On Canada Day long weekend Toronto becomes the stage for one of Canada’s largest electronic music festivals, Digital Dreams.
Held at The Flats at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Digital Dreams has seen over 50,000 partiers enter the gates since its inaugural year in 2012. Not to mention the festival organizers are the best of the best, leading Digital Dreams to win Festival of the Year at the 2013 Nightclub Awards.
Since the beginning, Digital Dreams has been the definition of a flawlessly executed festival. The stages are strategically placed throughout the grounds, food vendors are found when you need them, and there is enough space to sit down and relax or get up and rave regardless of what stage you’re at.
The companies hosting the event are also straight up dons when it comes to artist and press hospitality. Last year I enjoyed a catered buffet and countless Heinekens alongside Wolfgang Gartner and Myon & Shane 54 backstage in a carpeted tent, chilling on leather couches.
Needless to say, any event organized by this team is guaranteed to have every detail covered.
Fireworks, Tiesto and the Toronto skyline at Digital Dreams
The location is perfect for a festival like this. The sprawling grounds wind from the front gates, over bridges and open to the sand-filled stage dubbed Echo Beach. Here you will find the biggest names in techno and the deeper side of house such as Richie Hawtin, Dubfire and Umek.
Small, tree-covered hills and paved walkways lead the way to the main Dreams stage, which is set against the stunning Toronto skyline. When the sun is fully set and the lights go down, this view is the best in the city. The scene can only get better when you have Tiesto or Porter Robinson bumping the big room beats with the help of fireworks and confetti cannons. From the Dreams stage it’s just a short walk to the sweaty, deep, and bass-filled Temple of Boom tent that hosts the likes of Dillon Francis, Excision and Noisia.
Making your way from one stage to the other is easy, and the countless drink vendors along the way make the walk that much better. Bacardi and Molson Canadian sponsor the event each year so your choices of how to get your buzz on are not limited.
Regardless of your dance music tastes you will find a little of everything at Digital Dreams. Past artists have included Tiesto, Porter Robinson, Wolfgang Gartner, Dash Berlin, Mark Knight, Richie Hawtin, Afrojack, Steve Lawler, Datsik, Flosstradamus, Ed Rush and Optical to name only a very few. For some it doesn’t even matter who is on stage, instead it’s all about the fun being had and the friends you are with.
The vibes are so positive at this event and Torontonians take a great sense of pride in having a festival such as this in the heart of the city. Plus, with Digital Dreams falling on every Canadian’s favorite long weekend, the last day is always a sea of red and white with the Canuck pride in full effect.
And if you’re not ready to call it quits when the festival ends at midnight then you have a choice of after parties in Toronto to attend.
The popular one for many is always at Guvernment. Last year, Markus Schulz played a marathon (an open to close) set and Kaskade played the year before that. The now-closed Footwork also hosted parties with such guests as Art Department and Myon & Shane 54 playing some deep sets. You can expect these to resurface elsewhere, probably at Ryze (formerly Moskito). The Embrace team also host after parties at The Hoxton, a party that is always my preferred choice. Last year Dillon Francis threw down one hell of a set.
Drink. Sweat. Rave. Repeat.
The crowd at Digital Dreams is always a great mix, with attendees flying in from across the country to celebrate Canada Day. Deep in the crowd you’ll find ravers of all ages shaking their asses in booty shorts, tutus and bikinis amongst others dressed in festival basics consisting of mini skirts and tank tops.
Usually, I don’t buy into the VIP areas at festivals and prefer to be right in the crowd with everyone else. However, near the stages, the shade that is available can be limited and getting to the bar can be tough. The VIP areas offer shaded seating, comfy couches and chairs, bottle service booths and amazing views of both the Dreams and Echo Beach Stages. Plus, sipping ice cold Grey Goose mixed with Perrier while looking out at thousands of sweaty dancers is a fun feeling for the sadist in all of us.
If you are not one to rub elbows with the Toronto ballers, there are still loads of shaded areas and free water refill stations a little away from the stages, so staying hydrated and cool isn’t too hard. One important tip though, bring a BIG sealed water bottle so you can take advantage of the refill stations and avoid the $8 bottles being sold. While you’re packing your bag, throw in a little beach towel or blanket to sit on, lots of sunscreen, and make sure to have tons of free space on your smartphone for photos as well.
When planning your weekend, keep in mind that it is two full days and nights outside along the Toronto waterfront at the end of June. Shade is available but sparse and the temperatures can peak in the 30s and drop to about 15-20 degrees when the sun goes down. Sunscreen and a sweater shouldn’t be viewed so much as options but rather as necessities.
How to get to the Digital Dreams Festival and where to stay
Digital Dreams takes place at The Flats at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. The location is incredible and if you were a kid who attended Ontario Place when you were younger then the venue provides a wicked dose of nostalgia. The location is fairly central to the city centre. There are countless transportation options with TTC buses and streetcars delivering you to Exhibition Centre, which is only a five-minute walk to the festival gates.
There is parking available for those who have a designated driver, and since this isn’t a commonly used option, the traffic afterward isn’t too hectic. A cab from Yonge and Dundas to Exhibition costs about $15 and is affordable when split between friends. When leaving the festival in a cab try and ask for a flat rate to your destination as Toronto cab drivers are notorious for increasing fares or denying rides based on your location, so try to be prepared for this.
The number of available hotels in downtown Toronto is countless and if you can actually manage to sleep at the end of the night, you might as well do it in style. This year the organizers of Digital Dreams have teamed up with the youthful travel group S-Trip to offer discounted hotel options at some of the finest digs in the city. Through the Digital Dreams website, you can find links to booking rooms at places such as The Westin Harbor Castle, The Hilton, Sheraton, the historic Fairmont Royal York or the brand new Shangri-La all with the promo codes already entered. Seriously, the Electronic Nation team thinks of everything.
Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster as well as through eNation, Destiny and Embrace promoters. The hard-tickets you receive are available for wristband swap in early June. Make sure to check out the Digital Dreams website for more ticket and event info because there are often deals, contests and giveaways leading up to the event. And don’t forget to share this guide with your friends and get stoked for the ultimate Canada Day party!