January, February, March, and April are dominated by trade shows, such as the International Boat and Automobile shows, Metro Home Show, Outdoor Adventure Sport Show, and more. For information, call Tourism Toronto (tel. 800/499-2514 or 416/203-2600; www.torontotourism.com).
For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Toronto WinterCity Festival, citywide. Formerly known as WinterFest, this 2-week celebration blankets the city with fun, mostly outdoor, events. It features ice-skating shows, snow play, performances, art shows, and more. For information, visit www.toronto.ca/special_events. Late January through early February.
Winterlicious, citywide. Baby, it's cold outside, but Toronto's restaurants really know how to heat things up. Roughly 150 of the city's finest eateries offer prix-fixe lunch (C$15-C$25) and dinner (C$25-C$45) menus. Visit www.toronto.ca/special_events for a complete listing. Late January through early February.
Chinese New Year Celebrations, various sites in the city. In 2012, the Year of the Dragon is celebrated. Festivities include traditional and contemporary performances of Chinese opera, dancing, music, and more. For Harbourfront celebration information, call tel. 416/973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com; for the Rogers Centre, call tel. 877/666-3838 or check www.rogerscentre.com. The 2012 new year starts on January 23.
International Readings at Harbourfront, Harbourfront. This weekly series invites authors from around the globe to read from their most recent works. Participants have included David Sedaris, Pico Iyer, and Jhumpa Lahiri. For information, call Harbourfront at tel. 416/973-4000 or go to www.readings.org. February through June.
Canada Blooms, Metro Toronto Convention Centre. At this time of year, any glimpse of greenery is welcome. Canada Blooms treats visitors to 2.5 hectares (6 1/4 acres) of indoor garden and flower displays, seminars with green-thumb experts, and competitions. For information, call tel. 416/593-0223 or visit www.canadablooms.com. Second or third week of March.
St. Patrick's Day Parade, downtown. Toronto's own version of the classic Irish celebration. For information, call tel. 416/487-1566 or visit www.topatrick.com. March 17.
Toronto Festival of Storytelling, Harbourfront. Now in its 33rd year, this event celebrates international folklore, with storytellers imparting legends and fables from around the world. For information, call tel. 416/973-4000 or check www.torontofestivalofstorytelling.ca. Late March to early April; check for dates.
One-of-a-Kind Craft Show & Sale, Exhibition Place. More than 400 crafts artists from across Canada display their unique wares at this show. For information, visit www.oneofakindshow.com. Late March to early April; check for dates.
Blue Jays Season Opener, Rogers Centre. Turn out to root for your home-away-from-home team. For tickets, call tel. 888/OK-GO-JAY (888/654-6529) or 416/341-1234, or visit http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com. Mid-April.
The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. This festival presents the plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, as well as modern Canadian works. Call tel. 800/511-7429 or 905/468-2172, or visit www.shawfest.com. Mid-April through first weekend of November.
Hot Docs Film Festival, citywide. North America's largest documentary festival has grown from a modest celebration to an 11-day extravaganza with over 170 films from more than 40 countries. Call tel. 416/203-2155 or visit www.hotdocs.ca. Late April to early May.
Total Health Show, Metro Convention Centre. Founded in 1975, this 3-day event organizes panels and events with medical professionals, authors, alternative practitioners, organic farmers, and local chefs to talk about public and personal health issues. For information, call tel. 416/924-9800 or visit www.totalhealthshow.com. Mid-April.
CONTACT Photography Festival, citywide. This annual month-long event shows the work of more than 500 Canadian and international photographers. For information, call tel. 416/539-9595 or visit www.contactphoto.com. May 1 to 31.
Salut Toronto Food + Wine Festival, Yorkville. Formerly known as Santé, this week-long event celebrates international wines, as well as Ontario vintages, great cocktails, and the best in food. For information, visit www.salutwinefestival.com. Early May.
The Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario. Featuring a wide range of contemporary and classic plays, this festival always includes several works by Shakespeare. Call tel. 800/567-1600 or check out www.stratfordfestival.ca. Early May through mid-November.
ALOUD: A Celebration for Young Readers, Harbourfront. A 3-day literary fun fest for kids. For information, call Harbourfront at tel. 416/973-4000 or go to www.readings.org. Mid-May.
Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, citywide. Toronto has no shortage of film festivals, but Inside Out, now in its 22nd year, is unique. This 11-day event has nurtured plenty of new talent and supported many established artists. Call tel. 416/977-6847 or check out www.insideout.ca. Mid-May.
Doors Open Toronto, citywide. Hugely popular, this weekend event invites city residents and visitors alike to tour some of Toronto's architectural marvels. Some of the more than 150 participating buildings aren't normally open to the public, and all are free of charge. Visit www.toronto.ca/doorsopen. Late May.
Luminato, citywide. First launched in 2007, this 9-day festival of "arts + creativity" has quickly become a highlight of the city's calendar. Featuring music, dance, theater, art, and educational programs, it really does offer something for the whole family. For information, visit www.luminato.com. Early to mid-June.
North by Northeast Festival, citywide. Known in the music biz as NXNE, this hot 3-day event features rock and indie bands at multiple venues around town. For information, visit www.nxne.com. Mid-June.
Waterfront Blues, Woodbine Park in the Beaches. This used to be the Distillery District's blues fest. Toronto shows that it's got soul in this 3-day festival of Canada's best blues musicians. The event is free; no tickets are required. For information, visit www.waterfrontblues.ca. First or second weekend in June.
Telus Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival, Centre Island. More than 160 teams of dragon-boaters compete in the 2-day event, which commemorates the death of the Chinese philosopher and poet Qu Yuan. For information, visit www.dragonboats.com. Third weekend in June.
Pride Week & Pride Parade, citywide. Celebrating Toronto's gay and lesbian community, Pride Week features events, performances, symposiums, and parties. It culminates in an extravagant Sunday parade, one of the biggest in North America. For information, call tel. 416/92-PRIDE (416/927-7433) or 416/927-7433, or visit www.pridetoronto.com. Late June.
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, citywide. This 10-day festival showcases international artists playing every jazz style -- blues, gospel, Latin, African, traditional -- at venues around town. For information, call tel. 416/928-2033 or check out www.tojazz.com. Late June.
The Fringe: Toronto's Theatre Festival, citywide. More than 90 troupes participate in this 12-day festival of contemporary and experimental theater. Shows last no more than an hour. For information, call tel. 416/966-1062 or visit www.fringetoronto.com. Late June to early July.
Canada Day Celebrations, citywide. July 1, 2012, marks the nation's 145th birthday. Street parties, fireworks, and other special events commemorate the day. For information, contact Tourism Toronto (tel. 800/363-1990 or 416/203-2600; www.seetorontonow.com). July 1.
Canada Dry Festival of Fire, Ontario Place. Formerly known as the Symphony of Fire, this fireworks extravaganza lights up Toronto's waterfront, with the pyrotechnics synchronized to music. For information, call tel. 416/314-9900 or visit www.ontarioplace.com. Early July.
Summerlicious, citywide. It's just like January's Winterlicious event, except that you can dine alfresco. The prix-fixe menus (C$15-C$30 lunch, C$25-C$45 dinner) are some of the best deals around. Visit www.toronto.ca/special_events for a complete list. First 2 weeks of July.
Honda Indy, the Exhibition Place Street circuit. Formerly known as the Molson Indy, this is one of Canada's major races on the IndyCar circuit. Away from the track, you'll find live music and beer gardens. For information, call tel. 416/922-7477 or visit www.hondaindytoronto.com. Second weekend in July.
Just for Laughs, citywide. This offshoot of the successful Montréal-based comedy festival brings to town the world's top comics, alongside emerging talent. Visit www.hahaha.com/toronto for more information. Early to mid-July.
RBC Canadian Open, Glen Abbey Golf Club, Oakville. Formerly called the PGA Tour Canadian Open, Canada's national golf tournament has featured the likes of Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. Visit www.rbccanadianopen.com for more information. Mid- to late July.
Beaches International Jazz Festival, Queen Street East, between Woodbine and Beech avenues. Both local and international jazz artists turn out for this annual festival, which plays out over 9 days. All of the performances are free. For information, visit www.beachesjazz.com. Late July.
Caribana, citywide. Toronto's version of Carnival transforms the city. It's complete with traditional foods from the Caribbean and Latin America, ferry cruises, picnics, children's events, concerts, and arts-and-crafts exhibits. Visit www.caribana.com. Late July through early August. Created in 1967 as a community heritage celebration to tie in with Canada's centennial, Caribana has become North America's largest street festival, drawing more than a million visitors from North America, Britain, and the Caribbean each year. Originally based on Trinidad's Carnival, the festival now draws on numerous cultures -- Jamaican, Guyanese, Brazilian, and Bahamian, to name a few -- for its music, food, and events.
During the 2 weeks that it runs, you will see the influence of Caribana around town. It starts with a bang -- think steel drums -- at Nathan Phillips Square with a free concert featuring calypso, salsa, and soca music. In the days that follow, there are boat cruises, dances, and concerts; the King and Queen Extravaganza, which showcases some of the most amazing costumes you'll ever hope to see; and an arts festival. The highlight is the closing weekend Parade, which brings together masquerade and steel-drum bands, dancers, and floats in a memorable feast for all the senses. This is one party you just can't miss.
Beerlicious, Fort York. More than 70 major Ontario breweries and microbreweries turn out for this celebration of suds. There's also a wide selection of food from local restaurants, as well as live blues, swing, and jazz music. Note: Fort York is normally a great spot for kids, but no one under 19 is allowed at this event. For info, call tel. 416/698-7206 or visit www.beerfestival.ca. First weekend in August.
Canadian National Exhibition, Exhibition Place. It's an old-style touring amusement fair. One of the world's largest exhibitions, this 18-day extravaganza features midway rides, display buildings, free shows, and grandstand performers. The 3-day Canadian International Air Show (first staged in 1878) is a bonus. Call tel. 416/393-6300 or visit www.theex.com for information. Mid-August through Labour Day.
Rogers Cup, Rexall Centre at York University. This international tennis championship is an important stop on the pro tennis tour. In 2012, the men play in Toronto and the women in Montréal. In 2013, they'll swap. For information, call tel. 877/283-6647 or visit www.lovemeansnothing.ca. Mid-August.
Toronto International Film Festival, citywide. The stars come out for the second-largest film festival in the world. More than 250 films from 70 countries are shown over 10 days. For information, call tel. 416/968-FILM (416/968-3456) or surf over to www.tiff.net. Mid-September.
Word on the Street, Queen's Park. This open-air event celebrates the written word with readings, discounted books and magazines, and children's events. Other major Canadian cities hold similar events on the same weekend. For information, call tel. 416/504-7241 or visit www.thewordonthestreet.ca. Last weekend in September.
The Clothing Show, Exhibition Place. More than 300 booths, featuring everything from indie design to vintage couture, all under one roof. For information, call tel. 416/516-9859 or visit www.theclothingshow.com. Last weekend of September.
Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo, about 1 hour from Toronto. This famed 9-day drink-fest features cultural events, plus a pageant and parade. For information, call tel. 888/294-4267 or 519/570-4267, or visit www.oktoberfest.ca. Mid-October.
International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront. Founded in 1980, this renowned 10-day literary festival is arguably the most prestigious in Canada. It draws the absolute top writers from around the world and at home, and has also proven to be an important stage for discovering new talent. Among the literary luminaries who have appeared are Salman Rushdie, Margaret Drabble, Thomas Kenneally, Joyce Carol Oates, A. S. Byatt, and Margaret Atwood. For information, call Harbourfront at tel. 416/973-4000 or visit www.readings.org. Last 10 days of October.
Toronto Maple Leafs Opening Night, Air Canada Centre. Torontonians love their hockey team, and opening night is always a big event. For tickets, call tel. 416/872-5000 or visit http://mapleleafs.nhl.com. October.
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Royal Horse Show, Exhibition Place. The 12-day show is the largest indoor agricultural and equestrian competition in the world. Displays include giant vegetables and fruits, homey crafts, farm machinery, livestock, and more. A member of the British royal family traditionally attends the horse show; in 2010, it was a highlight when Prince Charles and Camilla cut the ribbon. In 2011, it was the less famous Governor General of Canada, David Johnston. Call tel. 416/263-3400 or check www.royalfair.org for information. Mid-November.
Santa Claus Parade, downtown. A favorite with kids since 1905, it features marching bands, floats, clowns, and jolly St. Nick. American visitors are usually surprised that the parade's in November, but it's better than watching Santa try to slide through slush. For information, contact Tourism Toronto (tel. 800/363-1990 or 416/203-2600; www.thesantaclausparade.com). Third Sunday of November.
Cavalcade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square. This holiday celebration brings to life the skating rink at City Hall with a fantastic light show, performances, parties, and fireworks. Visit www.toronto.ca for more information. Late November through late December.
Canadian Aboriginal Festival, Hamilton. More than 1,500 Native American dancers, drummers, and singers attend this weekend celebration. There are literary readings, an arts-and-crafts market, lacrosse-playing, and traditional foods. Call tel. 519/751-0040 or visit www.canab.com. Last weekend in November.
First Night Toronto and New Year's Eve at City Hall. First Night is an alcohol-free family New Year's Eve celebration. There are a variety of musical, theatrical, and dance performances at downtown venues. In Nathan Phillips Square and in Mel Lastman Square in North York, concerts begin at around 10pm to usher in the countdown to the New Year. Visit www.toronto.ca for more information. December 31.