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.
MOST EVENTS CANCELLED IN 2020
Starting in mid-March, 2020, most public events in the Lower Mainland were cancelled due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Restaurants either closed or offered only take-out and delivery in the early spring. Bars and night clubs closed, and festivals and events were either cancelled or postponed.
Because of the coronavirus, no major Cinco de Mayo celebrations happened in 2020. People just had to drink their Corona beers and tequila at home last year (but of course only in moderation). Hopefully more will be possible on May 5th in 2021 (although exact details are to be determined).
To learn more about how the pandemic is affecting businesses and events in the Lower Mainland see our article about Vancouver, COVID-19 and Event Cancellations.
Vancouver Cinco de Mayo Celebrations
May 5th in 2021 takes place on a Wednesday. A few Mexican-themed events scheduled for the day or following weekend most years are the following:
- Cinco De Mayo at TLCC – family-friendly Cinco de Mayo activities take place most years on May 5th at the Trout Lake Community Centre between noon and 3:00 pm. Admission is free but advanced registration is recommended. (CANCELLED for 2020.)
- Cinco de Mayo Pub Night Cruise – Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours in New Westminster usually offer adults ages 19+ a three-hour cruise with Samba, Mambo, Salsa and Merengue DJ music, plus Mexican and Central American food and drink specials. The trip went from 7:00 to 10:00 pm in 2019. (CANCELLED for 2020.)
- Cinco de Mayo Latin Cruises – the Mexican fiesta on the water ran from 7:00 until 11:00 pm on May 4th in 2019 with the boat leaving from 750 Pacific Boulevard in False Creek. The cost was between around $39 and $82 and included a choice of either a light or full buffet. (CANCELLED for 2020.)
Other Non-Mexican Events
Some other events that took place on the May 5th weekend in 2019 (but that aren’t Mexican or Cinco de Mayo-related included the following). None of these events took place in their normal capacity in 2020 due to COVID-19. Details are to be confirmed for 2021.
- 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 weekend closest to May 5th. In 2020 the event was scheduled to happen at the Shipyards in North Vancouver on Saturday, May 2nd. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the event instead took place online last year.
- BMO Marathon – a major running event in Vancouver was going to happen on Sunday, May 3rd, in 2020. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, it too was cancelled.
In past years there was also a big Mexican-themed event 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 that used to take place at Concord Pacific Place in early July but now happens in 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).