Vancouver is a vibrant city, and the amount of festivals organized in the area only proves this point. Over the year, there are events representing all segments of culture and society — it can almost be overwhelming to find your way amid the jungle of festivals taking place in the city. Here is our choice of the top ten festivals you can look forward to in 2013. However, you should all know that it’s unbelievably difficult to choose only ten out of all the splendid events going on in the city. Get inspired, but keep in mind that there is always something to do outside the list as well!
The Vancouver International Wine Festival (February 25th to March 3rd)
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is an excellent opportunity for all wine lovers to get together and learn more about that special drink. Owners, winemakers, and representatives from wineries around the world attend the festival every year to promote their superlative products and connect with other passionate experts in the field. Don’t miss your chance to attend the top wine tastings with skilled tutors, go to special educational seminars, or simply buy your next season’s wine stock. Check out the spirit of last year’s festival here.
Celtic Festival Vancouver (March 9th to March 17th)
If you’re a fan of Celtic heritage, the Celtic Festival Vancouver is an event not to be missed. Come out for the biggest Celtic festival in Western Canada and celebrate the customs and community of the Celtic nations. The festival showcases the best Celtic dancing, music, and storytelling and makes sure to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in authentic, jubilant style! Every year, the festival grows bigger and more attractive. This year, get ready for a Gaelic work songs workshop, a Celtic Fest Ceilidh, whisky tasting events, and much more. A good thing about the festival is that many of the events are free (visit the CelticFest website for more detailed information or check out the buzz around the 2012 edition here.)
Come and join this completely free celebration of comic art during a weekend full of readings, workshops, exhibitions, and panels by artists from across North America. Special guests in 2012 included such names as Ian Boothby (The Simpsons Comic, Futurama), Ken Boesem (The Village), Steve Rolston (Queen and Country, Ghost Projekt), and Steve Lieber (Whiteout, Underground). The aim of the event is to share love for comics and stories with the general public (hence free admission) and create a forum for all comic fans from the city — experts and artists alike. Get a taste of the 2012 edition here.
Vancouver International Children’s Festival (May 27th to June 2nd)
Since 1978, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival has entertained more than 1.6 million youth and adult visitors by its educating and inspiring programming. Come out to Granville Island to witness extraordinary performances by artists from around the world and take part in various workshops and activities including shadow puppetry, face painting, learning magic tricks, African dance, music, and much more. Single tickets typically range from $12 to $22 and include access to all activities. Come out with your whole family to these fun experience days filled with activities. (Some children say their time at the festival was the best day of their life!)
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival (last week of June)
The Seattle Times once called the Vancouver International Jazz Festival “the hippest jazz festival in the world” and it must be agreed that they are probably right. Every year, the festival presents about 1,800 musicians and 400 concerts. The organizers try to make jazz accessible to everyone and always prepare about 100 free events scattered around the city that have Vancouver buzzing with music. Some of the biggest names of the jazz world (Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis) have attended the event and we can expect the 2013 headliners to be revealed soon.
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (June 12th to September 14th)
Every year, the waterfront of Vancouver’s Vanier Park is transformed into a magical place where drama comes alive. Shakespeare’s great plays are staged in two open performance tents with a great view of the mountains and the city skyline, giving a dramatic setting to the festival (just check the pictures). In 2013, the Bard on the Beach schedule will include Shakespeare’s most famous piece, Hamlet, as well as Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, and Elizabeth Rex. Every year, performances are supplemented by a ‘Village’ adjacent to the main tents that includes the Bard Boutique, concession services, picnic packages, and lots of insightful free talks given by the artists and Shakespeare lovers.
The Vancouver Folk Festival (July 19th to July 21st)
The Vancouver Folk Festival has more than its 35 years of tradition, and it’s getting ready for its next season this summer. The festival started with about 10,000 visitors, and the number of folk lovers flocking to the city has now tripled. Over time, organizers have managed to bring the biggest names of the scene to perform in our city. Some of last year’s headliners included the Head and the Heart, Lucinda Williams, Hey Rossetta!, and the Barr Brothers. At the moment, the festival is selling tickets for 2013 at the lowest rate of the season.
Caribbean Days Festival (July)
Every July, North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park changes into a cultural hub of dancing, bright colours, and parading as the Caribbean Days Festival takes place. The Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society invites everyone to experience everything the Caribbean has to offer — from delicious cuisine and tropical rhythms to carnival events. A great thing about the festival is that it’s free and welcomes visitors of all ages — and tens of thousands of attendees respond to the call of the Caribbean every year. Check out this Tourism Vancouver video to soak in the festive atmosphere.
Vancouver Fringe Festival (September 5th to September 15th)
The Vancouver Fringe Festival is the biggest theatre festival in BC and generally among the largest Fringe festivals around the world, with almost 100 theatre groups performing every year. The mission of the festival is clear: to celebrate theatre and create and promote opportunities for artists and audiences interested in theatrical art. As David Jordan, executive director of the festival, said for insidevancouver.ca: “The festival is simply a celebration of independent theatre.” Currently, the 2013 edition is in its preparatory phase, so if you’re an artist or a theatre group that would like to become part of next year’s official program, now is the time to give it a shot and apply.
Vancouver Fringe Festival by Kathryn Mussallem
Vancouver International Film Festival (September 26th to October 11th)
Vancouver International Film Festival is among the largest film celebrations in North America. In 2012, more than 380 films from 75 countries were presented here. The festival focuses on both big names in the business and undiscovered gems for film enthusiasts to please the audience (last year 86 per cent of films screened at the festival received a very good or excellent rating from the audience ballot). If you can’t wait for the festival, visit the Vancity Theatre at the festival headquarters to get a year-round taste of the kind of films screened at the festival itself or follow last year’s top picks.