Where is the best place to watch Vancouver’s Celebration of Light‘s fireworks? Looking for the ultimate guide to viewing locations? Then check out our list!
In 2020 the festival was going to take place on the Saturdays and Wednesday of July 25th, July 29th and August 1st. On April 20th, however, due to concerns about the COVID-19 Virus Pandemic, the event for 2020 was cancelled.
As a result of the above decision, the international fireworks competition won’t now be happening again until 2021, or at least not in its usual format. Organizers of the event say they “are exploring options for a different type of celebration in 2020 and hope to be able to make an announcement very soon.” Fingers crossed that something is still possible!
Best Places to Watch the Fireworks
Free places to watch the Celebration of Light’s fireworks include the following locations:
English Bay Beach | Sunset Beach | Vanier Park | Kitsilano Beach | Jericho Beach | Locarno Beach | Second Beach | Granville Island | Burrard Street Bridge | Granville Street Bridge | Boat in the Water
See below for details about all of the above venue options, or click any of the above links to jump to a specific location.
English Bay Fireworks Viewing Locations
In years when it isn’t cancelled due to pandemics, the Celebration of Light’s fireworks take place in late July and early August on the last two Saturdays and last Wednesday leading up to the BC Day Long Weekend.
In 2019 India competed on July 27th, Canada on July 31st and Croatia on August 3rd. 2020 competitor countries and companies were going to be announced towards the summer, but then the event got cancelled before that could happen. 2020 dates were going to be July 25th, July 29th and August 1st. 2021 dates are to be confirmed.
In years when they do take place, the pyrotechnics blast off from a barge just off English Bay Beach, which is the most popular and crowded place to watch from. The shows are massive though and can be seen from all over the English Bay region.
Fireworks from English Bay Beach
English Bay Beach is the most spectacular place to watch the fireworks from, but it’s also the most crowded. Well over 100,000 people cover every inch of sand on the beach, as well as all the surrounding grassy areas.
If you want to see the fireworks up close and love crowds, then English Bay Beach is one of, if not the best place to be.
Location: 1790 Beach Avenue (in Vancouver’s West End halfway between Stanley Park and Sunset Beach)
Main Advantages of English Bay Beach
- Unless you’re in a boat out on the water, English Bay Beach is the closest you can get to the fireworks.
- The view of the water is amazing, especially if there’s a sunset.
- You’re close to downtown so within walking distance of public transportation, plus there are shops and restaurants in the area as well as food trucks lining the beach on event nights.
- Programmed Radio Z Fest takes place at English Bay on the Bathhouse Roof featuring Canadian artists Langston Francis, Francesco Yates and Ria Mae. The Bathhouse Roof, also known as the Keg Lounge, is wide open and the general public can enjoy the sounds from above, while the Keg Lounge itself is a ticketed area for folk ages 19+.
- Most years there are boats spraying water just off shore as well as an acrobatics airshow by a couple of guys flying Harvard Mark IV and/or Yakovlev 18T airplanes. The airshows take place starting at around 7:45 pm on the two Saturdays. Last year there wasn’t an airshow on the Wednesday, but in 2018 there is, starting at 6:45, and it includes an appearance by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds! The airshows are fun to watch, add to the experience and are best seen from English Bay Beach.
Main Disadvantages of English Bay Beach
- Unless the weather is really poor, there will be over 100,000 other people on the beach with you. That means it can be extra fun and exciting if you don’t mind crowds, but also more competition for public transit on your way home.
Tips & Advice for English Bay Beach
- Arrive early to find a good spot and put down a blanket to save your space.
- Don’t forget about the tide and settle down anywhere near the water’s edge. In 2018 high tide is in the late evening, so just in time for the fireworks!
Fireworks Viewing from Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is just around the corner from English Bay Beach and the views from along the seawall between the two beaches are great for fireworks viewing.
If you plan to watch from English Bay Beach but then get overwhelmed by the crowds or feel claustrophobic, head south along the waterfront. There are still big crowds at Sunset Beach, but they get thinner as you make your way towards the Burrard Street Bridge.
Location: 1204 Beach Avenue (in Vancouver’s West End near the entrance to False Creek)
Main Advantages of Sunset Beach
- The fireworks from Sunset Beach are obviously farther away than from English Bay Beach, but still close enough to be spectacular.
- Because of the smaller crowds and distance from the main event, there’s less post-fireworks competition for public transportation and parking lots within not too unreasonable walking distance.
Tips & Advice for Sunset Beach
- Take a blanket to sit on for the beach, or a lawn chair if you don’t mind lugging it around.
- If planning to sit on the ground or in a chair, choose your spot carefully. If sitting on or near the seawall especially, be warned that people often stand to watch the show. It gets crowded, so just because you arrive early with your chairs, if there’s open space in front of you, there’s a chance that tall people will fill the gap (as there isn’t always much choice as to where to go)!
Pyrotechnic Views from Vanier Park
Vanier Park is another popular venue for watching the fireworks. Tens of thousands of people fill the lawns and pathway along the waterfront, and sometimes there is even live entertainment.
Vanier Park is just a short distance across the water from Sunset Beach at the mouth of False Creek. Consequently, the views are pretty much equally spectacular.
Also taking place at Vanier Park is the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. It runs pretty much every day from early May until near the end of September. On fireworks nights, including those during the Celebration of Light Fireworks events, Bard on the Beach hosts its special Bard BBQ Nights where guests get to enjoy a barbecued dinner, some Shakespearean theatre and an evening of fireworks.
Bard BBQ Night arguably is one of the best ways to enjoy the fireworks anywhere in the greater Vancouver area.
Location: 1000 Chestnut Street (at the entrance to False Creek and across the water from Sunset Beach via the Burrard Street Bridge)
Main Advantages of Vanier Park
- The waterfront area around Vanier Park is one of the closest places to watch the fireworks from, next to English Bay Beach and the western section of Sunset Beach.
- Vanier Park is more accessible than most other venues for transportation in a number of ways, despite not being close to a SkyTrain station. First, it’s connected by the False Creek Seawall so easy to get to and from by bicycle from various locations. Second, there is paid parking in the area (and maybe even an empty space or two if you arrive early and make a day out of your trip). Third, it’s at the edge of Kitsilano, so faster to get out of than venues like Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Locarno after the show if heading east or north to get home.
- The fireworks aren’t as close as if you were at English Bay Beach, but the views are still spectacular. The pyrotechnics are not that far away, plus you get the Vancouver skyline to enjoy too.
Tips & Advice for Vanier Park
- If you like Shakespearean theatre, then consider attending the Bard-B-Q event at Bard on the Beach. For between around $100 and $150 you can enjoy an early evening play, outdoor BBQ dinner, live entertainment and the fireworks. The fireworks are somewhat in the distance, but the event is exceptional and often sells out.
- In the area are the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Maritime Museum and Museum of Vancouver, all of which can be interesting places to visit if arriving early. All are open until 5 pm and you can explore all three if you want with a Vanier Park Explore Pass for between $35 and $41 (plus taxes).
- If you have a bicycle and bike rack (or don’t mind a long walk), you can park towards Granville Island or on a road further east or south and then cycle or walk back to your car once the fireworks are done. Wherever you park though, think about the direction you’ll want your car to be facing and think about accessibility to intersections with traffic lights. Post-fireworks congestion can be insane, so a bit of parking forethought can be valuable (assuming you have any choice).
Fireworks Displays from Kitsilano
The fireworks from Kitsilano Beach can be amazing. Tens of thousands of people turn up there for the Celebration of Lights, but it’s a big place. The beach and shoreline stretches from close to Vanier Park all the way past Kitsilano’s giant outdoor swimming pool. Unlike some venues, the fireworks are visible from all over.
Location: 1499 Arbutus Street (in Kitsilano just west of Vanier Park)
Main Advantages of Kitsilano Beach
- Kitsilano is a spectacular beach. Things to do before the fireworks include going for a swim in either the ocean or outdoor pool, playing or watching beach volleyball, taking kids you’re with to the playground, and just plain hanging out at the beach.
Main Disadvantages of Kitsilano Beach
- Parking can be a challenge. Take public transit if you can, but be prepared for long lineups for the bus afterwards.
- Post-fireworks traffic can be a nightmare, but at least not as bad as some other venues depending on where you have to get to (i.e., Jericho and Locarno beaches can be even worse if heading east after the show).
Tips & Advice for Kitsilano Beach
- Check out the Showboat Stage. Evening performances take place at the Kitsilano Showboat stage near the outdoor pool on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings from mid-June until mid-August starting at 7 pm. There are benches to sit on, the view of the fireworks is good, and you get to enjoy the free live entertainment while you wait.
- Watch out for the tide! Don’t settle down anywhere near the shoreline on any of the evenings in 2018. If you do you’ll need to get up and find somewhere else (likely after all the other best spots get filled up) because the tide will be rising from early evening until late at night.
- Take a picnic or make dinner reservations. Arrive early to get a good spot and improve your chances of finding parking that’s not overly-ridiculously far away. You’ll want to plan for food though. A picnic is a great idea (although you’ll need to carry it in with you). There are also a number of great restaurants in the area, or further up the way on West Broadway. There will be thousands of people looking for food, however, so if there’s a special place you want to eat at then make advanced reservations if they let you.
- Take your swimsuit, sunscreen, hat, blanket and beach toys! Kitsilano is an amazing beach. Enjoy all it has to offer, in addition to the fireworks! That being said, in 2018 the water around the beach is reportedly not very clean!
Fireworks Viewing from Jericho Beach
Jericho is another exceptional beach. There are grassy lawns, a huge sandy beach and a few trails to explore.
The main eastern section of the beach is beautiful, but views of the fireworks are blocked by the marina at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. The views are okay though from the far western end of Jericho Beach.
Location: 3941 Point Grey Road (about halfway between Kitsilano and the University of British Columbia)
Main Advantages of Jericho Beach
- Jericho Beach is a beautiful place to spend time on any sunny summer day (or evening).
- The venue is less crowded than other major venues including Kitsilano, Vanier Park, Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach.
- The fireworks are quite a ways in the distance, but that’s made up for by the spectacular night view of the city lights.
Main Disadvantages of Jericho Beach
- Unless you live in the area or somewhere around Point Grey, Jericho Beach is a bit out of the way. That’s not normally a problem, but it can be when you have to drive along 4th Avenue or West Broadway to get home when tens of thousands of people from other venues are on the road at the same time.
- The fireworks are pretty far in the distance.
- Visibility is poor at the main beach area, but gets better the further west you go.
Tips & Advice for Jericho Beach
- Spend the day at the main part of Jericho Beach, but head far over to the west end around fireworks time to limit the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s marina affecting your view. Or better yet, head a tiny bit further west, to Locarno Beach on the other side of the Jericho Sailing Centre. From the Jericho Pier the view is excellent.
- If you live in the Point Grey area, or around UBC, then Jericho Beach is a fabulous venue. If you have to drive east along Marine Drive, 4th Avenue or West Broadway to get home afterwards though, you might want to think again. When we were there a couple of years ago post-fireworks traffic was so bad we pulled over and slept in our car for an hour until the roads cleared.
Pyrotechnic Views from Locarno Beach
Locarno Beach is just past the eastern end of Jericho Beach, so the views are pretty similar to those at Jericho Beach (although without the yacht club in the way). Locarno too is a stunning beach with miles of sand, especially at low tide.
Unless the tide is out and you can walk way out on the sand (which isn’t the case in 2018), the place to see the fireworks is from Jericho Pier at the easternmost tip of Locarno Beach. It’s not a large pier, but if you get there early enough you’ll find a space to watch from.
Location: 4445 NW Marine Drive (just west of Jericho Beach and the Jericho Sailing Centre)
Advantages & Disadvantages of Locarno Beach
The main advantages and disadvantages for Locarno Beach are the same as they are for Jericho Beach (as listed above). Essentially (1) the venue is stunning, (2) the city and fireworks are pretty but in the distance, and (3) traffic can be a nightmare if you have to pass through the Kitsilano area to get home.
Tips & Advice for Locarno Beach
- Head south before east when driving home! If you have to go east through Kitsilano to get home after the show, then drive a ways south first, well past 4th Avenue, before turning east. Tens of thousands of people will have been watching the pyrotechnics from Jericho Beach, Kitsilano Beach and Vanier Park, so post-fireworks traffic along West 4th Avenue and West Broadway will be terrible.
- Arrive early. Jericho pier is the place to watch from, and it isn’t large. Get there by at least around 8:30 and you’ll have a good chance of finding a place to see from. Arrive just before the fireworks though and the pier will likely be full.
- Watch the tide schedule. The tide will be coming in on all three nights in 2018. On Saturday, July 28th high tide is predicted to be around 8:15pm, so wet seating may free up as the evening progresses after 8:15-ish (but bring a chair or waterproof blanket). On August 1st and 4th, however, high tide is at 10:08pm and 11:42pm respectively – so don’t settle in too close to the waterline as it will keep moving up the beach.
Fireworks Displays from Second Beach
Since a couple of years ago, Second Beach in Stanley Park is the new venue for the daytime festivities during the Celebration of Lights on all three days of the festival.
Views of the fireworks from Second Beach are pretty good. They are about as close as they are from Kitsilano Beach to the south, or possibly even closer.
The fireworks barge is so far out in the water from English Bay Beach that it’s actually not so far from Second Beach and easy to see from a long stretch of the seawall. The barge faces English Bay Beach though, so is perpendicular to Second Beach. Consequently, when the fireworks make a smiley face, heart or other shape, sometimes all you see from Second Beach is a line. The view though is still overall pretty impressive.
The main attraction at Second Beach during the Celebration of Lights is the FREE daytime entertainment. Bands play from mid-afternoon until well into the evening.
Also at Second Beach on all three days of the Celebration of Lights festival is the Honda Zone. At the Honda Zone little kids can enjoy the bouncy castle, and everyone can have a FREE popsicle (or at least that is the case most years.)
RE/MAX is also usually a sponsor of the Family Zone, right beside the Second Beach Playground and Pool, where your little ones can enjoy the games, face painting and other family fun from 2 o’clock onwards.
The live music and festivities at Second Beach run from 2:00 until 9:00-ish pm, so it’s perfect for pre-fireworks fun!
Location: 8501 Stanley Park Drive (on the southwestern shore of Stanley Park between Third Beach and English Bay)
Main Advantages of Second Beach
- Of all fireworks-viewing venues, Second Beach has the most live entertainment and extra things to do before the show.
- The Second Beach location offers the most kid-friendly activities, making it an especially good place for young families.
- In Ceperley Meadow – the field by Second Beach where the festival activities and free concerts take place – there is usually beer and wine for sale! You can’t take your beverage to the beach, but you can walk around a fair bit and enjoy a nice refreshing cold one while enjoying the live music.
Main Disadvantages of Second Beach
- There isn’t a ton of space at Second Beach to actually see the fireworks. The grounds at Second Beach are huge, but the main fireworks-viewing area is the strip of waterfront along the seawall, the beach and outside the outer edges of the pool; not much of anything is visible from the large grassy field.
- Parking in the area is near impossible.
Tips & Advice for Second Beach
- Arrive early, well before the entertainment begins, if you hope to find parking anywhere even remotely nearby.
- Consider parking elsewhere in Stanley Park, like somewhere along Pipeline Road in the middle of the park, and then plan to walk or cycle to Second Beach. It’s a bit of a trek, but it’s a beautiful route and exiting the park by car afterwards might be easier. Arguably even better, and closer, there is usually lots of parking at Third Beach (not in front of the Teahouse Restaurant, but in the larger parking lot just to the right/north of the restaurant).
- If you want to see the fireworks up close, watch them from English Bay. If you want to see the fireworks and the Vancouver skyline, watch them from someplace like Vanier Park or Kitsilano. If you want great free and family-friendly entertainment before the fireworks, then Stanley Park’s Second Beach is the place to be!
- Second Beach can be a surprisingly uncrowded place to watch the fireworks from. Yes, there are lots of people, but not like most other venues.
- If you walk about 5 or 10 minutes along the seawall (in the direction away from English Bay), there are more good places to watch the fireworks from, including spots where you can see more of the downtown city lights than you can from Second Beach. It’s a nice area to watch from, and not so far from Third Beach (which, again, can be a good place to park your car).
Celebration of Lights from Granville Island
Granville Island is a wonderful place in the summer, and it’s not a bad place to watch the fireworks from either.
Granville Island isn’t really known as a fireworks venue, which means it doesn’t usually get crowded. Granted, the view is obstructed somewhat by the Burrard Street Bridge, but the venue does have a number of advantages.
Location: 1669 Johnston Street (on the south side of False Creek under the Granville Street Bridge)
Main Advantages of Granville Island
- The Burrard Street Bridge might obstruct the view of the fireworks a bit, but it also makes for a fabulous scene itself. The night time view of Vancouver from the waterfront at Granville Island is stunning any evening, but especially when there are fireworks not too far away.
- Granville Island is full of restaurants, theatres and other things to do, plus it’s connected to other places in the region by the False Creek Seawall.
Main Disadvantages of Granville Island
- The views of the city and Burrard Street Bridge are incredible, but the fireworks are obstructed somewhat by the bridge. They are largely visible though and still very pretty.
- There aren’t many people around at the waterfront on Granville Island at 10:30 pm. There are some, but not a huge number (at least not when we’ve been). This can make it very pleasant, but not necessarily so if you’re on your own and need to walk back to your car. Fortunately though it’s generally a fairly safe part of town.
Tips & Advice for Granville Island
- The best place to watch the fireworks from is at the waterfront outside the Public Market, so from the northernmost tip of Granville Island. You can watch from just outside the market, or from down below on the docks. If on the docks, however, it’s dark so be careful and don’t fall in!
- Spend the day at Granville Island and then just stick around for the fireworks. Go for a bike ride during the day or early evening, explore the False Creek Seawall, take in some theatre or enjoy a nice dinner while you’re there.
Fireworks from the Burrard Street Bridge
The west side of the Burrard Street Bridge is an amazing place to watch the Celebration of Lights fireworks from. It’s close to the heart of the action, although also a bit out of the way as you need to walk to get there.
The bridge isn’t a huge venue to watch the fireworks from as it’s an active bridge with car traffic – spectators simply have to line the sidewalk on the western side for the view. The night time scenery from the Burrard Street Bridge is exceptional however, especially when there’s an evening sunset and then later fireworks in the sky.
Location: just south of the 1400 block of Burrard Street and crossing False Creek between Vanier Park and the southern tip of Sunset Beach)
Main Advantages of the Burrard Street Bridge
- The view of English Bay, the sunset, boats in the water, the city at night and the fireworks are all amazing!
- You’re close enough to English Bay for a spectacular view of the fireworks, but far enough away to avoid most of the crowds.
Main Disadvantages of the Burrard Street Bridge
- You need to arrive early to get a good view, but there isn’t a whole lot to do while you wait (except admire the view, play on your phone and chat with your friends).
Tips & Advice for the Burrard Bridge
- Arrive early to get a spot near the railing.
- Take your camera (and your tripod). The view is stunning!
- Hold onto your stuff! When we were there a few years ago we accidentally dropped a piece of our camera tripod. It bounced on the ground for a few feet and then plunged into the water far below, never to be seen again!
Pyrotechnic Viewing from the Granville Street Bridge
Similar to the Burrard Street Bridge, the view of the pyrotechnic displays from the west side of the Granville Street Bridge are exceptional.
Advantages & Disadvantages of the Granville Street Bridge
The main advantages and disadvantages of the Granville Street Bridge venue are pretty much the same as from Burrard Street Bridge.
The main differences are that (1) the fireworks are slightly farther away, (2) the Burrard Street Bridge blocks some of the view of the fireworks, and (3) the view of the Burrard Street Bridge with fireworks in the background is beautiful.
Watching the Fireworks from the Water
Not everyone has access to a boat, but those that do and can watch the fireworks from the water arguably have the best seats in the region.
Hundreds of people watch the Celebration of Lights fireworks from the comfort of a boat. Sometimes it’s their boat or that of a friend, and sometimes it’s a special charter like on one of Vancouver’s Harbour Cruises.
Main Advantages of Viewing from a Boat
- The view of the fireworks and the city can be second to none!
- The water can get crowded with boats, but nothing compared to the crowds of people on land.
- Traffic on the water can be bad, but, again, nothing like the post-fireworks traffic on the roads.
Tips & Advice for Viewing from a Boat
- If you get a chance to watch from a boat, do it!
- Take something warm to wear as it can get cold out on the water.
General Fireworks Tips & Advice
- Have patience when traveling home. The roads and public transit will both be packed and moving at a snail’s pace.
- Beware of the bridges! Downtown bridges can be a nightmare to cross after the fireworks. If you have to get to downtown Vancouver or somewhere north of False Creek after the show, it’s wise to watch from somewhere north of False Creek (like at English Bay or Sunset Beach). Likewise, if home or your hotel is somewhere south of False Creek, it’s best to watch from somewhere like Vanier Park so you don’t have to cross a bridge from downtown.
- Watch from close to home if you can. The absolute best place to watch the fireworks is from somewhere close to your home or hotel. If you can walk home after the fireworks are finished, you’ll be in bed an hour or more earlier than people who drive or take public transit.
- Either plan a quick getaway or hang around and relax after the show. If you don’t mind staying up really late, unless you can make a quick escape and beat the traffic, don’t be in a rush to get home. Consider going for walk, visiting a late-night restaurant, chatting with your friends or playing on your phone for an hour or so after the show while you wait for the traffic chaos to die down.
- Take appropriate clothing. Take a sweater or something extra to wear. Early evenings can be warm, but it can get cool as night progresses. Also, take good walking shoes. Sandy beaches are great for flip flops, so take them too, but expect to have to walk a fair ways to and from your car or public transit.
- Choose a distant venue if you have respiratory issues. Pyrotechnics generate a lot of smoke, and the Celebration of Light fireworks are big and go for a long time. The smoke isn’t generally a problem, and dust and debris, if any, falls mostly on the water. Occasionally, however, depending on the wind, smoke can drift ashore, so over the beaches and into town. If you have serious allergies or respiratory concerns, you’ll be far less likely to smell smoke at Locarno Beach than at English Bay Beach or other venues closer to the fireworks barge. That all depends though on the direction of the wind.
Fireworks Locations Video
The following video showcases the top places to watch the fireworks as well as spend the day leading up to the show.
For more information about the pre-BC Day Long weekend fireworks, click Honda Celebration of Light.
For fireworks at other times of the year, click Vancouver Fireworks.
For a list of other major events in the Lower Mainland throughout the year, click Festivals & Events.