June in Vancouver is one of the best months for festivals, many of which are free.
Italian Day (June 9) on Commercial Drive is a free Venetian-style street party honouring Vancouver’s Little Italy. Fanfare includes grape stomping, pizza tossing, bocce and a vespa show. Over in Kitsilano, Greek Day (June 23; also free) means shouting “opa!” while dancing with strangers on a belly full of spanakopita.
Vancouver turns out in droves for TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival starting June 21. With 150 free soul, jazz, roots and RB concerts, it’s easy to have fun without splurging on tickets. Still, the international talent performing at the ticketed Jazz Fest shows may prove too tempting to turn down.
Finally, the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival (June 21-23) and Vancouver International Busker Festival (June 29-July 1) are two of the most striking and unique (free) spectator opportunities of the year. Cheer on the competitors as they race their vibrant dragon boats through False Creek in North America’s largest dragon boat festival. And prepare to be amazed by circus-freaks and dare devils at Busker Fest 2013–150 wild, free street performances on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.
Find the full June list after the jump.
1) Attend the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market Grand Opening, June 1
Something good is brewing in Chinatown. Can you feel it? Chinatown’s young creatives have teamed up with the Vancouver Chinatown Merchant’s Association to breathe new life into the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market. The official Chinatown Night Market Grand Opening (with food trucks, a Ping Pong Tournament and tons of new vendors) takes place this Saturday, June 1 from 6-11pm, on Keefer Street between Columbia and Main.
2) Rock the Jimi Hendrix Shrine, Monday to Saturday June through September
I walk by the graffiti trail of electric guitars to the Jimi Shrine at 796 Main Street all year round, waiting to go in and pay my respects. This Vancouver summer attraction is part oddity part urban legend–Jimi is not a real Vancouverite but his Grams Nora Hendrix is. Learn more about Vancouver’s musical history by visiting.
3) Get thee to Bard on the Beach, through Sept. 2013
A Vancouver summer cultural favourite featuring Shakespearean plays performed outdoor in Kitsilano’s Vanier Park with the sea and North Shore Mountans as the stunning backdrop. Find ticket and performance details here.
4) Shake it at the Vancouver International Bhangra Festival, through June 8
A vibrant multicultural delight full of rhythm and shimmering glory. The festival includes hundreds of performers and international artists from the U.K., New York and India.
5) Peep Foncie’s Fotos Vancouver Street Photography at MOV, June 6, 2013-January 5, 2014
Foncie Pulice is the king of Vancouver’s golden age of post-war street photography. Creator of about 15 million images over his lifetime, Foncie captured Vancouverites in action as they strode the city streets. His photographs trigger vivid memories for long-time residents who recall the particular day, the hour, their companions, the circumstances.
6) Mangia bene at Italian Day on the Drive, June 9
On Italian Day, Commercial Drive–Vancouver’s Little Italy–will celebrate all that is Italian with Italian food demos, food trucks, music, fashion, folkloric dance, classic cars, vespas and more. On Sunday, June 9 from 12pm-8pm, Commercial Drive will be closed to motorized traffic with festivities and stands positioned along The Drive from 4th Avenue to Parker Street. Some 100,000 participants are expected to take over The Drive as it transforms into a Venice Carnival complete with Venetian carnival masks, decorations and costumed street entertainers.
7) Take a dip in Vancouver’s outdoor swimming pools, now through September
A sure sign of summer, Vancouver’s outdoor swimming pools, including the massive Kitsilano Pool and the pool at Second Beach, are now open to the public.
8) Make the kids happy at Granville Island Water Park, open now through September 2
The Water Park at Granville Island is the largest free attraction of its kind in North America, offering wet fun for kids of all ages. Put on your bathing suit, grab a towel and slather on the sunscreen. Features include a rolling expanse of painted pavement with water pipes, fire hydrants, jet sprays, slides and special area for toddlers. Check the schedule to plan your visit. It changes from weekend hours to daily hours in late June.
9) Don’t drive on Car Free Day Vancouver, June 15-16
Cultivate community in various Vancouver neighboruhoods as they shut-down their main thoroughfares to car traffic and throw street parties with entertainment including live music, kids’ zones, food vendors and more. Kitsilano will have block parties on Saturday Sunday, June 15 16. Find street festivals on Commercial Drive, Main Street and in the West End on Sunday, June 16.
10) Cheer on the competitors at Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, June 21-June 23
From Remy’s round-up of free Vancouver summer festivals: 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.
11) Feed your soul at TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 21-July 1
Jazz Fest offers 150 free soul, jazz, roots and RB concerts spread out over 10 days. From Remy’s round-up of free Vancouver summer festivals: 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).
12) Shout “Opa!” at Greek Day on Broadway in Kitsilano, June 23
Another free Vancouver summer festival produced by Vancouver’s longstanding Kitsilano Greek immigrant community. Every year the party draws over 100,000 Vancouverites to West Broadway between MacDonald and Blenheim. Expect Greek food, wine, music, art, a kids’ zone with mosaic and olive wreath making stations, a petting zoo and an Athenian Agora with handicrafts for sale.
13) Have the right conversation at Science World’s new exhibit The Science of Sexuality, now through Sept. 2
“The Science of Sexuality is designed to answer young people’s most frequent questions about sexuality,” said Bryan Tisdall, Science World President and CEO. “The exhibition is designed for anyone 12 years of age or older and will help develop critical thinking, allowing youth to make enlightened and responsible decisions.” The Science of Sexuality featuring Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition takes a candid and respectful approach to a topic that many find taboo. The fact is: sexuality is a prevalent topic amongst youth. The problem is: the prevalence of sexuality puts a lot of pressure on young people; the information young people get is not always accurate and reliable. The exhibit aims to remedy that.
14) Kick it in a world-class Vancouver park
Want to play frisbee under the blooms in Queen Elizabeth Park? Or cross the stunning (and for some, nerve-wracking) Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge on your way to a waterfall picnic spot? Whatever your yen, Vancouver parks have got you covered. Use the Vancouver Parks App to find exactly what you’re after: vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture.aspx
15) Be amazed at Vancouver International Busker Festival, June 29-July 1
Head over to Granville Street between Smithe and Pender for Busker Fest, a mind-blowing extravaganza of weird and wonderful entertainment including interactive comedy, hypnotic music and wild stunts.