Exploring Yellowknife

Annual Festivals happening in Yellowknife

Annual events and festivals throughout the year in Yellowknife.

Naka Aurora Festival

The NAKA Aurora Festival is a relatively new festival set at the beginning of March and organized by the City of Yellowknife with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and Government of the Northwest Territories. Naka (pronounced Na-ke) is a festival celebrating the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. The week-long festival features events from Aurora science presentations, to aurora photography lessons, to cultural associations and celebrations.

Long John Jamboree

The Long John Jamboree happens on the third weekend in March every year. The jamboree is held down on the shore of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife Bay. The weekend features an International Ice Carving Competition, music and activities for the whole family (Including the ever popular sugar shack!).

SnowKing Festival

Each year in March an epic winter wonderland is created on Yellowknife Bay where the Snowking and his tundra toughened helpers raise up one of Yellowknife and the NWT’s proudest monuments…the Snowcastle. Erected and built out of the frozen waters and white powder snow of Great Slave Lake, the Snowcastle becomes a month-long bastion of community spirit, collaboration, innovation in the arts, entertainment for young and old and where the spirit of winter wonderment from all our collective childhood reigns supreme. And though it might melt away every year, the community of Yellowknife has enough hot chocolate scented-music infused-northern lights show extravaganzas to last them until the next year’s festival begins.


Yellowknife’s hottest show and only burlesque. The event takes place in the middle of February and sells out within seconds. Check out their website: brrrlesque.ca

Great Northern Music Conference

Towards the end of February, Music NWT puts on the multi-day conference. The conference normally includes workshops, speakers, and performances. More information can be found on their Facebook Page.

Dead North Film Fest

The Dead North Film Fest is a little film fest that is gaining traction. From one night to the two nights. From the Snow Castle the Capitol Theatre. This film fest features films in the realm of sci-fi, horror or fantasy. Their website DeadNorth.ca is chalked full of interesting information. The film fest takes place at the end of February or early March. Tickets often sell out quickly.

Yellowknife Music Festival

The Yellowknife Music Festival was founded in 2009 and is hosted in April of every year. It was through the support of the membership of Classics on Stage Yellowknife that the Festival came into being. The Festival celebrates the journey of learning through music performance. For everyone, the journey is different and will start at any age or level. The Festival celebrates the talents of the musicians who work hard to perform at a superior level, the teachers who guide the musicians on their path of learning, the parents and friends who support the performers every day along the way, the colleagues who will be looking to join them in music endeavors in the future and the community who are invited to enjoy the music and encourage the musicians as their talent blossoms.

Gumboot Rally

The Gumboot Rally (est. 1992), normally taking place in early May, is the major annual fundraiser for The Yellowknife Association for Community Living (YKACL). For more than a quarter-century, residents have gathered to compete in contests of gumboot-themed skill – such as the Boot Slapshot and Boot Basketball – while enjoying live music and raising money for the Association. YKACL provides lifelong support for individuals with disabilities and their families. Visit www.ykacl.ca for more information.

Northwords NWT

Northwords Literary Festival is a multi-day festival held at the end of May or beginning of June every year. Each year different Canadian Authors come to Yellowknife to share their knowledge. Additional panels, sessions and workshops are also held.

Beer Barge

The annual Beer Barge event is put on by the Yellowknife Historical Society to celebrate Yellowknife’s history, specifically the beer barge, which was always one of the first to arrive in Yellowknife once the ice melted after a long winter during which Yellowknife would run out of booze. This was all before highways connected Yellowknife with the south. The event normally takes place during the middle of June.

Festival on Franklin

The Festival on Franklin can be considered a revival of what was once called Raven Mad Daze, but you’d have to have been in Yellowknife 10 years ago to see the comparison.

Otherwise, Festival on Franklin is a fun evening in the heart of downtown Yellowknife on Franklin Ave. From about 5 pm onward into the evening Franklin Ave is closed down for the festival. Food vendors, downtown businesses, musicians and activities of all types sprawl out on the road for all of Yellowknife to enjoy.

The festival is typically hosted around the summer solstice of June 21, but can vary slightly from year to year.

Visit them on Facebook for more information.

Folk on the Rocks

Folk on the Rocks is Yellowknife’s well know folk festival. For over 30 years Folk on the Rocks has been bringing some of the best Canadian-Folk bands together on several stages on the sandy shores of Long Lake. The 3-day festival takes place on the third weekend of July.

Yellowknife International Air Show

The Yellowknife International Air Show, featuring the Canadian Snow Birds, takes place bi-annually out at the Yellowknife Airport. The next show is expected to be 2018.

Ramble and Ride

Old Town Ramble and Ride is an eco-friendly festival held annually in the historic area of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on August long weekend. It features artists corners, workshops on sustainability and several music stages.

NWT Pride

NWT Pride is a three-day festival celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ* community in the North. Often happening on a weekend in August, you can take part in events, games, concerts, contests, and workshops throughout Yellowknife.

YK Film Fest

The Yellowknife International Film Festival (YKIFF) is hosted by Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP), in the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories. YKIFF showcases film and new media works from all over the Canadian and Circumpolar North with selected international works. The Yellowknife Film Festival often takes place at the very end of September and the beginning of October.

Far North Photo Festival

New photography forward event happening in November. For 2019 the Festival is November 15-17. More at farnorthphotofest.com.

Additional Festival

Northern Arts and Cultural Centre

The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) often hosts different traveling festivals throughout the year at their space within the Sir John Franklin High School.

Have a festival to add to the list? Send us an email.


About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, writer, baker, and Yellowknife Advocate who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed YkOnline.ca. A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

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