The West Coast city of Vancouver is one of Canada's biggest and most vibrant. Surrounded by ocean and mountains, Vancouver, BC is a jewel of British Columbia and is usually best known for its outdoor activities. Hiking, climbing, sailing, and skiing are some of the most popular pastimes to indulge in here.
But look past the West Coast clichés, and you'll find that the city also has more than its share of live music to enjoy. Vancouver festivals ordinarily take place in the summer when the weather is less rainy, but you can find entertaining Vancouver events happening in the city throughout the year. If you're looking for live concerts, check out some of the best festivals in Vancouver to see the cream of international and local talent.
Drop off your bags at a suitcase storage in Vancouver, and you'll be ready to enjoy the best Vancouver festivals on the calendar. Thanks to a good public transportation network, it's easy to get around Vancouver to see the best of the city's live music scene.
Vancouver Opera Festival
Spread across multiple venues, Vancouver Opera Festival is a series of events that celebrates all things opera. The festival runs over six weeks in late April and early May. If you're not familiar with opera, there's no better place to start than this event.
The festival puts on major productions of well-known operas and stages more innovative and avant-garde performances by local talent. There are several different events to choose from, so you're sure to find something that's right for you.
In addition to the live performances, there are also talks and discussions that will help you learn more about this unique art form. It's a great way for new audience members to become acquainted with opera without having to commit to an entire show.
If you're a fan of opera and want to experience the best that Vancouver has to offer, then make sure to check out the Vancouver Opera Festival this year. Whether you've been enjoying opera for years or want to learn more about it, there's something for everyone here!
Khatsahlano Street Festival
Vancouver is a city of diverse neighborhoods, and each district offers its own festivals in the summer. The Khatsahlano Street Festival doesn't attract huge international artists, but it does offer live music, food trucks, a beer garden, and an enjoyable way to celebrate this popular neighborhood. Vancouver's largest street festival, the Khatsahlano Street Festival takes place in early July and is an excellent way to see some of the best local talent in the city. While this year's lineup has yet to be announced, past festivals have hosted well-known Canadian artists like Bif Naked, Hey Ocean! and Yukon Blonde.
Best of all, this festival is completely free. The event is worth visiting just for the more than 50 food trucks that make it one of the best places to eat street food in Vancouver, and the music on offer lets you discover new favorites.
Vancouver International Jazz Festival
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is one of the biggest events on Vancouver's summer calendar. Taking place over two weeks in late June and early July, the festival features more than 350 concerts with 1,800 artists from 40 countries. While jazz is at the heart of the festival, you'll also find performances from salsa, blues, reggae, and world music acts as well.
This year's festival features Buddy Guy, the Brad Turner Quintet, Lucinda Williams, and other acts covering a broad variety of musical styles. The weekend of June 30 – July 3 is usually the busiest time for the festival. Jazz fans should make sure to grab tickets early, as many shows tend to sell out quickly. Tickets are sold individually for each show, but you can also get a pass that will allow you to take in multiple shows over the course of the festival.
This is one of the best music festivals in Vancouver for those who love jazz and world music. If you're looking for some musical variety, then this is the festival for you. Make sure to get your tickets early if you want to be part of the fun!
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Probably the biggest single festival on the Vancouver live music calendar, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival takes place every year in mid-July. Held at Jericho Beach Park, just a short bus ride from downtown Vancouver, the festival has been running since 1980 and attracts some of the biggest names in folk, world music, and beyond.
Previous performers have included alt-folk hero Bonnie Raitt, world music legends such as Senegal's Youssou N'Dour, and Canada's own indie darlings Feist and Arcade Fire. With around 20 stages spread out across the park, there's plenty of music to enjoy over the course of the weekend, and the relaxed atmosphere makes it a great festival for families too.
This year, the festival features The New Pornographers, Allison Russell, Asleep at the Wheel, and other folk and folk-related acts. This music festival attracts a broad range of performers, meaning it presents a good variety of music to festivalgoers.
Tickets start at $220 for an adult weekend pass. This is one of the most popular music festivals in all of British Columbia, so make sure you get tickets early.
Surrey Fusion Festival
The Fusion Festival is an annual event held in the city of Surrey, just to the south of Vancouver. It's a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity, bringing together people from all different backgrounds under one banner. The festival takes place on 20 different stages, each devoted to a different music genre or type of performance. This year will see the festival take place on July 23-24, featuring everything from jazz to reggae to world music and beyond. All proceeds go towards local causes connected with arts, culture, and community groups.
This year's lineup has yet to be announced, but past headliners have included the Juno Award-winning K'naan as well as Deva Premal & Miten with Manose. Regardless of who performs, the Surrey Fusion Festival is always a great opportunity to enjoy some great live music while supporting a good cause.
Sounds of Summer Music Series
The Sounds of Summer Music Series is a free concert series that takes place every summer in Vancouver. The concerts are held in various parks around the city, and they feature a wide range of musical genres. Past performers have included African drummers, jazz bands, rock groups, and more.
The concerts are usually held on Sundays from early July to late August. This year's lineup features the R&B group The Boom Booms, singer-songwriter JP Hoe, and the gypsy jazz band Caravan World Rhythms.
The Sounds of Summer Music Series is a great way to enjoy some free live music in Vancouver. It's also a great opportunity to explore some of the city's many parks. Concerts are usually held rain or shine, so make sure to dress appropriately and bring along some snacks or a picnic. Whether you're a music lover, foodie, or just enjoy exploring Vancouver's parks, the Sounds of Summer Music Series is an event not to be missed!
Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival
Held in the neighboring municipality of Burnaby just to the east of Vancouver itself, the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is one of the biggest live music events in British Columbia. Held in Deer Lake Park, this celebration is one of the biggest blues festivals in Canada, attracting visitors from across the country and performers from across the world. Taking place this year on August 6, the festival has widened its remit in recent years to include artists you might not normally associate with the blues such as Feist and Dan Mangan. This year's lineup has yet to be confirmed, but you can be confident it will cover a broad cross-section of different artists while preserving its blues-based roots.
North Vancouver Shipyards Festival
Another local neighborhood festival, the North Vancouver Shipyard Festival, takes place in September at the Shipbuilders Square. The festival offers some of the best food trucks in British Columbia with all proceeds going to local causes. Alongside this, you'll find live music from a range of genres. Past performers have included musicians like CBC North By Northwest favorite Will Stroet, local country rockers the Matinée, and the poetic Serena Ryder.
The Shipyard Festival is free to enter and runs from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturday. It's an excellent opportunity to grab some tasty food, listen to great music, and learn about what's going on in this corner of Vancouver.
This year's lineup features Bedouin Soundclash and The Zolas along with lots of local talent. It's a great way to enjoy the end of the British Columbia summer and experience great entertainment while you do it.
Contact Winter Music Festival
Ordinarily, summer is festival season, which is why major events like the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival take place during the warmer months. But in Canada, you need to embrace all four seasons, and the Contact Winter Music Festival helps you do just that. The biggest winter music festival in the country, Contact takes place in BC Place Stadium, home of the city's main sporting events, and generally happens between Christmas and the New Year. This large music festival is devoted to electronic dance music, and brings a little touch of summer music festivals to the depths of the Vancouver winter. This year's lineup has not yet been announced, but it's guaranteed to be the main event of the holiday season and a great way to enjoy some live music at a time of year that's ordinarily quite quiet.
If you're looking for great music festivals in Vancouver, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you love jazz, world music, folk music, or something else entirely, there's bound to be a festival that will appeal to you. So grab your tickets early and get ready for a fantastic summer of live entertainment!
Planning to stay some more days in Vancouver?
Vancouver's music festivals make a great excuse to visit this beautiful city. Whether you're in town for Vancouver Folk Music Festival or to see the roving performers at Khatsahlano Street Fest, you won't have a hard time finding fun things to do in the city outside the festival circuit. After all, surrounded by mountains and endless forests, Vancouver is located in the heart of Canada's outdoor playground, and the best hikes in Vancouver help you explore the great outdoors.
Additionally, Vancouver is home to some excellent museums and great nightlife, so you shouldn't run out of things to do on your trip to British Columbia. If you're wondering how to spend your time in the city, take a look at our guide on how to spend three days in Vancouver, and you'll soon see that the city has something to offer just about everyone. Whether you're in town just for the weekend of the Vancouver Folk Music festival or are spending a little longer in Western Canada, you'll find plenty of other activities that will keep you entertained between festivals.