The Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade, also known as the Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade, takes place on the Sunday after the Lunar New Year.
Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade
In 2020 Chinese New Year’s Day was on Saturday, January 25th, and the parade was on Sunday, January 26th. In 2021 the dates are February 12th and 14th respectively.
The event takes place in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown each year and it’s a sight to see!
For information about other Chinese and Lunar New Year celebrations around the same time, click Chinese New Year in the Lower Mainland. Or, for details specifically about events in Vancouver’s Chinatown area, click Chinese New Year in Downtown Vancouver.
Where does the Chinese New Year Parade Happen?
The parade takes place in Chinatown and begins by the Millennium Gate. Parade participants, floats and bands start around Taylor Street and Shanghai Alley. They then make their way along East Pender Street, then Gore Street and then Keefer Street before finishing at around Keefer and Abbott.
The Millennium gate is located outside the International Village Mall which is located at 88 West Pender and where additional festivities take place all that weekend. The parade finishes on the other side of the International Village Mall near the T&T Supermarket which is located across the street from the mall at 179 Keefer Place.
How Long is Vancouver’s Chinese New Year Parade?
The Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade is a relatively short parade in distance, by Vancouver standards, but one of the city’s longer ones with respect to time. It runs for about 1.3 kilometres and lasts for between two and two and a half hours.
For comparison, the Pride Parade in August runs for about 1.5 hours and stretches approximately 2.4 km from start to finish. The Vancouver Halloween Parade in October, meanwhile, lasts for less than an hour and covers close to 2.4 km in distance. And the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade in December is a 90-minute procession with a 2-kilometre route.
The 1.3-km-long Chinese New Year Parade route starts at the Millennium Gate on Pender Street (between Shanghai Alley and Taylor Street), proceeds east along Pender Street, turns south onto Gore Street, turns west onto Keefer Street and then disperses on Keefer at Abbott.
What is Vancouver’s Chinese New Year Parade Like?
The Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade is impressive. It’s a massive parade that attracts up to a hundred thousand spectators and close to six dozen parade entries. In the parade itself are as many as 3000 participants including people on floats, in marching bands, walking in costume, drumming on drums, shooting off fire crackers, handing out swag and waving from cars.
Expect to see gazillions of people at the parade – especially if the weather is good – and expect to hear lots of noise. The sidewalks along Pender, Gore and Keefer are packed full of people. The sounds of drums fill the air. It’s a pretty fun and exciting event (unless you are claustrophobic or get stuck at the back of the crowd and can’t see anything).
What Else is there at the Chinatown Spring Festival?
The parade is the main reason why people flock to Chinatown on the Sunday after the Lunar New Year, but that’s not the only thing to see. There are also free festivities at the International Village Mall all weekend, and a Temple Fair event at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden with admission by donation on the same day as the parade.
In addition to the other above events, after the parade there is Lion Dancing in the streets. As soon as the parade finishes many spectators rush to the nearby mall or garden, hoping to get there before the rest of the crowds. Others rush to their cars, busses or nearby SkyTrain station, again in hopes of beating the crowds and gridlocked traffic in their attempts to get home. Others though stick around for the post-parade show!
The entertainment doesn’t end when the parade finishes. If you hang around for a while after you’ll see the Lion Dancing. Listen for the drumming and look out for the crowd and you’ll find them.
A tradition at Chinese New Year is for a team of dancers and drummers to do a Lion Dance performance where they dance in the street, visit area merchants, eat offerings of lettuce and bless the businesses. It’s fun to watch and worth sticking around for.
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions to help you make the most out of your Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade experience.
TIP #1: The crowds along the parade route can get pretty thick. If you’re short, have young children or hope to set up a chair, you’ll want to arrive as much as an hour before the start of the parade to claim a prime spot at the edge of the sidewalk.
TIP #2: Stick around at the end of the parade to watch the Lion Dancing.
TIP #3: If you don’t like crowds, don’t go to the parade! And if you’re already there and want to escape, but not go too far, head to the International Village Mall or Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden. They are both insanely busy after the parade too, but quieter while the parade is still going on compared to later in the afternoon.
For more details about what else to see and do in downtown Vancouver, see our Vancouver Chinese New Year article. For information about events in other parts of the Lower Mainland, click Chinese New Year Activities.
For more information about the parade see the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver website.