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If you’re exploring Hamilton this summer, expect to see – and hear – the city come alive with music.

Hamilton plays host to some of the best local, national and international musical talent, in all sorts of genres. The settings are equally varied – from picturesque waterfront parks to the streets of our city centre. Some are decades old and others brand new. And all are worth a visit.

Find your festival with this run-down of some of Hamilton’s favourite summer music festivals.

Brott Music Festival

(summer-long, various venues)

Internationally renowned Maestro Boris Brott brings classical and orchestral music to venues throughout the Hamilton area. The Brott Festival is the biggest non-profit orchestral music festival in the country, and features the National Academy Orchestra. Notable events include PopOpera (July 12th at FirstOntario Concert Hall) and The Magic Flute (July 19th at FirstOntario Concert Hall).


Festival of Friends

(August 3 – 5, Gage Park)

The Festival of Friends is one of Hamilton’s most well-known and celebrated music festivals. This year it takes place in its original venue, Gage Park, a large, beautiful urban park featuring play areas, greenhouses, gardens and more. The festival, which has been running since 1976, features both national and internationally known artists, art, and crafts and admission is free. This year’s headliners will include, Sam Roberts Band (Friday), High Valley (Saturday), Tom Cochrane w/ Red Rider (Sunday).

Dundas Cactus Festival

(August 17 – 19, Downtown Dundas)

The Cactus Festival shares the street with the charming strip of shops and restaurants in downtown Dundas (in Hamilton’s west end). It features vendors, music and buskers, as well as bigger name artists. Fun fact: Dundas was internationally recognized for the Cacti produced by the local Ben Veldhuis Cactus Greenhouses, hence the name given forty years ago.


(August 18 – 19, Waterdown)

ArtsFest is billed as a celebration of arts “in all its forms.” Located in the picturesque community of Waterdown, amongst restaurants and shops, this family-friendly festival features jazz, classical, folk & world music, fine art exhibits, artisan vendors and various activities. This year’s headliners include Matt Dusk, Matt Anderson, George Fox, Barney Bentall, Michael Occhipinti and many others.

RBG’s Royal Mountain Music Festival at Rasberry Farm

(Sept 2, Royal Botanical Gardens)

This one-day festival is presented by Royal Mountain Records and features a line-up of the label’s artists. The festival takes place in the gorgeous setting of the Royal Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical garden in Canada and a National Historic Site. This year’s performers include Mac DeMarco, Calpurnia, U.S. Girls, Dizzy, Tuns, Little Junior and Everett Bird.

Canadian Country Music Week

(Sept 6-9, various venues)

It’s time to break in those cowboy boots because Canadian Country Music Week is coming to Hamilton. The jam-packed week includes a music festival (with a Songwriters’ Series, talent showcases, a full-day FanFest, a Legends Show) as well as an industry conference. Hamilton’s own home-grown music talents will also be featured during Hamilton Country Crawl at venues throughout the city. The week concludes Sept. 9 with a star-studded Canadian Country Music Awards show hosted by Shania Twain ad broadcast live from FirstOntario Centre in downtown Hamilton with performances Keith Urban, Lindsay Ell and High Valley.


(Sept 14 -16, James St. N.)

Borne of Hamilton’s popular monthly “art crawl,” Supercrawl is the city’s biggest urban arts festival, taking place right downtown on James Street North. It features a diverse mix of art, fashion, performance, talks, crafts and food, all within one of Hamilton’s most rapidly changing neighbourhoods. Stages feature local and international performers, while you can also take in art installations, dance performances, a vendors’ market and so much more.

For a full listing of events visit the Tourism Hamilton Events page.


James Tennant - Guest blogger

Jamie Tennant is the Program Director at CFMU 93.3 FM at McMaster. He has written for various publications including Chart Magazine, TV Times, SOCAN Words and Music, Hamilton Spectator and Hamilton Magazine, where he was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2009. Jamie also appears as a regular guest and contributor on Cable 14. His first novel, The Captain of Kinnoull Hill, will be published in fall 2016. Follow him on Twitter.

His blog, Music in the City, explores how Hamilton music got to where it is and where it’s going. Discover artists and scenes you know and love, as well as those that might have been off your radar…until now.

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