Viva Vancouver

Summertime in Vancouver offers a little something for everyone, from waterfront Shakespeare performances and dragon boat racing to jazz and music festivals.

Here is a sampling of the summer festival line-up for this season:

Vancouver International Children’s Festival
May 29 – June 3, 2012
Music, theatre, dance, storytelling, puppetry, circus arts and much more. Now in its 34th year and at its new home on Granville Island, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival embodies the spirit and endless curiosity of children. Currently celebrating its 35th year, the festival has some new treats this year including Kutz & Dawgs, a West Side Story-inspired tale about love and rivalries, and Journey Through Sound with Vancouver-based street dance crew Project Soul. Looking for something hands-on? Try cooking classes with Edible Canada.

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
May 31 – September 22, 2012
Enjoy the Bard’s performances from open-air tents in Vanier Park set against a natural backdrop of sea, sky and mountains. This year’s line-up includes: The Taming of the Shrew, MacBeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King John. Performances are scheduled every Tuesday through Sunday with matinees and evening times available.

Other special events include “Bard-B-Q and Fireworks” (a play and delicious dinner followed by Celebration of Light fireworks), “Celebrating Red & White” (a play plus a wine tasting) and “Operas & Arias” (featuring the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and UBC Opera Ensemble in concert).

Dragon Boat Festival
June 15 – 17, 2012
If your not familiar with this iconic vessel, a dragon boat is a brightly painted canoe-like boat ranging from 40 to 100 feet in length. Its head is shaped like an open-mouthed dragon, while the stern is in the form of a tail. Depending on the length, up to 80 paddlers can power a boat. The three-day Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival in Vancouver is North America’s largest dragon boat festival, drawing about 80,000 visitors.

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
June 22 – July 1, 2012
Celebrate the music and vitality of Canada’s West Coast. Every day from noon until the wee hours, jazz of all styles and stripes resonates from venues across the city. Ticketed events feature performers such as George Benson and Diane Reeves. Events which are free to the public are also planned.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival
July 13 – 15, 2012
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival characterizes the laid back attitude and style of the West Coast. Now in its 35th year, the festival brings some of the finest folk and roots musicians from around the world to Jericho Beach, a stunning outdoor venue complete with sunsets, food vendors and an art market.

Celebration of Light Fireworks Competition
July 28, August 1 and August 4, 2012
The Celebration of Light is Vancouver’s annual international fireworks competition and brings together talented pyro-technicians from three countries. These teams light up the sky over Vancouver’s downtown core and English Bay with a spectacular show choreographed to music. The display draws more than 1.5 million people over the four-night celebration. Arrive on the beach early to reserve your plot of sand, pull up a blanket and enjoy a picnic dinner during this free show. Best viewing locations are at English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Vanier Park, Jericho Beach and West Vancouver.

Caribbean Days Festival
July 28 – 29, 2012
Couldn’t go south this year? Enjoy the flavour and rhythm of the tropics with this annual festival in Vancouver’s Waterfront Park instead. Put on each year by the Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of BC, the event offers two days of parades, parties, tropical cuisine, dances and more. Take a Caribbean Boat Cruise, or browse the Arts & Clothing Market. Highlights of the event include the Waterfront Outdoor Dance and the Multicultural Street Parade.

Queer Arts Festival
July 31 – August 18, 2012
This annual of queer arts, culture and history celebrates the unique creative expressions of visual and performing artists who identify as part of the LGBT communities. QAF features a curated visual arts show and community art show, cutting-edge performances and workshops from a variety of disciplines — like music, dance, theatre, literary and media arts.

If you’re in town, you won’t want to miss the Vancouver Pride Festival on August 5, including the city’s largest parade.

Powell Street Festival
August 4 – 5, 2012
Looking to learn more about culture? This festival celebrates Japanese Canadian arts — both traditional and contemporary. Take in the wide variety of activities, including dance, film, music, martial arts demos, craft vendors and Japanese cuisine. There’s even an amateur sumo wrestling tournament too.

MusicFest Vancouver
August 10 – 19, 2012
Music lovers, take your pick of over 50 concerts in fifteen days at nine venues across the city. MusicFest Vancouver presents an eclectic mix of performances from across Canada and around the world. Enjoy some jazz, classical music and world music too, with a special focus this year on the music and musicians of Germany. If your budget is tight this year, be sure to check out some of the free events and concerts too.

Pacific National Exhibition
August 18 – September 3, 2012
It’s an event for the whole family with over 50 rides and more than 800 performances and exhibits. Animal enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Pacific Spirit Horse Show featuring the Miniature Horse Show, Jumping Exhibition and other competitions. If you’re traveling with youngsters in tow, remember that as of 2011, kids age 13 and under get in free!

To learn about the other festivals in British Columbia this summer, visit and


Other local festivities:

Wondering what else is going on in the province? Check out these events:

JazzFest International, Victoria, June 22 – July 1, 2012 (

Vancouver Island Blues Bash, September 1 – 3, 2012 (

Hornby Festival, August 2 – 11, 2012 (

Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt, August 16 – 19, 2012 (

Edge of the World Music Festival, Tlell, August 10 – 12, 2012 (

Article updated April 2012 to include new information and additional events.

Photo © Karoline Cullen

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