Major Festivals & Events in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is celebrated globally for its dynamic arts and cultural scene, seamlessly blending modern allure with a deep respect for Indigenous heritage. This vibrant mix sets the perfect stage for an array of City of Vancouver events, drawing communities together to celebrate creativity, diversity, and fellowship. From the bustling streets of downtown Vancouver to the serene settings of Stanley Park and the iconic Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the city is alive with events that promise unforgettable experiences for both residents and guests.

Vancouver events

Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

As one of the largest events of its kind in North America, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) draws over 140,000 film aficionados annually. Held each fall for 16 days, VIFF screens around 380 films spanning over 70 countries. Programming highlights both Canadian and international cinema across numerous genres to appeal to a wide demographic of movie lovers. East Asian and documentary films are particularly well-represented. For film enthusiasts visiting Vancouver, partaking in VIFF provides an enriching opportunity to engage with the city’s thriving film culture.

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

The PuSh Festival, held each January and February, brings cutting-edge performing arts productions to Vancouver stages. The event’s mandate focuses on presenting groundbreaking interdisciplinary works in fields including theatre, dance, music, and multimedia installations. In featuring visionary performances by local, Canadian, and international artists, the festival expands perspectives for both audiences and the creative community. Beyond performances, PuSh facilitates critical dialogue and cultural exchange through industry forums, workshops, artist talks, and community initiatives.

The PNE Fair

Tracing its origins back to 1910, the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) Fair stands as the longest-running annual event in Vancouver. Taking place at Hastings Park over roughly two weeks every summer, the fair offers an endless array of entertainment and attractions. From rollercoasters to amusement park rides, attendees can experience thrill-seeking activities alongside agricultural shows, whimsical family entertainment, captivating cultural exhibits, live music concerts, and an array of delicious fair foods. As both a local staple event and a tourist destination, the PNE Fair wonderfully captures Vancouver’s traditions and spirit.

BMO Vancouver Marathon

Drawing elite competitors and recreational runners alike, the BMO Vancouver Marathon celebrates athletes and the community. Held each May, Canada’s largest marathon hosts over 20,000 participants across various races, including the signature 42.2 km full marathon, 21.1 km half marathon, and 8 km run. Promoted as a destination event, the famously scenic course follows the city’s seawall, beaches, parks, and landmarks. The marathon weekend also incorporates a lively Health, Sports and Lifestyle Expo, community block parties, and fundraising initiatives like RUN4HOPE supporting local charities.

Capilano Canyon Lights

Illuminating Vancouver’s winter months, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park glows brightly during the annual Canyon Lights festival running November through January. This mesmerizing event transforms the iconic park into a dazzling wonderland with colourful displays lighting up the suspension bridge, Cliffwalk’s Arc de Lumina tunnel, and the soaring rainforest canopies. In addition to marvelling at the luminous lights, visitors indulge in heartwarming activities like live music, festive food and drinks, scavenger hunts, shopping at the Trading Post store, and taking nostalgic photos.

Honda Celebration of Light

Drawing over 1.4 million spectators, the Honda Celebration of Light represents one of Vancouver’s most spectacular events. Taking place over three nights in late July, the world-renowned offshore fireworks competition unfolds against the backdrop of picturesque English Bay. Vying countries attempt to outshine each other through dramatic pyrotechnic displays choreographed to music and launched from barges on the waters. Beyond the dazzling fireworks, the festival focuses on bringing people together through community celebrations showcasing music performances, fascinating activities, and delectable cuisine during the afternoon and into the evening lead-up.

Vancouver International Jazz Festival

As one of Vancouver’s trademark summer events, the International Jazz Festival invigorates crowds with eclectic music performances across outdoor and indoor venues. Staged annually each June and July for 11 vibrant days, the festival programs around 300 concerts featuring over 1,800 artists spanning jazz to world music genres. Free community concerts complement ticketed shows, allowing festivalgoers ample opportunities to soak in soulful performances by local talent alongside renowned headliners at venues spread citywide. For music lovers visiting Vancouver during the summer months, partaking in the jazz festival promises an unforgettable experience.

Indigenous Events in Vancouver


Powwows represent vital celebrations in Indigenous communities aimed at bringing people together through expressing cultural pride. Centered around drumming, singing, and dancing, these lively events incorporate traditional arts like carving and weaving alongside modern expressions within a welcoming atmosphere that builds bonds. Essentially, Powwows connect Indigenous Peoples while sharing culture and knowledge to foster stronger relations.

After being banned for 75 years under Canada’s Indian Act, Powwows resurged following relaxed restrictions in 1951. Still often held discreetly up until recent decades, these cultural celebrations now thrive openly, allowing the public greater opportunities to accept invitations as respectful guests. Powwows represent Indigenous identity resilience while building bridges across cultures to unite people.

Many notable Powwows happen annually across BC for locals and visitors to experience firsthand. Major events include the Squamish Youth Powwow in West Vancouver in February, the Spirit of the People Family Day Powwow in Merrit in February, the Kamloopa Powwow in Kamloops spanning late June into July, and the VYPER Youth Powwow held in Mission during mid-July. Checking specific Powwow websites for updated details on dates, times, locations, and event particulars allows smooth attendance.

Past Vancouver Events

Canada 150+

In 2017, Vancouver marked a significant milestone with the Canada 150+ campaign, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. This initiative was distinct in its approach, as it wove Indigenous narratives and perspectives throughout the celebrations, emphasizing a journey towards mutual understanding and reconciliation. The campaign underscored the importance of building bridges between diverse cultures and paid homage to the heritage of the host Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, upon whose traditional territories Vancouver sits.

Events of Canada 150+

The Canada 150+ campaign was punctuated by several hallmark events that not only celebrated the occasion but also facilitated deep, meaningful connections among Vancouver’s diverse communities.

The Drum is Calling Festival

Held in the heart of downtown Vancouver, The Drum is Calling Festival was a vibrant showcase of Indigenous arts and culture. Spanning 10 days, this immersive event featured an array of performances, including music, dance, and storytelling, by Indigenous artists from across Canada and beyond. The festival served as a dynamic platform for sharing Indigenous traditions and contemporary expressions, drawing thousands of attendees into a rich tapestry of cultural exchange.

Gathering of Canoes

The Gathering of Canoes was a poignant event that saw a flotilla of canoes journeying to Vancouver’s shores, culminating in a traditional landing ceremony observed by hundreds. This multi-day canoe journey symbolized the coming together of different communities and celebrated the enduring strength and resilience of coastal First Nations cultures. The ceremonial landing at Vancouver’s Vanier Park was a moment of profound connection and respect for the land and its original stewards.

Walk for Reconciliation

Perhaps the most impactful of the Canada 150+ events was the Walk for Reconciliation, which saw over 50,000 participants march across the iconic Georgia Viaduct. This powerful display of unity and solidarity was more than just a physical journey; it represented a collective commitment to reconciliation and a shared future. The walk brought together individuals from all walks of life, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, in a profound demonstration of the community’s desire to heal past wounds and forge a path of mutual respect and understanding.

Canada 150+ Impact

These signature events of the Canada 150+ campaign were more than mere commemorations; they were catalysts for change, fostering a deeper appreciation of Indigenous cultures and histories among Vancouverites and visitors. By collaborating closely with the host First Nations, the city of Vancouver set a precedent for how communities can come together to celebrate diversity, acknowledge historical injustices, and work towards a reconciled future. The legacy of these events continues to resonate, reminding us of the power of unity and the importance of continuing the journey toward reconciliation.

The rich tapestry of events in Vancouver, from downtown spectacles to Stanley Park gatherings, offers a unique opportunity to delve into the city’s diverse cultural fabric. Engaging in these events, whether they are rooted in contemporary themes or Indigenous celebrations, provides a chance to deepen our appreciation of Vancouver’s complex cultural identity. By participating with openness and respect, attendees can uncover the intricate connections that weave the city’s communities together, fostering a sense of unity and shared heritage.