5 Can’t-Miss Free Summer Festivals in Vancouver

Photo credit: jonrawlinson | Flickr

Photo credit: jonrawlinson | Flickr

Let’s be honest.  For nine months of the year or so, the weather in Vancouver can be a bit . . . cloudy.   Umbrellas are required accessories and you get used to not seeing your shadow for weeks at a time.

But summer changes everything.  For three months, Vancouver is possibly the most perfect spot on the planet.  Long, sunny days.  Warm beach weather.  And – last but not least – a bumper crop of free outdoor festivals.

Here’s a look at 5 can’t-miss free summer festivals in Vancouver, both the usual heavy hitters and one or two overlooked events.  But there are lots more.  If you’ve got a favourite, please add it below.

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 21-July 1: With 150 free soul, jazz, roots and R&B concerts spread out over 10 days, the Jazz Fest is the budget bargain of the season.  Free highlights include: Downtown Jazz Weekend (June 22-June 23), with multiple stages and multiple beer gardens around the Vancouver Art Gallery; David Lam Park Jazz Weekend in Yaletown (June 29-June 30); and Canada Day at Granville Island (July 1).  Oh yeah, there are some incredible paid concerts, too.  Details.  

Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, June 21-June 23: Even though this fest is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, it’s still a bit of a hidden gem.  For two days, the shores of False Creek around Science World are packed with spectators taking in North America’s largest dragon boat race.  While paddlers in brightly painted boats churn up the water, landlubbers enjoy free live music and soak up the sun in the beer garden.  Details

Honda Celebration of Light, July 27, July 31, Aug. 3: For my money, this is the highlight of the Vancouver summer.  Picture a few hundred thousand people gathered around English Bay on a warm evening.  Live music is playing; the smell of street food is in the air.  The sun sets and some of the most impressive fireworks you’ll ever see light the night sky, all choreographed to music.  Repeat this ritual over three nights and you’ve got Celebration of Light.  Details

Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival, Aug. 2-Aug. 4: A half-million people pack the streets for the annual parade (Aug. 4), which features hundreds of wildly creative and wildly flamboyant floats.  But even more fun is the Davie Street Dance Party (Aug. 2), when Vancouver’s liveliest strip goes into overdrive after dark with outdoor DJs, beer gardens, bands and more.  Details.

Stanley Park Anniversary Party, Aug. 24-Aug. 25:  Details are still coming in on Stanley Park’s 125th birthday bash.  But with a $200,000-plus price tag, it promises to be a big one.  The last free Stanley Park blow out in 2011 featured some of Canada’s biggest names performing outdoors at Brockton Point – an unforgettable weekend that Vancouverites still talk about fondly.

This list just scratches the surface of free summer offerings in Vancouver.  If you’ve got a favourite free fest, chime in below.  

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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9 Responses to 5 Can’t-Miss Free Summer Festivals in Vancouver

  1. Pingback: 5 can't-miss free summer festivals in Vancouver | Club ESL Tours

  2. Zornitsa

    It all sounds like the perfect summer! I can’t wait to finally move to Vancouver this year! And I love your site and everything about it! It’s one of my daily drop-offs and it’s turning into an obsession…

  3. Realist

    Ha, once again Vancouver lives up to being a dull city. I am really amazed why people want to move here, when in fact, many people I know want and do gtf out of here.

    Any how, it’s funnyhow the PNE wasn’t mentioned. The PNE has historical significance unlike the Pride Parade.

    Regardless, summer won’t arrive until August this year (just like last) when you will hear the same people who complained about the cool and wet weather they’ve had for the last 8 months complain that want and miss the rain. #sociopaths

    • Zornitsa

      OK, I think it’s time that the team holds to their word about offensive and mean spirited remarks…

  4. Jessica Roca

    This will be my first summer in Vancouver.
    Yes, I am waiting for the sunny days yet but……. really I like so much this city.
    I am so happy to be here and enjoy all nice places and activities for the community, and congratulations on your page, very good information!!!

  5. I’m looking forward to the Jazz festival. My wife and I have a tradition, we go there every year and we have such a great time! I hope this year is going to be the same if not even better.

  6. Don’t forget the Khatsahlano! Music & Arts Festival (www.khatsahlano.com) on West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano! It’s Vancouver’s biggest FREE music festival, with 50 bands, 12 stages of live music – Saturday, July 13th. Last year we had 80,000 guests come and enjoy the one-day festival – we hope you will too!

    PS – our Festival is 100% funded by the merchants of West 4th BIA – we receive NO federal or provincial government arts grants like other festivals do… and believe it or not, despite presenting 100% Vancouver-based musicians and artisans to huge audience numbers annually and being a driving force in promoting arts and culture in our community, somehow we don’t qualify for the City arts grants, either! So – come show your support of Vancouver’s live music and our Kitsilano neigbourhood!

    Hope to see you July 13th!

  7. Don’t miss the Friday quiz at The Park at English Bay on June 28th for a fun-filled evening of trivia, fact, music, and silliness. Build a team of your brainiest friends and settle in for the evening with Benji Coey and 24 Craft Beer taps !

  8. Pingback: 5 Free, Fun Things To Do in Vancouver In June 2013 | theCiv