Imagine this: You are sitting at a patio table dockside, listening to energetic music on a nearby stage while enjoying a tropical drink.

Toronto’s waterfront is the place to be this summer – the perfect place to forget about the horrible winter the GTA endured this year.

One of the main venues on the waterfront that is a hub of activity during the summer is Harbourfront Centre, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“The waterfront was really desolate and so we were created to help revitalize the waterfront,” said Melanie Fernandez, director of community and educational programmes at Harbourfront.

She said many people don’t realize how beautiful that part of the city is, and how the waterfront and Harbourfront is “really transforming.”

“People have this wonderful opportunity to come down and to participate and learn about all the cultures in the world which are represented in Toronto on a really beautiful site.”

Cultural escape at the waterfront

One of the marquee events is the Waterfront Festival, in which Harbourfront is transformed into an island surrounded by tropical waters. Held from June 21-22, the event takes place during the Redpath Waterfront Festival, which Harbourfront participates in. Click here for more information.

“What we’re trying to focus on is what would you see if you are on a cruise. So we wanted to make it really fun. So there’s things from the Caribbean like pans, salsa bands, salsa lessons and shuffle board,” Fernandez said.

Vibrant cultural-themed music also seeps into Ukulele Project 2.0, part of the Classical VI: Voice & Strings program, which runs July 25-27. Click here for more information.

“We wanted to really look at the idea of classical in a new way … all cultures around the world have classical traditions,” Fernandez said.

Five ukulele workshops, arranged by master ukulele player James Hill, will be held over the weekend, and on July 27 evening, interested participants are invited to perform “Toreador” from Georges Bizet’s Carmen live on stage. Admission is free.

The ukulele — a stringed instrument that resembles a smaller-sized guitar — has its origins in the Portugese cavaquinho and rajoa, and became popular in Hawaiian music.

Celebrating a cultural mosaic

Another key event of the summer at Harbourfront is the Canada Day Extravaganza, from June 27 to July 1 – a year that coincides with Harbourfront’s anniversary. There’s a fireworks show at 10:30 p.m. on June 30 and live music as well.

From June 28-29, artists from various genres will content in a live music competition at the SoundClash Music Award. The events are free. Click here for more information.

Some of the other summer festivals include Island Soul, South Asia Calling, Habari Africal Festival, and Expressions of Brazil, to name a few.

Fernandez said most the events over the summer are free, with the exception of some late-night shows.

Weekly summer escapades

If you are in the city during the week, there are many free weekly events to celebrate summer, including Summer Music in the Garden, which Fernandez said is “hugely popular.”

“It’s the concerts in the beautiful music garden, which not enough people know about … it’s like a little jewel down on the waterfront,” she said

A series of concerts will be held twice a week, on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m., from June to September. A full list of performances is available on Harbourfront’s website. The concerts take place a the Music Garden, which is on Queen’s Quay, just west of Lower Spadina Avenue.

Dance the evening away to live bands every Thursday from June 26 to September 4, as part of Dancing on the Pier. If you have two left feet, instructors and social dance clubs will be on hand to teach you some graceful moves.

Click here for more information on Harbourfront’s summer offerings.