The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival is a 3-day series of dragon boat races and festivities at False Creek. In 2019 it takes place June 21-23.
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 2018 Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival takes place from Friday, June 21, until Sunday, June 23.
On the Saturday and Sunday the dragon boat races start most years at around 8 am and continue for most of each day, the beer garden opens at 11 am, and the live entertainment on the World Beat Stage also starts at 11 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.
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.
Dragon Boat Festival Activities
The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival starts on the Friday evening of June 21stwith an opening ceremony and BBQ followed by an outdoor concert.
At the festival there is a beer garden, food vendors, marketplace, Family Zone with kids’ a ctivities, 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 Main Stage in 2018 is listed below. The 2019 lineup will be similar.
Friday, June 22, 2018
- Awakening of the Dragons: Boat Blessing and Eye Dotting Ceremony – at 3 pm
- Big Coast – at 4 pm
- Rio Samaya – at 5:30 pm
Saturday, June 23, 2018
- Los Tambores – at 11 am
- Grooveport – at 12:30 pm
- Stephanie Pedraza Band – at 3 pm
- Orquestra Tabaska – at 4:30 pm
- Rumba Calzada – at 6 pm
Sunday, June 24, 2018
- The Winston Trio – at 11 am
- Blackberry Wood – at 12:30 pm
- Paul Filek – at 2 pm
- Medal Ceremonies – at 3 pm
- The Palomars – at 6 pm
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 World Beat 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.
Competitions of particular interest are the feature races. On Friday there are the Survivor Showdown and Barrier Free Canada Cup races in the evening. On Saturday there are the International Cup, Grand Dragon’s Cup and Breast Cancer Survivor Race, and then the Guts & Glory Women’s. Sunday’s main featured race is usually the Guts & Glory 2 km endurance co-ed race.
For dragon boat racing participants, entry fees range from about $1100 to $2000 for local adult teams and from $930 to $1300 for visiting teams, all plus GST. Junior participant teams are free and there is also no cost for spectators.
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.