The bulk of British Columbia festivals may take place in summer, but all four seasons offer a fair share of fun events in this pleasant province. The Okanagan Valley brings in the New Year with its winter Icewine Festival, which now includes over 40 events during its four-day May Spring Festival. The festive season culminates with the 10-day October Fall Festival, which includes more than 110 events. Vancouver’s June Dragon Boat Festival ranks among North America’s biggest such festival, and its Victoria counterpart isn’t far behind.
Cariboo Cross-Country Ski Marathon
Each February, cross-country skiers from across the globe descend upon the world’s self-proclaimed Nordic skiing capital, 100 Mile House. Racers zoom down the 125 mile cross-country network or admire the world’s biggest cross-country ski set in front of the 100 Mile House visitor center.
Pacific Rim Whale Festival
Each year between March and April, Vancouver Island’s west coast sees the annual northern migration of no fewer than 21,000 gray whales from Mexico. Visitors can witness the magnificent creatures as they swim close to shore in search of food in the shallow waters. Both Ucluelet and Tofino offer chartered whale watching boat tours and various education programs describe how these gray whales were successfully rescued from extinction.
The Okanagan Valley may be most famous for its wineries, but each April beer lovers get their chance to sample over 70 different locally produced brews at one of British Columbia’s biggest beer festivals. Visitors can enjoy delicious food and fun entertainment along with their suds.
Nanaimo Marine Festival
A world famous bathtub race is the most unique event at the largest festival in Vancouver Island’s second biggest city, which takes place at the end of July. The most serious bathtub race competitors equip their ‘tubbers’ with outboard motors before traversing more than 77 miles across the Georgia Strait.
Kamloopa Pow Wow
Each August, central British Columbia’s Secwepemc nation celebrates its proud heritage with traditional clothing, music, dancing, and storytelling during one of western Canada’s biggest First Nations celebrations. This three-day festival takes place just a two minutes’ drive from central Kamloops, at the Secwepemc Pow Wow Grounds, along the scenic banks of the South Thompson River.
The Bulkley Valley Exhibition
Each year in late August more than 20,000 people come to the town of Smithers to enjoy northern British Columbia’s biggest exhibition, which kicks off with an exciting parade. A wild cow milking contest, bull riding, and steer wrestling are all part of the exhibition’s officially sanctioned rodeo. Visitors can also see horse, dog, and livestock shows or enjoy the midway fairground’s amusement rides.
Pacific National Exhibition
Vancouver’s largest exhibition spans 17 days between the middle of August and Labor Day at Hastings Park. Fireworks explode over the city during each night, and each day is filled with amusement park rides at Playland, shops, a series of live concerts by famous artists, and the annual PNE Prize Home lottery.
Victoria Classic Boat Festival
Each Labor Day weekend in British Columbia, at least 100 power boats and sailing ships dock in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. All plank-on-frame vessels constructed before 1956 and newer boats built upon designs dated before 1956 are welcome at this celebration of heritage boats. The Sunday morning Sailpast provides the best opportunity for visitors to see these beautiful vessels, which are eligible to win up to 30 awards.
Vancouver International Fringe Festival
The 11-day September Fringe festival was established to celebrate all sorts of theater performances in affordable and accessible venues throughout Vancouver. Over 100 theater companies come from around the world to showcase their talents at more than 500 shows held on eight different outdoor and indoor stages. More unusual Fringe venues include cars, bathrooms, and street corners. The Fringe Bar hosts live musical performances and lively conversations each night.