Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city that likes to celebrate every occasion. From the Vancouver International Jazz Festival to the brand new downtown New Year’s Eve Festival, residents and visitors join in the fun. But some festivals are a little more unusual than others, and may even need a bit of explanation. Here are a 15 Vancouver festivals to put on your list if you’re looking for fun in Vancouver BC.
1- Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival, January
Do you like hibiscus in your hot chocolate? Or perhaps whiskey-infused marshmallows?
Over 25 cafes participate in the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival, offering 57 special concoctions around town for 27 days.
That means you need to drink more than two cups of cocoa a day to try all the flavours.
2- No Pants Skytrain Ride, January
Part of a larger No Pants Subway movement that started in New York in 2002, riders-in-the-know surprise their peers by suddenly removing their pants on Vancouver’s Skytrain at a designated time.
Outside of a hot yoga studio, this is probably the most bare legs you’ll see in Vancouver in the dead of winter. And perhaps one of the quirkiest of the Vancouver festivals.
3- Talking Stick Festival, February
If you want to know what’s going on in contemporary First Nations culture, you’ll find everything from aboriginal cabaret to powwows and storytelling.
Full Circle First Nations Performance created this festival in 2002.
4- Coastal First Nations Dance Festival, March
When this Vancouver festival started in 1967, it helped revive a long-oppressed native arts scene.
This is your chance to experience songs, dances and stories performed in full First Nations regalia.
Expect authentic dancing, colorful feathers and symbolic handmade animal masks.
5- Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, April
Vancouver has a wide variety of burlesque performers – sub-genres range from gore-lesque to strip hop – and they’ll all be on display during this three-day celebration.
Burlesque-curious? Get in on one of the most fun things to do at Vancouver festival by joining a workshop. Don’t miss the international headliners either.
6- International Children’s Festival, May/June
Looking for a Vancouver festival your kids will love? Of all the Vancouver festivals, this one was made just for them.
Expect international musicians, circus acts and theater companies during this week-long event. There’s even a Francophone day.
7- Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration, June
North America’s largest bhangra festival celebrates this joyous type of Punjabi-folk-meets-western-pop music.
There’s no way you can stay still to the beats during these 10 days of fun.
8- Vancouver Draw Down, June
Nobody cares if you’re not a professional artist during the annual Vancouver Draw Down.
Everybody draws anyway, no matter their age or ability. Take a workshop at one of 18 arts organizations throughout Vancouver.
9- Dragon Boat Festival, June
This event is about athleticism, speed and culture. The festival starts out with a blessing of the dragon boats by Taoist priests.
Then the racing begins. People come from all over the world to compete. There’s also food, music and beer at this colourful and free festival.
10- Vancouver Festival of Ocean Films, June
It seems like every city has a film festival these days. But how many devote a whole film fest to the ocean?
In keeping with its geography, Vancouver celebrates the marine world while raising interest and awareness of the oceans as places for sustainable commerce and recreation. Of all the Vancouver festivals you could choose, this one is great for eco warriors.
Net profits go to the Georgia Strait Alliance, whose goal is to protect and restore the local marine environment.
11- World Naked Bike Ride, June
You can wear as little as you want to Vancouver’s World Naked Bike Ride.
Unlike the sissies down in Portland, Oregon, USA, Vancouver’s nude cyclists wind through the city streets during the light of day. Body painting is available beforehand.
12- Caribbean Days Festival, July
The Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of BC puts on a huge Caribbean party every year at North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park.
Expect tropical food, music, culture and a general spirit of Carnival.
Tens of thousands attend, making Caribbean Days one of Vancouver’s largest cultural events and a Vancouver festival to remember.
13- Golden Dumpling Cook-off and Derby, August
Vancouver chefs, from traditional Chinese restaurants to trendy new spots, try to outdo each other by creatively filling that culinary art form, the dumpling.
Judges carefully sample to see who is truly worthy of the trophy shaped like a giant golden dumpling.
The Dumpling Derby is about consumption as competitive eaters battle it out.
This fun event raises money for a good cause, The Chinese Elders Community Kitchen, which brings isolated seniors together to cook and eat meals.
14- Vancouver Zombie Walk, September
Who doesn’t occasionally get an urge to shamble out in search of gray matter to snack on?
There’s no shame in this compulsion at the Vancouver Zombie Walk.
Join other disintegrating people for a slow-motion romp around the city.
It may seem silly but it’s definitely one of the most fun Vancouver festivals.
15- Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, December
The Secret Lantern Society organizes an event that lights up Yaletown, Chinatown, Strathcona and Granville Island.
Lanterns, music, dancing, singing and drumming enliven the longest and darkest night of the year.
If you’re going to be in Vancouver for the Winter Solstice, drag yourself out of your shelter and marvel at the lights.