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Why You Need To Travel To Atlin Arts And Music Festival


image courtesy of facebook

The festival circuit doesn’t stop south of 60, and Canada’s north is actually home to a handful of music festivals. Having just capped off its 15th year, the Atlin Arts and Music Festival (AAMF) sees thousands of visitors camp in the old mining town of Atlin, British Columbia for one rockin’ weekend of music.

With a diverse lineup of musicians, a mix of craft workshops and art instalments, a fashion show, and some homemade bannock, AAMF’s eclectic showing is quite different from Canada’s other music festivals. Our country has no shortage of great festivals, but after checking out Atlin Arts and Music Festival, we’ve put together a roundup of why you also need to attend next year.


1. The Setting Is Picturesque

Located two hours south of Whitehorse, in the very northwest corner of BC, Atlin is a small, historic town of approximately 400 people that grows to 2,500 every July for the three-day fest. But the town isn’t just the location for the festival; the town is the festival.

While it’s somewhat difficult to get to (it’s only accessible via a gravel road off the Alaska Highway from the Yukon), Atlin is one of the most stunning settings in Canada for a music festival. The event is hosted right on the glacial-fed Atlin Lake, one of the largest natural lakes in BC, which is right at the foot of the town’s snow-capped mountains. The town itself is like stepping back into Canada’s gold rush era, with plenty of log buildings and frontier character. The main festival is in Tarahne Park with camping right beside it, offering views of the picturesque scenery at every turn.


2. There’s Something For Everyone

Atlin’s large and unique music lineup offers something for everyone. The music festival has seen Inuit throat singers, jazz, First Nations singers, traditional Quebecois music, bluegrass, zydeco, blues, folk, gospel, world-tech funk, and even heavy metal throughout its 15 years.

But Atlin isn’t just about the tunes, it also features poets, dancers, storytellers, fashion designers, filmmakers, and visual artists as part of the weekend’s festivities. Festivalgoers can participate in numerous workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations, and interactive opportunities all under the festival’s classic red and white big top. It’s this diversity of artistic representation that makes AAMF such a standout.


3. The Music Headliner Is Always A Canadian Classic

At Atlin, you can bet that you’ll hear something you never even knew was a genre, but when it comes to the headliners, they’re always Canadian alt-rock classics.

The festival has hosted some major Canadian acts like Gord Downie, Sloan, The Sadies, Michelle Wright, Bruce Cockburn, David Francey, Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ben Caplan, and so many more. While it’s awesome hearing new musicians, it’s nice knowing enough words to sing along with your favourite songs.

Atlin you were unreal!

A post shared by SLOAN (@sloanmusic) on


4. Experience First Nations Culture

Aside from showcasing the north’s thriving artists and musicians, Atlin’s festival board has stayed true to the initial vision for the event: to be a green gathering and culturally inclusive. The town of Atlin is located on the traditional land of the Taku River Tlingits First Nations, and the festival’s original organizers saw the festival as a way to bring the two communities together.

Each year, the Taku River Tlingit First Nations open the festival with traditional drumming and dancing while homemade bannock is available throughout the weekend’s festivities. To close the weekend, the Taku Kwaan Dancers, all of the performers, and the entire audience join together in a celebration of traditional First Nations and contemporary songs, acting as a space to bridge the gap between the Atlin community and the Taku River Tlingits.

before the closing song atlin, bc, 2017 taku river tlingit territory

A post shared by Tecla Van Bussel (@teclavanb) on


5. It’s Not Just For Families

In its earlier years, AAMF was marketed as more of a family-oriented festival. While it still is, there’s also a burgeoning sense of youth culture that fill the three-day celebrations. Taking place in an isolated heritage town without any phone service, you wouldn’t think this grassroots festival would have as diverse of a millennial audience. Yet people of all ages from all over the Yukon, Alaska, and Northern BC visit Atlin for the festival, making it clear that the weekend is about community just as much as it’s about music and art.

I can’t get over the views… or the beer 🍁😅

A post shared by @ kierakowalski on


6. The Atmosphere Is Laid-back

Maybe it’s the no-cell-service, the lovely lake view and towering mountains, or the fact that it’s located in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but AAMF’s atmosphere is very different from that of Canada’s mainstream music festivals.

The vibe is refreshingly laid-back, with people taking a break from their busy days to take in good music and culture in the middle of nature. There are no flower crowns and people aren’t consumed with posting pics of their festival outfit on Instagram. Instead, there are people of all ages and backgrounds meeting one another and finding common ground in their love and appreciation for Canada’s music and art scene.

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