The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival is a 3-day series of dragon boat races and festivities at False Creek. It usually takes place in June.
Dragon Boat Races and Festival
The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival includes dragon boat racing, live music and other entertainment. You have to pay to race, but the races and other activities are free to watch.
Where and When
The 2020 Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival was going to take place in June like it usually does, but it was postponed and then eventually cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully the festival can happen again in 2021.
In years that the event takes place, on the Saturday and Sunday the dragon boat races start at around 8 am and continue for much of each day, the beer garden opens at 10 am, and the live entertainment on The Peak Main Stage also starts at around 10 o’clock.
The festival venue stretches along the eastern tip of False Creek, from Concord Pacific Place to Creekside Park by Science World. There are also good vantage points for watching the races around Vancouver’s Olympic Village on the south side of the water.
Dragon Boat Festival Activities
The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival usually starts on the Friday evening with an opening ceremony and barbecue followed by an outdoor concert.
At the festival there is a beer garden, food vendors, marketplace, Family Zone with kids’ activities, circus performers and a couple of stages featuring live music. There is also of course lots of dragon boat racing in the waters of False Creek.
Live entertainment on the festival’s The Peak Main Stage in 2019 is listed below. 2021 details will likely be similar.
Friday, June 21, 2019 (All Access Friday)
- Awakening of the Dragons: Boat Blessing and Eye Dotting Ceremony – at 5:00 pm
- Buckman Coe – at 6:30 pm
- Jill Barber – at 8:00 pm
Saturday, June 22, 2019 (International Saturday)
- Eastern Strings Chinese Music Ensemble – at 10:15 am
- Alexandria Maillot – at 11:30 am
- Tourist Company – at 1:00 pm
- Schwey – at 2:30 pm
- Little Destroyer – at 4:00 pm
- k-os – at 5:30 pm
- Yukon Blonde – at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 23, 2019 (Championship Sunday)
- Beat Spirit – at 10:00 am
- Stephanie Pedraza Flamenco – at 11:00 am
- Silk Road – at 12:30 pm
- Los Duendes – at 2:00 pm
- Award Ceremonies – at 2:00 pm (on the Concord Community Stage)
- Salsahall Collective – at 3:30 pm
- Coco Jafro – at 5:00 pm
- Mai Tai Friday – at 6:15 pm
The False Creek Stage also usually features various forms of live entertainment from 11 am to 5 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Acts include musicians, science experiments, juggling duos, Taiko drumming and circus entertainment.
The Community Stage features exciting entertainment like acrobats, jugglers and more. In 2019 this stage had performances from 11 am to 5 pm on the Saturday and 11 am to 3 pm on the Sunday.
The Dragon Boater After Party
In addition to the above listed weekend entertainment and festivities, most years there is also a “Paddlers’ Party” after-party at the venue for paddlers, volunteers and supporters from around 6 until 9:30 on the Sunday evening.
The Paddlers’ Party usually takes place at The Peak Main Stage Plaza at Concord Pacific Place and Creekside Park, so around the northeast corner of False Creek. It’s free for dragon boat competition participants and their supporters, but not open to the general public.
Dragon Boat Races
Dragon boat races run in the afternoons on both the Saturday and Sunday. There are also a couple of races on the Friday evening when the event takes place on a Friday.
Competitions of particular interest are the feature races. On the Friday there is the Survivor Showdown race in the evening. On the Saturday there are the International Cup, U24 Cup, Senior’s Cup and the Breast Cancer Survivor Cup. Sunday’s races usually include various divisions, such as the Junior Mixed, Premier Women’s, and the Premier Mixed, plus of course, the main featured race – the Guts & Glory 2 km endurance co-ed race.
For dragon boat racing participants, entry fees in the past have ranged from about $1500 to $2000 for local adult teams and from $1100 to $1500 for visiting teams, all plus GST. Junior participant teams are usually free and there is also no cost for spectators.
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions to help you make the most out of your Dragon Boat race-viewing experience.
GENERAL TIP: Take public transit if you can – the Science World SkyTrain Station is right by the festival venue. Cycling to the event is also a great option, depending on where you’re coming from. The False Creek Seawall is a fabulous cycling route and connects with everything from Kitsilano to English Bay, and even to Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.
PHOTO TIP: As the sun is somewhere in the southeast, south or southwest for most of the day, if it’s sunny then the best place for photos of the races will likely be on the south side of False Creek.
The Olympic Village side of the water, on the south side, is also a more attractive area than around Concord Pacific Place, and it’s also where you’ll find restaurants and pubs, like the Tap & Barrel. Concord Pacific Place on the north side of the water, mind you, is where most of the land festivities and entertainment are based.
For more information on the event, see the Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival website. And if you like dragon boat festivals, also check out the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival in Steveston Village in August.
For major events at other times of the year in Vancouver, check out the Festivals and Events Calendar.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Events in June
- Vancouver Festivals and Events
- Lower Mainland Summer Activities
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Outdoor Recreation in Vancouver
- Boating in the Lower Mainland