The festivals listed below are merely the most famous and fabulous of the over 750 special events held in Nova Scotia throughout the year. Music, history, and food are the most common themes and Nova Scotia boasts more Celtic-themed festivals than anywhere outside of Scotland and none in Scotland’s rival the size of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colors International Festival. Antigonish also hosts North America’s longest-run highland games each summer.
Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival
As one of Canada’s leading apple producers, Annapolis Valley welcomes the annual emergence of the apple blossom in spring with the country‘s second-longest continuously running festival. The Apple Blossom Grand Street Parade, among Canada’s largest, is just one of the reasons why over 150,000 visitors join in the annual festivities between late May and early June.
Pugwash Gathering of the Clans
Despite its name, this North Shore festival is more than a small Nova Scotia family reunion. On July 1, the people of Pugwash celebrate each Canada Day with traditional highland music, dancing competitions, boat races, craft displays, live entertainment, and lobster dinners. The day ends with an impressive fireworks display.
Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo
Every July over two million spectators and 2,000 performers from countries as diverse as Oman, Estonia, and Switzerland descend upon Halifax Metro Centre during the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, billed as the biggest annual indoor spectacle on Earth. With traditional military bands and display team performances, civilian entertainers are also welcome to join the celebration.
Antigonish Highland Games
Visitors must travel to Scotland to find Highland games as large as this annual July sporting event in Antigonish. However, the Antigonish Highland Games are more than just an athletic competition with events such as kilted golf tournaments, highland dancing and caber tossing. The celebration encompasses every aspect of Nova Scotia’s Scottish culture from clan gatherings to lively ceilidhs. Musicians and dancers unite during the annual Concert under the Stars.
Clare Acadian Festival
No Acadian festival on Earth can match the size of these lively celebrations in southern Nova Scotia’s Baie Sainte-Marie region. Beginning at the end of July and running through August 15th, the day of the annual Tintamarre parade is filled with noisy fun. Musicians, artists, and crafters from around the globe flock to this southern Nova Scotia region to rejoice in their culture. Other highlights include a nature hike, quilt exposition, and lumberjack competition.
Digby Scallop Days
In early August, Digby celebrates its world famous scallop fleet and harvest with this free festival featuring net knitting, scallop shucking, and wood chopping competitions. A pie eating contest for children and a scallop tasting event for everyone are also on the docket alongside the Grand Street Parade and plenty of live music.
Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival
None of Nova Scotia’s folk music festivals have lasted longer than this one held each August in the historic South Shore fishing community of Lunenburg. Holding musical workshops, presenting world-class folk music in intimate venues, and showcasing quality dance and musical performances from around the world are just some of the highlights.
Celtic Colours International Festival
Cape Breton’s beautiful fall foliage provides a stunning backdrop to the world’s biggest Celtic festival. For nine days in October, the entire island is filled with fascinating workshops, art galleries, and lively concerts from artists who come from as far away as Spain, Cuba, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. None of the event’s venues attract as many spectators as the Festival Club, where musicians perform in the intimate setting of St Ann’s Gaelic College following their regularly scheduled concerts around the city.