In case you’ve been living under a rock, this Saturday (July 1) marks 150 years of Canadian Confederation. (For those who were asleep during high-school social studies, it’s the anniversary of the day Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united. The remaining provinces and territories would join later, though the sesquicentennial does not include the thousands of years that Canada’s indigenous populations have called the land home.)
As a result, Metro Vancouver is taking its Canada Day celebrations up a few notches with an array of long-weekend fetes that feature everything from silent dance parties and sky-high ziplines to performances by Canuck celebs and, of course, plenty of fireworks.
Ahead, we highlight some of our favourites with a handy out-of-five-maple-syrup-bottles rating for each (five indicating peak Canadian-ness), so you can nail down your patriotic party of choice. All events are free, unless otherwise noted.
Canada Day Silent Disco
(June 30 from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Vancouver Art Gallery)
Reasons to revel: Despite being huge in Europe, silent discos have been slow to take off in North America—which is, in our opinion, a travesty. While the format typically involves partygoers dancing in a tent with radio-controlled headsets given out at the door, the organizers of this event have gone DIY, creating a central DJ mix for every attendee to download. Inviting everyone to press Play on their device at the same time, the silent disco allows the crowd to be mobile and exuberant, without pissing off any downtown residents. Thrown by Party4Health, a company that aims to create events so engaging that attendees need not drink at them, the evening is both family-friendly and good clean fun.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Ditching the alcohol and giving out free maple-syrup shots instead, the event wholeheartedly deserves five maple-syrup bottles.
Canada Day on Granville Island
(July 1 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Granville Island)
Reasons to revel: Celebrations for the big 150 don’t get more varied than at this B.C. attraction, where you’ll find a bevy of all-ages activities spread across the site. Craft your own moose hat or beaver puppet, take in performances by groups like the Jen Hodge All Stars as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and chow down on red-and-white treats at Lee’s Donuts, Muffin Granny, and more. A handful of stores and markets open as early as 8 a.m., though many of the festivities kick off at noon. The annual Canada Day parade begins at 1:30 p.m.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Four-and-a-half maple-syrup bottles for the inclusion of First Nations artists such as the Spakwus Slolem (Eagle Song Dancers), V’ni Dansi’s Louis Riel Métis Dancers, and Tsatsu Stalqaya (Coastal Wolf Pack), all of whom will present routines during the afternoon.
Canada Day at Canada Place
(July 1 from 9:45 a.m. to 10:50 p.m. and July 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 999 Canada Place)
Reasons to revel: This is the biggest Canada Day celebration outside of Ottawa and will take place over a two-day period this year. There’s a reason why it’s an award-winning event—it brings the community together with plenty of music, activities, and a highly anticipated Canada Day fireworks display. Check out the kids’ zone, an interactive exhibit by the Canadian Armed Forces, a pancake breakfast, and performances by the Sam Roberts Band, Madeline Merlo, Hey Ocean!, Jackie Chan, and more.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Five maple-syrup bottles, because this extravaganza culminates with its Canada 150 parade on Sunday (July 2) at 5 p.m. The free community parade (starting at West Georgia and Broughton streets) will feature more than 60 entries and can guarantee plenty of excitement for the entire gang.
Richmond Canada Day
(July 1 from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Steveston Village)
Reasons to revel: The City of Richmond’s newest Canada Day celebration will be a free full-day street party. This festival will be hosted in partnership with the Steveston Salmon Festival, which is famous for its barbecue that features over 500 kilos of wild salmon. Its main attractions include food trucks and carnival games, as well as fireworks over the Fraser River. Entertainers include Japanese drumming group Tetsu Taiko, Vancouver band Youngblood, and yo-yo master Harrison Lee.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Four maple-syrup bottles, because Juno-winning Canadian indie-rock band Wintersleep has been invited to perform as the headliner at this family-friendly event.
Surrey Canada Day
(July 1 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre)
Reasons to revel: This sprawling, multifaceted fete in the ’burbs makes a compelling case for partying outside Vancouver’s downtown core. Among the attractions will be amusement rides, autograph-signing sessions with Canuck celebs, maple-cookie-making stations for the tots, and a new 83-metre zipline that allows attendees to fly high above the revelry. A fireworks show caps off the night at 10:30 p.m.
Canada-O-Meter rating: An all-Canadian live-music lineup that includes B.C. natives Hedley and Toronto-based pop-reggae band Magic earns this shindig five delicious maple-syrup bottles. First Nations dancers and troupes such as VanCity Bhangra, Aché Brasil, and the Vancouver chapter of the world’s largest Bollywood dance academy, the Shiamak Dance Team, will also take the stage.
Canada Day on Robson Street
(July 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Robson Street, between Burrard and Denman and on the south ends of Bute, Jervis, and Cardero streets)
Reasons to revel: Spearheaded by the Robson Street and West End BIAs, this multiblock celebration features an outdoor art installation and the launch of a pedestrian plaza complete with tables, chairs, and a community piano on Bute Street. Select retailers on Robson will also be offering special promotions and giveaways for attendees who are feeling spendy.
Canada-O-Meter rating: A charity ball-hockey tournament, bison cooked up by Canadian gastropub Timber, and maple-flavoured cupcakes get this event a solid three maple-syrup bottles.
Canada Day in New West
(July 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Queen’s Park Bandshell)
Reasons to revel: The first formally recognized city in Western Canada, New Westminster is doing it big for the nation’s 150th with a jam-packed roster of performers that includes B.C. singer-songwriter Olivia Penalva, the New Westminster Community Choir, and local rock band City Walls. Attendees will also be able to shop and discover resident talents at the farmers and artisan markets.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Four maple-syrup bottles for the community-oriented entertainment line-up and the Canada 150 mosaic that will be unveiled during the event.
YVR Food Fest's Canada Day Cookout
(July 1 from noon to 8 p.m. at 215 West 1st Avenue)
Reasons to revel: If you love nothing more than a hearty outdoor barbecue, then this epic Austin-style feast is for you. YVR Food Fest is hosting this barbecue party for the first time, and guests will be able to enjoy beers, bands, DJs, and, most importantly, good food. Participating companies that will be providing the drinks and eats include the Flying Pig, Nuba, Relish Gourmet Burgers, Smoke Shack 99, and Johnny’s Pops. The musical lineup will feature singer-songwriter Jessicka, pop-punk artists Supermoon, and tropical-indie-pop band Leisure Club. Tickets are $10 to $59 at the YVR Food Fest website.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Three maple-syrup bottles, because people will likely be donning red-and-white attire, have temporary Canadian-flag tattoos on their faces, and burst out humming “O Canada” at one point or another when they aren’t too busy chowing down on the grub.
Canada Day Block Party
(July 1 from noon to 2 a.m. at the Waldorf Hotel)
Reasons to revel: The Waldorf has been hosting a Canada Day block party for five years—which means that they’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art. Running for 14 hours (yes, you read that right), the event focuses on food, drink, and music. Good Company Lager will be in charge of quenching thirsts in the afternoon sun, and $2 hot dogs, beef burgers, and veggie patties will be gently smoking on the grill all day long. The real heart of the event, though, is the lineup of 22 performers, who will be playing tunes all over the venue, from the parking lot to the indoor stages. Big-name draws include the Swiss-born electronic-music producer Cyril Hahn—who has amassed 458,000 SoundCloud followers—indie-rock trio Walter TV (whose members include half of Mac DeMarco’s band), and local celebrity DJ Mat the Alien. $20 tickets are up for grabs at the Canada Day Block Party website.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Given that nearly all the artists carry a Canadian passport, we’ll give it four maple-syrup bottles.
(July 1 from noon to 7 p.m. at Thornton Park)
Reasons to revel: If booze-fuelled nationalism isn’t quite your thing, hang out with a quiet, peaceful bunch at the annual Cannabis Day protest. Sponsors have moved this year’s smoke-out from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the much more accommodating Thornton Park for an afternoon of smoking, sampling, and celebrating. Billed as both a protest against Canada’s century-long war on cannabis users and a celebration of the plant, it might just be the last time you get to smoke weed illegally on Canada Day before the feds finally legalize.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Four maple-syrup bottles for modified Canadian flags, live music by local bands, a cannabis farmers market, and the homecoming of Canada’s prince and princess of pot, Marc and Jodie Emery, from Toronto. Bonus points for moving to an accessible area, and for standing up to the man in the face of continued dispensary raids and cannabis-related arrests. (We’re looking at you, JT.)
Canada Day at Waterfront Park
(July 1 from noon to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at 200 West Esplanade, North Vancouver)
Reasons to revel: Celebrate Canada’s 150th on the North Shore by attending this free festival that will be packed with music, activities, and food. There will be performances by Tiller’s Folly, Apollo’s Crush, the Squamish Ocean Canoe Family, the Eire Born Irish Dance Company, and others. Food trucks, a balloon artist, a clown, a Celtic violin player, a mural artist, and a Hula-Hoop instructor will also be on-site to keep eventgoers entertained. Kids can check out everything from the inflatable park to mini-golf to a rock-climbing wall.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Three maple-syrup bottles for its Canada 150 evening event that will feature a free concert (with a tribute to Fleetwood Mac), a beer garden showcasing Red Truck Brewing, and a stellar view of the Canada Day fireworks.
Canada Day in Coquitlam
(July 1 from noon to 10:30 p.m. at Town Centre Park)
Reasons to revel: This suburban Canada Day celebration has grown from a small festival into a full-day party that always attracts people from neighbouring cities. Expect to enjoy live music at the plaza stage, indulge in gourmet food down Eat Street (think Japadog, Rocky Point Ice Cream, Blend Bubble Tea), give back to others in the on-site Community Drive, or check out Adventure Park with the kids. Performing will be Coastal Sound Children’s Choir, Mazacote, professional drumming group Uzume Taiko, the Giggle Dam Band, and more.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Five maple-syrup bottles, because Duh Canada Guys—stilt sensations with a hockey twist—will be roaming around the festival. It doesn’t get any more Canadian than that.
Twisted Canada Day 150 Yacht Party
(July 1 from 2 to 5:30 p.m.; boarding at 750 Pacific Boulevard)
Reasons to revel: Chances are you don’t own a 128-foot yacht on which to enjoy the Canada Day sunshine—but that shouldn’t make you give up on the dream. Twisted Productions has chartered the Queen of Diamonds, a 400-capacity vessel with two large interior decks and a massive sun deck, ready to fill it with—in their words—beats, babes, and brews. Behind the turntables will be six local DJs blasting tropical, deep, and future house, pumping up the crowds as the boat motors through Burrard Inlet and English Bay. Picture the vibe of the Tomorrowland festival packed conveniently onto a bobbing barge. Tickets are $55 at the Twisted website.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Considering that nine percent of Canada is covered in water and you’ll be out on a boat, we think the trip is reasonably patriotic. Two maple-syrup bottles.
Canada Day 150th Birthday BBQ
(July 1 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Junction, 1138 Davie Street)
Reasons to revel: In true Davie Street style, LGBT individuals are spoiled for choice this Canada Day, but for those who want to give back to the community as well as celebrate, the Junction’s event stands out. Hosted by the Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—an order of modern-day queer nuns dedicated to providing a safe space for all genders, sexual orientations, and spiritual traditions—the barbecue is sure to promote colour, costumes, and queens. Serving a hot meal straight from the grill, the event invites partygoers to indulge in a burger and cocktail for $10, with the proceeds to be given to a number of the Sisters’ supported charities. Past causes include societies working to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and supporting those who are homeless.
Canada-O-Meter rating: As inclusivity and diversity are two of Canada’s most important values, we’ll give the event a solid three maple-syrup bottles.
Canada Day in Burnaby
(July 1 from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at Swangard Stadium)
Reasons to revel: In addition to Canada Day, the city of Burnaby will be toasting its 125th birthday with a host of fun and games and appearances by local band Sideone, African dance-and-drum ensemble Kokoma, and Juno nominee Will Stroet. Plus, the double whammy of a party doesn’t kick off until the evening, so you won’t be roasting under the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
Canada-O-Meter rating: Three-and-a-half maple-syrup bottles for locking down headliner and former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page.