It sounds as though we’re banging the same drum when we say Canada loves a festival. But Canada does really love a festival and the city of Vancouver is no exception. Throughout the year Vancouver hosts an endless amount of events and we can’t list all of them within one blog post. But to give you a taster, we’ve hand-picked 13 major highlights in the festival calendar that grace Vancouver with its presence every year.
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Bard on the Beach is Canada’s second-largest professional Shakespeare festival and attracts 100,000 visitors a year. Taking place on the waterfront at the centrally-located Vanier Park, there are two performance tents both offering a different take on Shakespeare’s famous – and lesser-known – productions. Shakespeare fans can also pre-book a picnic table and purchase light snacks (including Bard’s signature popcorn) and premium beers.
Dates: June 1 – September 23, 2017
Celebration of Light
During the summer, the darkened sky over English Bay comes alive with some of the most spectacular fireworks you’ll ever witness. There’s also an accompanying music festival appropriately named SHOREFEST earlier in the evening.
Dates: July 29, 2017, August 2, 2017 and August 5, 2017
Cherry Blossom Festival
Spring is stunning in Vancouver thanks to the blossoming of the 40,000 cherry trees that line the streets. So much, that the city organises a festival centred around them. Activities range from community bike rides through to the Petal Picnic viewing parties. There’s also traditional Japanese events included in the programme such as the Sakura Days Japan Fair and the Sakura Night evening reception in Stanley Park, where some of Vancouver’s best chefs congregate to create an Asian-fusion dinner.
Dates: March 30 – April 23, 2017
Dine Out Vancouver Festival
Vancouver is hailed as a foodie city, so a culinary-themed festival was bound to make it onto the calendar. Starting in mid-January, it is the perfect way to warm yourself up on a crisp winter’s day. Whether that’s at one of the many street food stalls that take up shop across the city or a limited-edition set menu at one of the 250 participating restaurants.
Dates: January 20 – February 5, 2017
Vancouver International Film Festival
Vancouver has earned the nickname Hollywood North due to its contribution to the film industry. Across this 16-day festival, film fans will be treated 380 screenings making it one of the largest film festivals in North America. While Canadian films do take centre stage international screenings are also woven into the programme.
Dates: September 28 – October 13, 2017
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
You didn’t think Hollywood North only had one film festival, did you? Usually held in May, this 10-day festival celebrates real-life narratives with documentaries from Canada and further afield. If you’re not in town during the festival, the organisers behind the event also host screenings throughout the year. Visit their website for more information.
Dates: May 4 – May 14 2017
International Jazz Festival
One of the biggest festivals of the summer, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival brings together 1,800 artists for 300 concerts in 35 venues. Over 500,000 jazz fans flock to the various shows and past acts have included Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Erykah Badu, and Buddy Guy as well as up-and-coming acts from the jazz, funk, Latin and fusion genres.
Dates: June 23 – July 2, 2017
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
While officially touted as a contemporary performing arts festival, it’s otherwise hard to pin-point exactly what PuSH is. The festival pushes together different artistic disciplines from dance to fine arts, film to music, and poetry to theatre. It started in 2003 and is now a mix of 50 performances in 15 venues.
Dates: January 17 – February 5, 2017
Vancouver Pride Festival
Vancouver is a diverse and modern city so it’s no surprise that it hosts one of the biggest Pride Parades in Canada. The parade takes place on the Sunday of the August long weekend though the wider festival includes more than 20 official events across the city. There’s also a two-week lead-up that includes concerts, tea parties, youth dances, block parties and a fundraising run.
Dates: August 6, 2017
Theatre Under The Stars
This is the second time we’ve highlighted Theatre under the Stars as a must-visit – and with good reason. This festival is woven into the culture of Vancouver and is a yearly highlight for many of its population. Starting in July and ending in August, the festival organisers put on Broadway performances outdoors in Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. Past productions include Hairspray, Oliver: The Musical, Legally Blonde, Annie and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Dates: July 7 – August 19, 2017
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Craft beer has exploded in popularity across the world in the last few years, and Vancouver is no exception. In fact, this Vancouver festival is the biggest of its kind in Canada. Held in late May, it can be found on the fairgrounds at the Pacific National Exhibition – the perfect time and place for beer lovers to relax with one of the 400 beers on offer.
Dates: June 3 – 4, 2017
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Every July, folk music takes over Jericho Beach with eight outdoor stages and some of the biggest names in the industry. Aside from the performances there is also street food, a craft market, and the Little Folks Village where families can enjoy craft-making, song-singing, face-painting and story-telling.
Dates: July 14 -16, 2017
Vancouver International Wine Festival
British Columbia is home to some of the best wine in the country and every February it hosts one of the world’s oldest wine festivals. The International Festival Tasting Room is regularly hailed as the star event where visitors can sample 700+ wines from around the world. The local restaurants also contribute and host wine dinners.
Dates: February 11 – 19, 2017