There are plenty of everyday activities in the Vancouver area to keep most anyone busy, but the city has a festive side, too. There was also that whole Olympic party that just took over the region and showcased both our urban and natural beauty to the world. Vancouver doesn't stop there: It has a host of annual events that celebrate myriad great aspects of the city.
From theatre to wine and food to holiday celebrations, here are 10 annual events that keep the city festive:
A weeklong event (March 28-April 3, 2011), the International Wine Festival features dozens of seminars, tastings and food pairings with wines from all over the world. This event is so popular that many of the sessions sell out in advance. Don't miss the grand International Festival Tasting that takes place Thursday-Saturday nights and features more than a dozen Canadian selections added to the mix of U.S., European, South American and Austrian imports. It's a prime chance to compare the local juice to the internationally acclaimed vino.
It's not uncommon for a city to hold a restaurant week or two each year, where local eateries set affordable prix fixe menus and local foodies snap up reservations quicker than a professional speed eater swallows hot dogs. Vancouver adds a few unique twists to its annual Dine Out event (Jan. 24-Feb. 6, 2011). The two-week affair, sponsored by Tourism Vancouver, has restaurants set one of three price points for a three-course meal -- $18, $28 or $38 -- ensuring that regardless of budget, there are great culinary options. Not to mention, there are a few giveaways that can net diners a meal a week for a year as part of Dine Out's Best Bite Awards.
Shakespeare is the world's great playwright, and his words have lived on in countless community theatres, festivals and various other productions over the centuries. Bard on the Beach is one of the largest nonprofit, professional Shakespeare companies in Canada. Each summer it produces dozens of performances in beautiful Vanier Park. With two stages, including the 520-seat Main Stage tent that provides striking mountain views, the festival offers classic theatre to tourists and Vancouverites alike. And they're welcoming it with open arms: The 20th iteration in 2009 brought more than 90,000 visitors. This year's festival (June 2-Sept. 24) features classics such as "As You Like It," "The Merchant of Venice " and "Richard III," as well as lesser-known plays on the smaller Douglas Campbell Studio Stage
For the past quarter century, an exceptional collection of jazz, funk, Latino and fusion music has taken over parks, concert halls, clubs and other venues each summer in downtown Vancouver. The Vancouver Jazz Festival runs June 24-July 3, 2011, and the summer's signature music festival is expecting more than 1,800 musicians to play for more than a half million people. "There's not a jazz festival in the world that can touch it -- 10 days of non-stop, unadulterated joy," wrote Paul de Barros in the Seattle Times. There are even 130 free concerts, including the Gastown Jazz street festival on opening weekend (June 25-26).
Sometimes English Bay needs a little extra colour -- like the type provided by fireworks. We're not talking about everyday fireworks, though. The Celebration of Light (July 30, Aug. 3, Aug. 6) doesn't do typical. It does extravagant. This four-day, international, pyro-musical competition displays the best fireworks in the world for the more than 1 million people lining the shores of the bay watching the brilliant explosions set to music.
More than 600,000 people came to the Vancouver Pride Parade in 2009 to celebrate diversity and the city's LGBT community. This parade started as a small protest through Davie Village in 1978 but is now a full-scale party that draws people from all over the world, spans 20 blocks and celebrates Vancouver's lively gay community. Colourful floats compete for prizes such as Best Little Float, Brightest Rainbow and Sin-sational Crowd Stimulators. The 2011 parade on July 31 will start at Robson and Thurlow streets and finish at the Sunset Beach festival site. The parade can be a bit wild, which may be a little much for children.
Don't take the name of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival to heart. The theatre at Fringe isn't all the way out of the realm of popular culture. Rather, the point of the festival is to be inclusive to the arts community. Basically, there are no limits or censorship of ideas or scripts. Expect profanity and edge in one performance and something more traditional in the next. This festival is British Columbia's largest theatre gathering each year, including more than 400 performances from 65 groups over 11 days (Sept. 8-18, 2011). Venues are scattered throughout the city and include the Granville Island Stage, Performance Works and Waterfront Theatre.
There are a ton of fantastic reasons to attend the Vancouver International Film Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 14). We like this one: It's big, as in one of the five largest in all of North America. In 2009, the festival saw nearly 150,000 attendees and 400 films from 75 countries. That's simply huge. The fest features big-name movies, plus many undiscovered gems. It is also the largest showcase in the world for Canadian films, as well as for East Asian films outside of Asia.
Don't bother stringing up a few hundred holiday lights on your house. There are professionals hanging millions of lights each year in Stanley Park as part of Bright Nights (Nov. 26, 2011-Jan. 2, 2012). These are likely to get a few more oohs and awes out of the kids than your meager showing. Best of all, the light display, a holiday tradition since the early 1990s, is free, although there is a small price for tickets to certain parts of the park, including the Bright Nights Train and Children's Farmyard ($9 for adults and $6 for kids and seniors).