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What to Do in Toronto: Festivals, Concerts and Events This July

There are always so many things to do in Toronto. Get out and enjoy some of the many great events and concerts taking place throughout the city this month!

Borne (photo: John Gundy)

Borne (photo: John Gundy)

JUNE 27 TO JULY 19 Judith Thompson brings her trademark candor to her latest production, Borne. The award-winning Toronto-based playwright is known for shedding light on difficult societal issues such as Down’s Syndrome, child abuse and rape, exposing raw emotions and the frailty of human nature. In this world premiere, a company of performers living in wheelchairs takes to the stage to examine the triumphs and hardships faced by paraplegics. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $25 to $49; call 416-866-8666 or visit soulpepper.com to buy.

JULY 2 TO 13  The Toronto Fringe Festival, an annual indie stage event that is as innovative as it is quirky. More than 1,000 artists take part in more than 150 shows at several dozen venues. Visit the Fringe Club festival headquarters in the lot behind Honest Ed’s for free programming, a beer tent and food vendors. This year, a new Fringe app brings the event’s essentials, including showtimes and other box office details, directly to your smartphone. Various venues, tickets $10; call 416-966-1062 to buy or visit fringetoronto.com for a complete lineup.

JULY 4 TO 6  After a successful 2013 debut, the Toronto Urban Roots Fest is back for its second year of indie music. The outdoor event is the brainchild of music promoter Jeff Cohen, who also co-owns the Horseshoe Tavern, one of the city’s most venerable concert venues. This year’s event sees more than 40 bands performing on three stages, including headlining acts such as the Sam Roberts Band, Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut, Jenny Lewis, Hey Rosetta!, Andrew Bird & the Hands of Glory, and Born Ruffians. Garrison Common at Fort York, 100 Garrison Rd., one-day pass $67.50 to $107.50 or three-day pass $180; visit ticketfly.com to buy and torontourbanrootsfest.com for a full lineup.

JULY 6  On the heels of California Chrome’s extraordinary wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (sadly, he was not victorious at the Belmont Stakes), the Canadian version of horseracing’s Triple Crown gallops onward with the Queen’s Plate. North America’s oldest continuously run stakes race marks its 155th year with a $1 million purse. A Hats and Horseshoes Party, where spectators can mix and mingle in their Sunday best, starts at noon. Woodbine Racetrack, $10 to $55; call 1-855-985-5000 or visit woodbineentertainment.com for details.

JULY 8 TO 20  Put on your blue suede shoes and sing along as Return to Grace, a musical tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, hits the stage. Chronicling the spectacular career of Elvis Presley, a cultural icon who rose to fame with chart-topping hits and hip-thrusting performances, the production’s setlist includes crowd favourites such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “All Shook Up,” as well as a re-creation of Elvis’s momentous 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert, which was the first ever show to be broadcast internationally via satellite. Ed Mirvish Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1:30 p.m., $30 to $99; call 416-872-1212 or visit mirvish.com for tickets.

Erth's Dinosaur Zoo Live

Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live

JULY 8 TO AUGUST 3  Prehistoric creatures come to life in Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live, a family-friendly show featuring large-scale puppets led by human wranglers that provides insight into what the world was like when these animals roamed the earth. The North American tour of this popular Australian production even allows audience members to become part of the show—if they dare! Panasonic Theatre, Tuesday to Friday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m., 3 and 6:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., $25 to $35; call 416-872-1212 or visit mirvish.com to charge.

JULY 11 TO 13  Get ready to sing the blues—in a good way, of course, as Waterfront Blues returns for its 10th incarnation. Toronto’s east end welcomes a host of Canadian and international cool cats—plus their harmonicas, guitars and their lyrical voices. The lineup includes soul singers Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls, guitarists Terry Gillespie and Jack de Keyzer, blues singing/harmonica playing Sugar Ray Norcia, Canadian band Blackburn, and up-and-coming musicians Irene Torres & The Sugar Devils and The Brant Parker Blues Band. Woodbine Park (at Eastern and Coxwell avenues), Friday 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 8 p.m., free admission; visit waterfrontblues.ca for a complete schedule.

JULY 18 TO 20  Get ready for an adrenaline-pumping, ear-piercing, wheel-spinning weekend as the Honda Indy roars back to the city. The annual event features two races on the Verizon IndyCar series’s second longest street course. Last year’s champ, Scott Dixon—victorious on both runs—is back to defend his title against past winners Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as Canadian James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. There’s plenty of off-track action, too: autograph sessions, dirt bike lessons at the Honda Jr. Red Riders program and tire changes in the Pit Stop Challenge. Exhibition Place, 100 Princes Blvd., single-day admission $60 to $85, two-day admission $175; call 1-877-503-6869 or visit hondaindytoronto.com for a schedule

JULY 18 TO 27  The Beach is a natural destination during the hazy days of summer, but the annual Beaches International Jazz Festival provides even more reason to head to the city’s east end. The seasonal staple sees more than one million visitors taking in free concerts at local restaurants and bars, as well as at Woodbine Park; this year’s line up includes R&B group Coldjack, pianist Eddie Bullen and the George Lake Big Band. Queen Street East is shut down from July 24 to 26 for StreetFest, which has musicians performing on street corners and rooftops, while the Taste of Jazz event on July 22 and 23 features food trucks feeding masses of funk, soul and swing lovers. Visit beachesjazz.com for a complete list of performers and schedules of events.

JULY 24 TO 27  A weekend full of flavour awaits as one of the world’s leading culinary festivals lays out its ambitious spread for the first time in North America. Taste of Toronto, one of 20-plus international Taste events, invites foodies to indulge in a range of small plates from a who’s who of the city’s chefs: Carl Heinrich of Richmond Station (pictured front row, second from left), Cory Vitiello of The Harbord Room (top row, third from right), Geoff Hopgood of Hopgood’s Foodliner (top row, fifth from right) and more than a dozen others. Momofuku’s David Chang (top row, fourth from left) is also coming in from New York. A cooking demonstration stage provides entertainment and education between bites, while a vendor market featuring more than 50 premium local producers—from cheesemongers to juice slingers to maple syrup makers—ensures you can take home some treats, too. Fort York, $30 for admission to one of six lunch or dinner sessions (individual dishes $7 to $12); visit tasteoftoronto.com for more information.

JULY 25 TO 27  A cold beer is the quintessential beverage on a sizzling summer day. Even better is being able to sample drinks—responsibly, of course—from more than 100 Canadian brewers. Toronto’s Festival of Beer brings crowd favourites like Great Lakes Brewery, Red Racer, Left Field Brewery, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, and Highlander Brew Co. back for this popular event, with new participants like Brickworks Ciderhouse, Junction Craft Brewing and Triple Bogey Brewing. And to wash it all down, vendors like Rock Lobster, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Rashers, Hot Bunzz and Fidel Gastro serve savoury morsels like bacon poutine, Canadian elk-stuffed buns and grilled cheese. Saturday sees The Trews take to the stage for a live show, while Sunday brings Matthew Good to the mic. Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, 200 Princes Blvd., $39.50 to $59.50 includes five to 10 sample tokens; visit beerfestival.ca to buy.


The Sheepdogs (photo: Michael Carney)

The Sheepdogs (photo: Michael Carney)

JULY 1  Celebrate the birth of our nation with workmanlike Canadian rock at TD Echo Beach, courtesy of Edgefest—and bands like the Sheepdogs, Monster Truck, Matt Mays and more.

JULY 2  Have a good ol’ rootin’ tootin’ countrified time at the Molson Amphitheatre, which hosts Brad Paisley and friends on a tour that’s most definitely sponsored by Kraft cheese.

JULY 3  Skilled indie beatmaker and rapper Oddisee sees The Beauty in All at the Garrison.

JULY 4  After all these years, the Vans Warped Tour continues to offer all the latest pop-punk tunes to today’s rebellious youth. A slew of too-loud-for-your-parents acts—including I Fight Dragons, One Ok Rock and Yellowcard—are on the huge bill at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

JULY 4 TO 20  Summerlicious, Toronto’s annual ode to gluttony through prix-fixe dining, returns to more than 150 participating restaurants—from Against the Grain Urban Tavern to Zucca Trattoria!

JULY 5  Sporadically productive yet somehow eternally awesome R&B singer Maxwell seduces his fans at Massey Hall.

JULY 8  Also at Massey Hall: an indie-folk double bill featuring Great Lake Swimmers & the Rural Alberta Advantage.

JULY 9  The ubiquitous Lady Gaga brings her inclusive, identity-affirming show back to the Air Canada Centre.

JULY 9  And yet Gaga’s not even the biggest show of the night (or even with a square kilometre)! Musical power couple Beyoncé and Jay Z are scheduled to share the Rogers Centre stage.

JULY 9  For music lovers who aren’t somehow magnetically drawn to the evening’s two huge stadium shows, Florida band Hundred Waters performs songs from its intricate, ethereal new album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell, at the Drake Hotel.

JULY 10  Massey Hall has long been a mecca for Canada’s best-respected songwriters—including Dan Bejar and Basia Bulat. Bejar’s band, Destroyer, and Toronto’s Bulat take the stage tonight.

JULY 11  Colorado-based pop-rockers The Fray trade mountain views for waterfront scenery when they play Echo Beach.

JULY 12  Afrobeat scion Seun Kuti (and his band, Egypt 80) fills the Phoenix Concert Theatre with the hyper-danceable protest-funk of his native Nigeria.

Adam Lambert and Queen

Adam Lambert and Queen

JULY 13  Flamboyant millennial (and American Idol contestant) Adam Lambert joins the grizzled remnants of Queen to rhapsodize polyphonically at the Air Canada Centre.

JULY 16  Chilly (yet sort of danceable) post-punk revivalists Wild Beasts bring carefully plotted beats to the Mod Club.

JULY 18, 19 & 21  Expect lots of roaring on stage and in the crowd as Katy Perry belts out her hits over three nights at the Air Canada Centre.

JULY 19  Fort York’s Garrison Common welcomes the Time Festival and a surprisingly strong contingent of left-field electronic, R&B and pop artists, including Grimes, Jon Hopkins, Flume and Haerts.

JULY 20  Grab your ten-gallon stetson and bask in the reflected glow of one of country music’s brightest lights, Tim McGraw, at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

JULY 24  There’s no way you’ll be lonely tonight: James Taylor brings his guitar, his silken voice, and his catalogue of adult-contemporary folk songs to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

JULY 26 & 27  Cool cat Bruno Mars brings his Mooshine Jungle tour back to Toronto (and the Air Canada Centre) for two nights, with support from all-around happy dude Pharrell Williams.

JULY 27  Two of the heaviest of ’90s rock heavyweights—Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden—riff their respective ways through hard-rock hits at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

JULY 29  Emerging Wisconsin-based ensemble Phox performs its eclectic tunes (whimsical vocals, clarinet solos, etc.) at the Drake Hotel.

JULY 30  Neo-R&B is a top ticket tonight at the Danforth Music Hall, which hosts multi-talented singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange.

JULY 31  If your summer could stand to be a bit more foreboding, a bit more dreary, a little more literate, then checking out Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at the Sony Centre would be a worthwhile endeavour.

JULY 31  Fresh off releasing a new album—and dissing various inferior musicians—Jack White plays the Air Canada Centre.

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