary dance at the bargain price of $15 per ticket. In addition to the ticketed program, there are also free performances at Union Station -- just in case you’re not quite ready to commit your hard-earned cash to contemporary dance. But after checking out Fall for Dance North, we’re pretty sure you will.
Cost: Events range from free to $15
Saturday, October 5
Nuit Blanche translates as “all-nighter” in French, which is exactly what this sunset-to-sunrise arts festival has delivered for the last nine years. For its 10th iteration, artists and institutions are responding to this year’s theme of “Continuum” with more than 90 pop-up contemporary art installations across the city. If you’re experiencing choice paralysis, the festival has a handy map so you can find the nearest installation. Caffeinate appropriately before you hit this 7pm-7am festival.
Saturday, October 5
It’s not truly fall until you don dirndls and pick up a stein at your local Oktoberfest. Aleyards Oktoberfest in The Junction, the homeland of Toronto’s craft beer scene, offers up all the classic Oktoberfest vibes, but in a more low-key atmosphere. Enjoy the crisp fall weather while sampling beer from breweries across Toronto, listen to live music, and snack on schnitzel on the beer garden patio.
Cost: $30, includes a collectible mug and two beer tokens
Friday, October 11-Monday, October 14
Every October, Toronto gets a little trippy -- thanks to the return of Night Owl Festival, the city’s psychedelic music fest. The fifth edition brings headliners Of Montreal, No Joy, and No Sees to venues across the city for the four-day event. Prepare to jam under the neon lights and get a little weird.
Cost: $80 for a four-day pass
Thursday, October 17-Monday, October 21
Toronto’s booming craft beer scene is widely celebrated across the city with myriad events that cater to the tastes of even the most masterful cicerones. So why Cask Days? Hosted by the legendary Bar Volo team, it’s the only festival that exclusively features cask ale -- unpasteurized, unfiltered, naturally-carbonated beer that comes from a barrel. Arcade games and pinball by Get Well, live music, and food vendors from around the city are just an added bonus.
Cost: Tickets starting at $15
Saturday, October 19
Smoke’s World Poutine Eating Championship is the ultimate in Canadiana this fall. Plaid-clad professional eaters from around the globe compete to eat poutine in shockingly large quantities. This year’s competitors will be looking to out-do the whopping 17.5 pounds of poutine consumed in 10 minutes by last year’s champion, Joey Chestnut, so make sure you grab a good viewing spot.
Saturday, October 19-Friday, October 25
Toronto After Dark is a sci-fi, horror, and action movie festival that delivers eerie Halloween vibes without the fuss of finding -- let alone making -- a costume. Grab some popcorn and get spooky with nine consecutive nights of bone-chilling films from around the world at Scotiabank Theatre. Highlights include the world premiere of Extra Ordinary, in which an Irish single dad dabbles in the occult, and The Assent, a terrifying Exorcist spinoff.
Cost: $13.99 for single-screening tickets
Thursday, October 24-Sunday, November 3
Now’s the time to find the perfect books to curl up with all winter. The Toronto International Festival of Authors is Canada’s longest-running literary festival, and spending a day here will be sure to provide ample choices for your next book club. From book launches, to author conversations, to slam poetry, TIFA’s celebration of contemporary authors from around the world will inspire you to get reading and writing this fall.
Cost: Event prices ranges from free to $130, with most events averaging $18
Friday, November 1
You poured your heart and soul into a truly epic pumpkin carving, but November rolls around and suddenly your beautiful creation is out with the trash. Toronto doesn’t stand for that kind of heartache, so they host the Pumpkin Parade, a truly unique local tradition for carvers to dispose of their jack-o’-lanterns. Each year at sunset on November 1, city dwellers honors their Halloween pumpkins by lighting them up one last time to line the sidewalks of Toronto’s parks.
Thursday, November 14-Sunday, December 22
When you don’t have the money to splurge on that winter getaway to experience the great European Christmas markets this year, just board the 501 streetcar to be transported across the Atlantic. Set against the backdrop of the cobble-stoned streets of the Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas market celebrates local craftspeople, food vendors, and musicians. Browse hand-carved ornaments while you warm your frozen bones with a healthy serving of glühwein and feel like you’ve been whisked away.
Cost: Free during the week, admission for weekends and Friday after 6pm to be announced
Thursday, November 21-Sunday, December 1
It’s that time of year again, when holiday shopping is in full frenzy. Eaton Centre is a battlezone where only the strongest survive. Let’s not even talk about Yorkdale. Not only is the One of a Kind Winter Show one of the largest craft shows in North America (and a better bet than any mall in the GTA), it’s your chance to get your loved ones local, hand-crafted gifts directly from the people making them -- and holiday shop semi-sanely.
Cost: Early bird tickets are $13
Friday, November 22-Tuesday, December 31
Canada’s Wonderland, where whizzing around on roller coasters with a sticky mass of cotton candy in hand is the height of Ontario summer, is getting a winter wonderland makeover this November. Head to Vaughan for ice skating, classic caroling, hot-chocolate-drinking, cookie-eating, and anything else you’d ever want out of a downright Christmas miracle.
Cost: Individual tickets start at $21.99
Saturday, November 30
Nathan Phillips Square
The Cavalcade of Lights marks the lighting of Toronto’s official Christmas tree outside City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square. With an impressive display of fireworks and live music, there’s nothing more festive than donning your skates and hitting the outdoor rink to get the best view in the house of the holiday spirit.
Sunday, December 1
The team at NoshFest, Toronto’s Jewish food festival, believes there’s “something about Jewish food that brings people together.” And what better way to celebrate those delicacies than with the second iteration of Toronto’s Chanukah Market? Bundle up and come ready to chow down on a wide array of kosher and Jewish-inspired food from vendors across the city.
Cost: Ticket prices to be announced