15 Cool Things To Do in Vancouver in June 2013

Vancouver International Busker Festival. Photo credit: Vancouver Busker Fest

Vancouver International Busker Festival. Photo credit: Vancouver Busker Fest

June in Vancouver is one of the best months for festivals, many of which are free.

Italian Day (June 9) on Commercial Drive is a free Venetian-style street party honouring Vancouver’s Little Italy. Fanfare includes grape stomping, pizza tossing, bocce and a vespa show. Over in Kitsilano, Greek Day (June 23; also free) means shouting “opa!” while dancing with strangers on a belly full of spanakopita.

Each Vancouver neighbourhood, from Main Street to the West End, celebrates community by shutting down a stretch of road for a (free) block party on Car Free Day June 16.

Vancouver turns out in droves for TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival starting June 21. With 150 free soul, jazz, roots and R&B concerts, it’s easy to have fun without splurging on tickets. Still, the international talent performing at the ticketed Jazz Fest shows may prove too tempting to turn down.

Finally, the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival (June 21-23) and Vancouver International Busker Festival (June 29-July 1) are two of the most striking and unique (free) spectator opportunities of the year. Cheer on the competitors as they race their vibrant dragon boats through False Creek in North America’s largest dragon boat festival. And prepare to be amazed by circus-freaks and dare devils at Busker Fest 2013–150 wild, free street performances on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.

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15 Cool Things To Do in Vancouver in June 2013

Free Music at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 22-July 1

Photo credit: onlinesalsa | Flickr

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June 22-July 1) is the city’s biggest music and culture event of the year, with 300 concerts, 1,800 performers and a half-million spectators.

The annual fete – now in its 27th year – brings in big name jazz and blues stars from around the globe.  This year’s festival features 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist George Benson, legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter and blues rockers Robert Randolph and the Family Band, just to name a few standouts.

The best part?  Many of the acts throughout the 11-day festival are absolutely free.  Here’s a rundown on where to find top names and local talent free of charge at this year’s event:

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Free Music at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 22-July 1

Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2012 – June 22 – July 1


There are a few events that really define summer in Vancouver: Canada Day, the Celebration of Light Fireworks Competition, Vancouver Pride, and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (VIJF). Called the “hippest jazz festival in the world” by The Seattle Times, the VIJF is Vancouver’s biggest, greatest music festival of the year, and its as beloved by locals as it is by the hundreds of thousands of visitors it attracts.

Back for its 27th year, the 2012 Vancouver Jazz Festival features 1800 musicians and 400 concerts (100+ of which are free) at 40 venues across Vancouver. There are major headliners, five free mini festivals-within-the-festival, intimate concerts in Vancouver bars and restaurants (the 2012 VIJF Club Series), and music virtually everywhere you look. So get ready to fall in love with the Vancouver Jazz Festival all over again!

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Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2012 – June 22 – July 1

Not Just Jazz: Vancouver Jazz Fest rocks, too

Five Alaram Funk gets the crowd going

Jazz is arguably North America’s greatest contribution to world music.  But I think it’s safe to say that not everybody is that into jazz.   Swing, bebop, free jazz (whew!), even jazz fusion are all acquired tastes.  But don’t let that worry you.  There’s a lot more to this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival (now through July 3) than hep cats and piano trios.

The lineup features lots of soul, funk and world music, as well as rock and roll and country.  I was surprised last weekend to hear what sounded suspiciously like pop music (albeit very sophisticated pop) during a free performance by the Vancouver-based group Jasper Sloan Yip in Gastown.  Here’s a video – You be the judge:

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Not Just Jazz: Vancouver Jazz Fest rocks, too

Free Concerts at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival: June 24-July 3

For live music fans, this is a very exciting time of year.  The Vancouver International Jazz Festival - probably the city’s premier music festival – kicks off on Friday, June 24.  Over the next 10 days, fans are treated to 400 separate concerts featuring big-name jazz, blues, funk, Latin, fusion, electronica and world musicians from around the globe.

Among the ticketed headliners at this year’s festival is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, performing with the 15-piece Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Orpheum on June 26.  Another legend is Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, who will be playing with his band at the Orpheum on July 3.

Now, tickets to either of these concerts won’t come cheap.  But, as any true Jazz Festival fan will tell you, one of the real highlights each year are the free performances.  This year, there will be around 150 free concerts.

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Free Concerts at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival: June 24-July 3