The Best of Summer in Vancouver

Vancouver shines throughout the summer months as the city fills to bursting with visitors, cruise passengers en route to Alaska, and language school students. There are festivals and celebrations to suit all kinds of travelers, from the cultural Bard on the Beach, to the gloriously hedonistic Fair at the PNE, to the hugely popular fireworks festival, The Celebration of Light. It’s a time to enjoy beautiful wild nature in and around the city, to get out on the water, and to stay up late...

A popular hangout, Kits Beach—as the locals call it—faces English Bay, and in the summertime it buzzes with beach activities. Volleyball players and Frisbee tossers mingle with sun worshippers, windsurfers and skim boarders. For sand-free dips and swimming lessons, there’s a heated saltwater pool that’s open when weather permits. Also in the vicinity is the Boathouse Restaurant, which serves peel-and-eat shrimp, tasty chowders and fresh grilled fish on a patio with panoramic views.
Go full monty at North America’s largest nude stretch of sand. Adjacent to the University of British Columbia, Wreck Beach sits on traditional Musqueam land, wrapping around the western edge of the Point Grey headland in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. In high season, this unspoiled spot averages 12,000 to 14,000 visitors daily, making it Canada’s busiest beach. With almost five miles of coastline, however, there’s usually plenty of room to spread out. Everyone’s welcome, clothed or not, as long as they’re accepting of naturism and respectful. Watch for eagles, kingfishers, and Vancouver’s largest heronry, then swing by Vendors Row (below Trail Six) for snacks and crafts.
Beach Ave, Vancouver, BC V6C 3C1, Canada
See the sky over English Bay explode with color for the Honda Celebration of Light, a three-night firework contest which takes place on a barge moored in the waters beyond the sandy beachfront. The competition attracts huge crowds of around 1.4 million visitors each year, and draws competitors from around the world, including big names China and Spain. Entry is free, but you’ll need to get there early to stake a good spot. There’s entertainment with live bands beforehand, a great festival atmosphere and plenty of food trucks, beach games and barbecues to keep everybody happy.
Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4, Canada
One of my favourite events in the Vancouver summer calendar is when the nights get long and warm, and the open air cinemas roll out. There’s nothing better than curling up on a blanket in Stanley Park with hundreds of like-minded movie fans waiting for the sun to set and the movie to start. These are free events and always incredibly well-attended on dry summer nights. Head there early, take a picnic, score a good spot and enjoy the pre-show of people watching.
8341-8351 River Road
From mid-May through early October, an Asian-inspired street market springs up in the Lower Mainland on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights—and holiday Mondays, too. Just steps from the Canada Line’s Bridgeport station, the market also offers more than 1,000 free parking spots. Adventurous eaters can graze from 100-plus food stalls, serving everything from poutine and spiral-cut “potato tornado” on a stick to creamy octopus takoyaki (a circular-shaped Japanese snack). Finish with Mango Yummy’s shaved ice desserts or a box of Dragon Beard candy—similar to floss halva and spun sugar—to take home. Then, shop over 200 retail stalls or hit the carnival rides and live entertainment.
Public Market, 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canada
This former industrial site is a one-stop shopping spot for last-minute souvenirs. Weave in and out of the countless alleys and stalls; among the art galleries, toy shops, crafts stores, farmers market and waterfront restaurants, you’re likely to find something tasty to sample or so unique that you have to bring it home.
1154 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B2, Canada
There’s no better place than Vancouver to try a Vancouver cocktail, it’s the perfect pre-dinner sharpener, although it works rather well as an after-dinner treat too. It’s said to have been created at the Sylvia Hotel down on English Bay in the 1950s and its fans included Errol Flynn. It’s a riff on the Martinez, made of gin, Benedictine, sweet Vermouth and orange bitters. Although the Sylvia is, of course, the most authentic place to try it, I have to recommend you make for the all-weather patio at Cin Cin to sip bartender David Wolowidnyk’s version which is smooth, delicious, and really far too good to just have one...
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