Spring in Burlington Ontario

Spring in Burlington Ontario
Discover Burlington this Spring

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fun, fantastic (and mostly free) events in Burlington!

It’s hard to believe that we are only days away from the start of festival season here in Burlington, Ontario.   Over the next few months our city will be alive with lots of free festivals with many of them in the idyllic Spencer Smith Park on the waterfront.   Burlington is home to three of the Top 100 Ontario Festivals including the Sound of Music Festival, Canada Day Festival and Children’s Festival.  Our events cover everything from culture and heritage, the arts, culinary and so much more!  As a mom to two children under five years, I am always looking for great family events and hoping that I remember everything from sunscreen to snacks.  When visiting festivals with children (and without) remember to bring sunscreen, snacks, water and if your children are like mine, a change of clothes. Remember all events are subject to change, so it’s a good idea to check the event website before heading out.
Are you an avid cyclist or a casual peddler?  Either way be sure to head to Spencer Smith Park on June 2nd from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the free Mountain Equipment Co-op Bikefest & Pastry Ride.  You don’t need your own bike to take part in MEC Bikefest – there will be lots of demo bikes available.  Even kids will find bikes to ride at the Kids’ Bike Station. However, for some of the clinics and all of the rides you will need to have your own bike and helmet to participate.  Some of the activities happening in the park include: bike decorating, kids races, face painting, bicycle polo, cycling vendors and more.  Plus great clinics at only $1.00/person.  There will be a family bike ride and the pastry bike ride.  Now if you are like me you are wondering is it a bike ride with actual pastry (that I can support) or a fancy bike term that I am not aware of?  Rejoice it’s an actual pastry ride.  Head out from the MEC store on Brant and cycle to Lowville (approx. 53km) on a guided and marked ride that will end with a picnic in the park complete with pastries and coffee!  There is a safety car travelling the route with the group in case of breakdowns or emergencies.  To register for this free ride call the store directly at 905-333-8559.  For more details on this event visit their website.

Everyone is welcome at the 13th annual Halton Pride event on Saturday June 2nd from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Central Park.  This yearly event features all day entertainment, a BBQ with the Halton Police, children’s storytimes and activities and a vendor marketplace

On the evening of June 2nd runners, walkers and kids can participate in the Moon in June Road Race.  This year they are featuring a new course that is a flat fast one loop certified 5k and 2 loop certified 10km of downtown Burlington. The route highlights the fabulous Burlington Waterfront at sunset (in the darkness of night). The finish line is lit by the search lights and you will want to stay for the party in Civic Square at City Hall.  For the kids there is the 2nd Annual Meredith's Kids 1km fun run plus the Kidsfest (on James St. between Brant St and John Street) is a great way to spend a family evening.  Kidsfest activities run from 6-8 p.m.and include everything from firetrucks to bouncy castles, characture artists, face painting, chalk drawing, mascots and tons of activities to keep everyone active and busy.  Pre-registration is required for the race ($). 

On Sunday June 3rd embrace your inner child at Burlington’s Kite Festival.  From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can build, decorate, and fly a kite, enjoy free entertainment and visit the community displays.  This free event is held at the Brant Hills Community Centre. For more detailed information on this event read the blog by BurlEventGurl

The weekend of June 9th and 10th is a busy one.   Doors Open Ontario is recognized as a Top 100 event in Ontario and we are thrilled to participate in this great initiative. If you are interested in heritage, culture or architecture you will want to get out and visit one or more of the twenty-three sites on the 3rd annual Doors Open Burlington.  This weekend long event gives residents and visitors to the City a remarkable opportunity to learn about places and spaces normally not open to the general public or for which an admission fee is usually charged. Highlights include guided heritage walking tours, the Fine Art and Craft Festival/Kaleidoscope of the Arts, mini performances by our student theatre and an antique/classic car display. Be sure to leave time for a visit to Aldershot where you can visit the Royal Botanical Gardens Centre and buy a famous foot-long hotdog at the historic Easterbrook's hotdog stand.

The Burlington Art Centre is not only a Doors Open Burlington participating site they are also hosting the Fine Art & Craft Festival & Kaleidoscope of the Arts over the weekend of June 9th and 10th.  More than 100 artists and artisans will be selling their remarkable handcrafted, Canadian, juried fine art and craft creations.  It doesn’t matter if you are a shopper or a browser you won’t be disappointed with all there is to see and do.  Be sure to visit their website for a sneak peak at some of the works that will be available during the event. This year, Kaleidoscope of the Arts will take place during the Festival with guilds at the BAC offering demonstrations, hands-on activities and a show and sale.  Admission to the Burlington Art Centre is always free and is a great way to spend a few hours or the day.

On Sunday June 10th the City of Burlington will be hosting the first of two Car Free Sundays.  Head to Southeast Burlington (Appleby Line/New St. to Fairview) and spend the afternoon enjoying …the event runs from 2 pm until 7 pm and is free!

Carly Rae Jepson
You can’t mention Father’s Day weekend (June 14-17) without thinking about the Sound of Music Festival in Spencer Smith Park.  We are lucky to have Canada’s largest FREE music festival right in our own backyard.  It’s always a great weekend and this year is no exception.  The Thursday night kicks off with opening ceremonies and Hamilton natives the Arkells on the main stage.  Fans of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam can hit the OLG Stage to keep the party rocking with three tribute bands.  Friday starts early with the first performance starting at 1:00 pm through to the final acts  Big Sugar (on the main stage) and Canadian folk singer-songwriter Basia Bulat on the Cogeco Stage. Saturday young and old anticipate the Sound of Music Parade working its way through the streets of downtown starting at 11 a.m. featuring as always Burlington's own Teen Tour Band and Junior Redcoats.  Post parade head to the park where international recording superstar Carly Rae Jepson performs on the main stage at 3:45pm. If you are not part of the teen/tween crowd head over to the OLG stage and enjoy Canadian musical legends Spirit of the West (I have to admit I have a soft spot for this band) performing hits spanning their 25 year career. Saturday night is headlined by Juno award winning Wintersleep on the main stage and pop/rock sweetheart Sarah Slean on the Cogeco stage.  Both Saturday and Sunday afternoon kids (and their parents) will want to visit the Family Zone for fun-filled activities and entertainment.  Sunday wraps up the festival with a bang!  Peformances start at 1:00pm and then amp up as the afternoon progresses with Canadian alt rockers Treble Charger and Canadian indie rockers Mother Mother hitting the main stage.  On the OLG stage hometown favourites Saint Alvia and YouTube sensation Walk Off The Earth perform.  I wonder how many of the 35 million people that have watched the Walk Off The Earth video will make it to the park?  I wish we could post all of the amazing acts appearing over the duration of the festival but we just don’t have room.  For a complete schedule visit the Sound of Music website.  Remember to give yourself plenty of time to visit the festival.  In addition to all the great musical acts there is a carnival, food, merchandise and craft marketplace.  Festival hours are: Thursday June 14 - 6pm to 11pm Park only; Friday June 15 -  1 pm to 11pm Park and Downtown (Carnival begins at 4pm); Saturday June 16 - Noon to 11pm Park and Downtown plus Parade 11am to 1pm with prelude at 10am; Sunday June 17 Noon to 7pm Park and Downtown. Voted one of the Top 100 Festivals in Ontario for the 12th year in a row, mark your calendar and be sure to visit Burlington for this event.  We should also mention all the great green initiatives of this festival including waste diversion, water re-fill stations and shuttle services. If you are planning on staying overnight we recommend booking early as hotels tend to fill up quickly.  For more information on accommodations visit our where to stay page.

From June 15th -17th Burlington Downtown in conjunction with the Sound of Music presents Downtown Streetfest.  Starting Friday night and running through to Sunday afternoon the downtown will come alive with four on-street performance pods, a beach party on John Street, sidewalk sales and lots of great patios to stop and enjoy a beverage and bite to eat while enjoying all the action.  For a complete listing of activities and entertainment schedule visit their website.

Wednesday and Sunday Evenings  from June 17-August 22 the City of Burlington presents “Concerts in the Park”.  Free concerts are held at 7:30 p.m. (with some additional 2:00 pm dates) and feature various musical artists.  For a complete listing of performers and locations, visit the website.

Celebrate our Nations birthday on July 1at Spencer Smith Park with the City of Burlington’s Canada Day Festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m..  The morning kicks off with the Canada Day 5k walk/run  and free yoga in the park .  Be part of citizenship court welcoming new Canadians followed by Queen’s medal presentations.  At 1:00 p.m. the opening ceremonies signal the start of a day of entertainment on the Canada and Waterfront stages.  You can also enjoy children's activities throughout the day, the Aldershot Lion's Club Beer and Wine Garden, Water Ski Shows, plus the Scholars in Collars dog training show.  Cap the night off with a performance by the always entertaining and sometimes outrageous Cape Breton fiddling icon Ashley MacIsaac and a fireworks display presented by Lockwood Chrysler Fiat.  For a complete schedule of events visit the website.

On July 1st right across the street from Spencer Smith Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can enjoy the Strawberry Social by the Lake at the Joseph Brant Museum.  Head over to sample everyone's favourite treat - fresh strawberries and delicious vanilla ice cream.  Other treats are in store for visitors including perusing the trifles & treasures market, participating in games, festive crafts, activities, museum tours and so much more. Plus there will be special performances and live entertainment all day long.  A great addition to your Canada Day plans and it’s all FREE!

Starting July 12th, the City of Burlington hosts “Movies Under the Stars” Thursdays at 9 p.m.  Come with your blanket and chairs to enjoy a free movie on a giant outdoor screen at a neighbourhood park.  For a complete list of movies and locations visit their website.

Yee-haw!  Put on your cowboy boots and Stetson and boot scoot boogie down to Spencer Smith Park for the 2nd annual Burlington Country & Blues BBQ from July 13th-15th.  This newcomer to the festival scene is sure to please with a combinations of country and blues performances, the “Longest Line on the Boardwalk” country line dance, hillbilly games, a marketplace and of course succulent BBQ.  Friday kicks off with a whole lotta blues including a Steve Ray Tribute, Canadian blues group the Lincolns and The Das Blooze Brothers Tribute. Saturday “Get your drink on” with the Steel Country Band as they combine old and new country with a splash of Southern rock.  Join in the celebration to Gordie Tapp (who turns 90 this year – can you believe it?) then be prepared for a real treat. With Roy Clark having to cancel all his performances due to a back operation and not being able to perform for at least 3-4 months, get ready for his replacement Steel Magnolia to hit the stage and perform for the first time in Canada. This new country group won CMT's Can You Duet? and has not looked back since.  You do not want to miss this performance!  Sunday will definitely have a nostalgic feel with several tribute bands performing including Jay Zanier’s Elvis Tribute. The day wraps up with an all stars blues project featuring a great line up of artists including Nashville native Johnny Keys. The festival runs Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. For a complete schedule and artist listing, visit their website.

On Sunday July 15 the City of Burlington will be hosting the second of two Car Free Sunday events.  This free event will be held in Downtown Burlington from 2 pm to 7pm and is a great accompaniment to the festival down at Spencer Smith park that weekend.

For those that enjoy the best that Burlington has to offer in dining will want to make plans to attend these three great culinary events.  On July 8th Downtown Dining ($) gives you the opportunity to enjoy a walking tour of 5 restaurants in downtown Burlington. The proceeds from this year’s Downtown Dining will be donated to the Young Artists Fund, through the Halton Learning Foundation.  Advance tickets are required and tours sell out quickly so be sure to get yours early.  From July 22-August 6 enjoy a new culinary experience with a Taste of Burlington ($).  Join Burlington’s finest restaurants for this prix fixe dining event, offering a three course menu (appetizer, entrée, dessert) at a great value.  For a listing of menus and restaurants visit the website (summer updates coming June 1).  The final culinary event of the season is Lakeside a la Carte ($) on August 12 at Spencer Smith Park. This event brings together the area's superb chefs and vintners with their very best tastes to support the Rotary Club of Burlington. Guests stroll from tent to tent, sampling wines and tasting delicious dishes...throw in a silent auction, the chance to win Air Canada or Via Rail tickets, and you have the makings of Burlington's Ultimate Summer Party. Advance tickets required, see the website for participating vendors and ticket information.

On August 6th plan to visit LaSalle Park for the Joseph (John) Brant Day Festival.  This year to tie into the commemoration of the War of 1812 and Burlington’s role in this the Museums of Burlington will be celebrating John Brant and the important role he played in this war.  The day will include various re-enactments, a military skirmish, encampments and other historically interpreted activities.  There will also be the annual favourites including, a summer BBQ, splash park for kids, fair-style games, crafts and hands-on activities, a treasure hunt adventure, and so much more.  For a more information on this event please visit their website.

The weekend of August 18 & 19 pack up the kids and head to the waterfront as Burlington holds its 21st annual free Children’s Day Festival Weekend.  On Saturday, the Sandcastle competition is held at beautiful Burlington beach.  Try your hand at creating a masterpiece in the sand or watch the master sculptors at work creating amazing pieces.   But it’s not all about sandcastles, you can also enjoy live music, entertainment, activities, games, food and marketplace on while catching some sun on Burlington beach.  On Sunday, embrace your inner Tarzan or Jane and head to Spencer Smith Park for some jungle fun!  The children’s festival runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has so much to do including themed entertainment, playzones, character meet & greets, shows, a marketplace and more. In case you’ve never attended the festival before you should know that there is a parade along the promenade with all the children attending the festival.  This year be sure to come as your favourite jungle character and join in the promenade parade at 12:30 p.m.  I bring my girls to this every year and they always have a great time.  For a complete listing of events and times visit the website. If you are planning an overnight visit be sure to check out Burlington Hotel Deals.

Grab some napkins and a bib and head on down to Spencer Smith Park for Canada’s Largest Ribfest from August 31-September 3.  This ribfest organized by the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore brings together 18 ribbers and draws over 100,000 hungry visitors to the park to taste the mouth-watering fare.  Once your tummy is full you can enjoy a fantastic line up of live bands, daily kids’ activities, and a crafters’ Artisan Fair.  This is a festival with great green initiatives that has an 88% waste diversion rate.  For more information on ribbers, entertainment and vendors visit their website.

Tourism Burlington is proud to support our events and festivals and you will find us on site at many of the events to assist with Burlington information inquiries.  Of course, you can always visit us at our information centre located at 414 Locust St. just off the Lakeshore.  We are open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to mid-June and then 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. to Labour day. 

Have a wonderful summer exploring all that Burlington has to offer including these fabulous festivals!

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