Cinco de Mayo isn’t an official major event in Canada, but that doesn’t stop Vancouver folk from celebrating the Mexican holiday on or around May 5th.
Many local pubs and restaurants, especially Mexican and Latin American ones, go all out with their promotions.
Vancouver Cinco de Mayo Celebrations
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, no major Cinco de Mayo celebrations happened in 2020. Not a lot was possible on May 5th in 2021 either. A fair bit happened last year, and even more is happening in 2023.
One event that is happening this year is the Cinco de Mayo Boat Party. It’s a Mexican-themed nightclub-style event on the vessel The Abitibi which departs from False Creek. Hosted by Vancouver Boat Parties, the event takes place in 2023 on Friday, May 5th.
Another fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year is by going to the Commodore Ballroom on May 5th. There’s a special Lucha Libre Wrestling event with fast-paced Mexican wrestling, tacos and a performance by Mariachi Los Dorados.
Although not Mexican-themed, a beer-related event that also happens on May 5th this year is the Search for the Perfect Pint which is a fundraising event for the Port Moody Rotary Club. It’s actually one of the Lower Mainland’s best craft beer festivals. The Royal Canadian International Circus is also in Surrey, at Guildford Town Centre, on May 5th (and on May 4th, 6th and 7th too), and the Art Vancouver International Art Fair is at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
All of the above events are highly recommended (but for very different crowds).
Other Non-Mexican Events
Some other events that take place on the May 5th weekend in 2023 (but that aren’t Mexican or Cinco de Mayo-related) include those listed below.
- Art Vancouver – a prestigious international art fair at the Vancouver Convention Centre starts on May 4th and the continues until May 7th.
- CityFest – a youth-focused festival in North Vancouver featuring live music and the region’s biggest skateboarding competition. It’s not a Mexican-themed event, granted. Rather, it’s just a great youth-focused event that happens to take place on the Saturday closest to May 5th (which in 2023 is May 6th.)
- Royal Canadian International Circus – in 2023 the hugely popular circus has shows in Surrey (May 4th to 7th), Vancouver (May 11th to 14th) and Richmond (May 18th to 22nd). (TIP: If you use the promo code VANSBESTPLACES you can get 2-for-1 pricing on general admission!)
- Search for the Perfect Pint – a beer-themed fundraising event in Port Moody on May 5th in 2023.
- Sweet Spring – flowers and family-friendly activities at Greendale Acres Farm in Chilliwack.
- Abbotsford Tulip Festival – fields of colourful tulips at Lakeland Flowers in Chilliwack.
- Chilliwack Tulip Festival – another large tulip festival in the Fraser Valley.
There was also a big Mexican-themed event in previous years at Robson Square. To our knowledge, 2017 was its last year and it no longer takes place.
What is Cinco de Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day – that’s on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day, on May 5th, 1862, when the Mexican army defeated the French army at the Battle of Puebla.
Today Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico (especially in the state of Puebla), extensively in the United States and to a lesser degree around the world, including here in Vancouver.
Latin American Restaurants
Being the cosmopolitan city that it is, Vancouver is home to lots of great Mexican and Latin American restaurants (many of which help their patrons celebrate Cinco de Mayo during the first week of May each year).
A few good Mexican establishments include the following:
- La Mezcaleria – with locations at both 1622 Commercial Drive and 68 East Cordova (in Gastown), open Tuesday to Sunday and specializing in small batch tequilas and mezcal.
- Las Margaritas – a restaurant in Kitsilano at 1999 West 4th Avenue that serves good Baja and California-style Mexican food.
- The Mexican Antojitos y Cantina – at 1049 Granville Street in the heart of Vancouver’s main entertainment district.
Click Latin American Restaurants for a list of other great restaurants.
For other Latin American-themed events at different times of the year, check out the following:
- Carnaval del Sol – a major Latin American festival in Vancouver in July or August.
- Fiesta Mexicana – a free Mexican festival that used to take place at the Roundhouse in Yaletown at 181 Roundhouse Mews in September but, in years since 2017, as Market Mexico at Robson Square (although that too may no longer be happening).
For other kinds of events, check out Vancouver’s Festivals & Events Calendar or May Calendar of Events.