The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival is a three-day series of dragon boat races and festivities at False Creek. It usually takes place in June.
The 2021 festival was originally cancelled in June. However, the event ended up taking place later in the year, from September 18th to 26th.
In 2023 the races take place on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of June 23rd to 25th.
Dragon Boat Races and Festival at False Creek
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 festival’s regular 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.
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 COVID-19.
The event returned in 2021 after getting postponed initially, and ran from September 18th to 26th. 2022 dates for the event were June 24th to 26th, and in 2023 they are from June 23rd to 25th.
In years that the event takes place normally, on the Saturday and Sunday the dragon boat races start at around 8:00 am and continue for much of each day, the beer garden opens at 10:00 am, and the live entertainment on The Peak Main Stage also starts at around 10:00 am.
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 usually 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 in 2022
Below was the lineup for the festival’s Main Stage at the 2022 festival. 2023 entertainment will likely be comparable.
Saturday, June 25th, 2022
- Qing Yun Music Ensemble – at 11:00 am
- Eagle Song Dancers – 12:00 pm
- AHSIA – at 1:00 pm
- Ludic – at 2:00 pm
- Dacey – at 3:00 pm
- Children of Takaya – at 4:00 pm
- Mauvey– at 5:00 pm
- Hotel Mira – at 6:00 pm
- The Zolas – at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 26th, 2022
- Coastal Wolf Pack – at 11:30 am
- Desiree Dawson – at 1:00 pm
- Tonye Aganaba – at 2:00 pm
- Best Night Ever – at 3:00 pm
- COCO JAFRO – at 4:00 pm
- Nina Mendoza – at 5:00 pm
Other Events in 2022
Along with the races there were other interesting things to check out over the weekend of the festival last year. There were two different cultural pavilions, one Chinese and one Indigenous. They offered art displays, various demonstrations and ways to learn more about their cultures.
As well, there was a display of the original teak Dragon Boat that was used at Expo 86. It was one of the boats that helped bring dragon boat racing more into the mainstream in Canada and the display included plenty of information on the history of the sport here in Vancouver.
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 6:00 pm until 9:30 pm on Sunday.
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 $1,500 to $2,000 for local adult teams and from $1,100 to $1,500 for visiting teams, all plus GST. Junior participant teams are usually free and there is also no cost for spectators.
Dragon Boat Video
For a good idea of what the festival part of the event looks like, check out the video below. It shows scenes of the festival’s main venue on land in 2022. The boat races took place in the waters of False Creek nearby.
As you’ll see in the video, in addition to the boat races, at the festival there is live music, a beer garden and lots of vendor stalls. Performing on the Main Stage in this video is the band Coco Jafro.
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions to help you make the most 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