The Jazz Festival in the Beaches, Toronto, is one of my favourite annual events in the city! Growing up in the Beaches, the Jazz Festival is always one of the most exciting music festivals in the area, and I love the music, the food, and the atmosphere. And the best part? It’s free to attend!
For over thirty years, this festival has been bringing together world-renowned jazz performers alongside local talent to create an unforgettable experience for all ages. With over 1 million attendees every year, the Beaches Jazz Festival is one of Canada’s largest free music festivals!
I will say that not all the music is actually Jazz. While the festival originally started with jazz music in 1989, it has expanded to include a wide variety of music. This festival is for anyone of any age. You do not need to know or love jazz music to enjoy this incredible event!
If you are interested in attending the Beaches Jazz Festival, read on to find out more details and some tips for the best festival experience based on my experience as a local and someone who has been going to this festival for decades!
What is the Beaches Jazz Festival?
The Beaches Jazz Festival runs on weekends from July 6–30, 2023, in the east end of Toronto. There are several festival events throughout the month at various locations, but the true highlight is the StreetFest held in the Beaches neighbourhood the last weekend of July along Queen Street East.
Here is the 2023 Jazz Festival schedule.
- Sounds of Leslieville and Riverside: July 6, 7, 8 and 9 in Leslieville
- Salsa on the Beach: July 14, 15 and 6 at Woodbine Park
- TD Weekend: July 20, 21, 22 and 23 at Woodbine Park
- StreetFest: July 27, 28, and 29 on Queen St. E. between Woodbine Ave. and Beech Ave.
- OLG Weekend Series: July 28, 29, 30 at Woodbine Park
Specific event and band announcements are shared on the official Beaches Jazz Festival website closer to the start of the festival each year.
From open-air concerts at Woodbine Park to street performances on Queen Street East, there is no shortage of entertainment to be found. And it’s all free!
Sounds of Leslieville and Riverside
The Jazz Festival kicks off with the Sounds of Leslieville, held in Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen Street near Carlaw Ave. This year, the Sounds of Leslieville runs July 6, 7, 8, and 9. With a large stage, a beer tent, and several food trucks, this event is more intimate than StreetFest and the events in Woodbine Park.
Various bands play on the main stage in the evenings on Thursday and Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday. So bring your lawn chairs and blankets and get ready to listen to a wide variety of entertaining bands from the comfort of one spot. It’s a great way to kick off the festival!
By the way, if you are in the area, I highly recommend a trip to Craig’s Cookies (the best cookies ever!) and Ed’s Real Scoop (the best ice cream ever!). I also highly recommend the casual Mexican restaurant Barrio Cervecería, which also has two excellent patios and is located right beside the park.
TD Weekend at Woodbine Park
TD Weekend is held at Woodbine Park and features a variety of bands throughout the four days. Woodbine Park is a large outdoor festival venue with a main stage. It is located right across the street from Woodbine Beach. This area is fenced, and security does inspect your bags for alcohol as you enter the park.
You will want to bring your own chairs if you can. While there are some chairs and tables throughout the park, there are not enough, and they can be hard to come by. There are also food trucks, and alcohol is available for purchase. There is a paid parking located beside the park in the lot on Eastern Ave., right behind HISTORY.
If you are in the area and looking for some great food and drinks, head on over to Queen Street and visit one of the many excellent patio options. And while you are here, you may also want to explore some more of the Beaches neighbourhood and Woodbine Beach.
Queen Street Jazz Festival Toronto (StreetFest)
While there are many events throughout the month, in most cases, when people refer to the Beaches Jazz Fest, they are talking about the street festival in the Beaches neighbourhood. This weekend event is often referred to as the “Beaches Jazz Fest,” stemming from its early days as the original start of the Beaches International Jazz Festival.
For three nights, Queen Street East is closed to traffic, and the street becomes one huge street festival of music. This year’s StreetFest runs July 27, 28, and 29. The street is closed to traffic at 6 p.m. and bands start playing at 7 p.m.
StreetFest runs between Woodbine Ave. and Beech Ave. along Queen Street East. The entire street is closed to traffic each evening at 6 p.m., and visitors wander from band to band all evening long.
More than 50 bands are set up along this 2-kilometre stretch of Queen Street. Bands alternate playing so they don’t interfere with one another. They usually switch on the hour and half-hour.
Along with the music, there are lots of food options, including food vendors and food trucks. Local restaurants, bars and patios are also open and welcome visitors to come in for a meal or a drink during the festival.
At the same time, Woodbine Park hosts bands at the bandshell in the park, which has seating and a beer tent. Instead of walking along the street, music lovers can enjoy a variety of bands playing on the stage located in the park.
With a mission to showcase local and international jazz talent, the festival offers a diverse range of music styles, including Latin, swing, and fusion.
In 2023, the StreetFest runs from nightly from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., July 27–29, between Woodbine Ave. and Beech Ave. along Queen St. E. Bands start at 7 p.m.
Do you have to like Jazz to Enjoy the Jazz Festival?
No! You do not have to love or even know jazz to enjoy the jazz festival. With so many bands, you will be sure to find something you like! The music is quite diverse, and there are many different genres of music. I promise you will know the songs, and you will love the music and atmosphere.
With a diverse lineup of local and international artists, Jazz Festival Beaches Toronto is an experience not to be missed.
Jazz Festival Tips from a Local
Attending the Jazz Festival Beaches Toronto can be a fantastic experience filled with great music and a vibrant atmosphere. To make the most of your experience, it’s essential to plan ahead.
Here are several tips to make your experience great:
1. Take Public Transportation
Parking near the jazz fest can be challenging, especially during the StreetFest when the streets are closed to all traffic. It is highly recommended that you take the TTC to the jazz festival.
There are several ways to get to the Beaches, but some of the best options are the 501 streetcar or bus along Queen St. or the 92 Woodbine Bus from Woodbine subway station. From Main subway station, you can also take the 64 Main bus south to Queen. The 64 Main bus will alter its route during the StreetFest, but you will be able to take it down to the jazz festival and get off close by.
2. Arrive Early for the Beaches Jazz Fest
The StreetFest part of the jazz festival can get really busy as the evening goes on. If you are coming with children, pushing a stroller, or walking with a dog, I would highly recommend coming to the StreetFest early. It can get tricky to walk along the streets, and large crowds form in front of each of the bands, so sometimes it can be tricky to see some of the bands up close.
Remember, even though the street closes at 6 p.m. the bands don’t start until 7 p.m. I’ve made the mistake of taking children at 6 p.m., thinking I would beat the crowds, only to have to try and entertain them for an hour. Instead, head to Woodbine Beach first to play in the sand or go for a swim ahead of the Jazz Festival.
3. The Street Fest Gets Busier Each Evening
Thursday evening is the quietest evening of the Jazz Festival. The Street Fest is busiest on Saturday evening. Depending on how you feel about the crowds, you will want to pick a night to visit that best suits your plans.
4. Enjoy an Outdoor Patio in the Beaches
I highly recommend you come early and head to one of the many excellent outdoor patios in the Beaches. Not only are there lots of great patios to choose from, but many of them are right in the middle of the Jazz Fest, so you can enjoy a drink and some food while enjoying the music.
5. Bring a Lawn Chair
If you want to sit and enjoy some of the bands, I highly recommend bringing a lawn chair. There is no place to sit (other than the ground) and watch any of the bands participating in the StreetFest, so you will be walking and standing most of the time unless you bring your own chair. Some visitors do like to pick a favourite band, set up their lawn chair, and watch that band for the evening.
Now, if you just want to wander from band to band, a chair may not be necessary, and as the evening gets busier, it will be harder to set up a chair. Lawn chairs are best on Thursday evenings or if you want to watch a particular band or two.
I also recommend bringing a lawn chair to Woodbine Park. While there are seats in the park, in my experience, there are often not enough. Bringing your own lawn chair will ensure you have a seat, and you can pick the best spot to watch each of the bands.
6. Don’t Expect to Ride Your Bike Along Queen Street
During the StreetFest, it will become really difficult to ride your bike along Queen Street. People are walking everywhere with strollers, dogs, wagons, and phones. It’s really difficult to maneuver through the crowds. If you want to ride your bike, I recommend riding it along the bike path, located on the beach.
7. Explore the Beaches and Surrounding Area
The Beaches is a fantastic area of Toronto to visit and explore. There are so many fantastic things to do in the area, including a visit to Woodbine Beach, that it is well worth exploring the beaches and the surrounding area before the evening performances begin.
8. Book Your Hotel Accommodations in Advance
If you decide you want to stay in the neighbourhood and book a hotel for the Jazz Festival, you’ll want to do some research and book early. There are no hotels located directly in the Beaches neighbourhood and so you’ll want to choose a hotel that best suits your needs and will help you make the most of your stay in Toronto.
Beaches Jazz Festival: Frequently Asked Questions
Founded in 1989, the festival began as a one-day event in Kew Gardens but has since expanded to include multiple stages throughout the month of July. From its early beginnings, the Beaches Jazz Festival has grown to become one of the city’s largest free music festivals, drawing crowds of jazz enthusiasts and music-lovers alike.
StreetFest runs in the evening on July 27, 28, & 29 from 6:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. While the roads close at 6:00 p.m. the first bands begin playing at 7:00 p.m. Bands alternate playing so they don’t interfere with one another. They usually switch on the hour and half-hour.
Yes! The Beaches Jazz Festival is one of Canada’s largest free festivals. You can enjoy the numerous bands at Woodbine Park, in Leslieville, or at the StreetFest all for free. That being said, be sure to bring some money for the food vendors, beer gardens, local restaurants and bars!
Final Thoughts from a Local about the Beaches Jazz Festival
Whether you’re a jazz enthusiast or simply looking for a fun and lively event, the Jazz Festival in the Beaches is sure to exceed your expectations. This free month-long event is a great way to enjoy music from different cultures and local talent, while also having fun with friends or family.
So, if you’re looking for something exciting to do in July, make sure you make plans to attend the Beaches Jazz Festival and experience the magic firsthand. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable musical event. See you in July!
Read More About the Beaches Neighbourhood
Visit one of these related posts to learn even more interesting things to see and do in this fantastic neighbourhood in Toronto.
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