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The Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver

Are you looking for some real excitement this summer? You will literally not find more bang for your buck than the Annual Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This annual musical fireworks competition is the largest and most prestigious offshore fireworks contest in the world.

Each year three teams compete on separate nights. The winners from the previous five years have been: China, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Canada again in 2015. All three shows over beautiful English Bay begin at 10:00 p.m.

Teams are scored by a panel of judges on their general concept, which includes presentation and scale; their variety and choice of color; their originality in design and architecture; their quality of production, including the rhythm, volume of effects, and quality of construction; and their correlation of music, including music choice, synchronization with fireworks effects, and adaptation of mood. For the first time, viewers will also have an opportunity to weigh in by casting votes for their favorite team.

SHOREfest, sponsored by SHORE 104 radio, has partnered with the Honda Celebration of Light for several years. Prior to each of the three pyrotechnic performances, SHOREfest presents the biggest names from the Canadian music scene on two stages; one in the Sunset Beach Festival area and the other on the Bathhouse Roof of English Bar. The largest free community concert series of Vancouver starts at 5 p.m. on both Saturdays and 6 p.m. before the Wednesday pyrotechnics.

Viewing the Fireworks Competition

Visitors have lots of options for viewing the three pyrotechnic shows. Probably one of the best places to watch the fireworks shows is from the reserved bleacher seating on the YVR Observation Deck behind the beach in English Bay. For $49, you can purchase a ticket for either the no alcohol section or for the regular seating where both beer and wine are sold until 9:30 p.m. Seating opens at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are by advance purchase only.

Another great option is the Keg Lounge located on the Bathhouse Roof. The $179, VIP ticket includes two complimentary welcome drinks, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and the Grill Station, pre-show live music, and VIP seating for panoramic views of English Bay and the pyrotechnics shows, plus a fireworks soundtrack simulcast. This event typically sells out, so you will want to purchase tickets in advance. If you would like an even closer view, you can watch from the water; several boat and yacht services offer pyrotechnic show packages.

Free Places to Watch the Fireworks

There are many places to watch the Celebration of Light for free, and your choice depends upon if you enjoy being in the heart of the action or on the quieter periphery. You can join nearly 300,000 others and view the shows from English Bay Beach. This is by far the most popular viewing location with plenty of food venders and bathroom facilities. It is not advisable to drive to this location, particularly if you are a visitor and unfamiliar with the area. Several streets will be blocked off; it is better to take public transit, bike, or walk.

Vanier Park is another good location for a close view of the shows. It is right across the water from English Bay Beach, so it will also be crowded quickly. Go early to stake out your spot, and you really do need to use public transit here. Kitsilano (aka. Kits) Beach, next to Vanier Park, is another good spot. To get away from the crowds a little, walk past English Bay Beach to Stanley Park. You will have a fantastic view from the park's seawall facing English Bay.

You can rent a canoe or kayak in English Bay, but you are advised to stay near shore to avoid the 1000 boats in the bay; you will also need navigation lights to legally operate during the fireworks. There is another option at Dundarave Pier; it is a bit farther away in West Vancouver. Still, you will have a beautiful view from there and you will be away from the biggest crowds, which may be preferable if you are traveling with children. Of course, you will sacrifice the energy of the event you came to see.

A final, and less exciting option is to watch the fireworks shows from the comfort of your hotel. All of the accommodations at Sandman Hotel on Davie Street are suites; many are ocean facing, and they have a viewing point for the event. On Denman Street, Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites is another good choice. There are more West End hotels that have viewing points as well, but rooms fill up quickly for the Celebration of Light. This might be a good option for someone in your group who would have difficulty navigating the crowds, but would still love the opportunity to see this epic pyrotechnic competition.

Honda Celebration of Light Festival Tips:

  • Download the festival map to get an idea of where everything is before you leave home.
  • Download the Honda Celebration of Light app to your mobile for SHOREfest artist schedules, an interactive festival map, and a way to vote for your favorite pyrotechnic team.
  • If you take the Skytrain, Canada Line, or bus service to the festival, be sure to buy your return ticket when you disembark to avoid long ticket lines after the show.
  • If you rent a bicycle and bike to the festival, check it at the Bike Valet near the stage in the Sunset Beach Festival area for safety; opens at 6 p.m. show nights.
  • Bring a beach towel/blanket/chair, sunscreen, possibly compact rain gear, and a Smartphone to listen to the fireworks soundtrack online.
  • Get tickets for YVR Observation Deck and/or The Keg Lounge quickly, if you want them; they sell out.
  • Prepare to take some awesome pics.

Tips on Taking Photos of Fireworks

Other Things to Do in Vancouver

Chinatown Vancouver is the second largest Chinatown in the western hemisphere, behind San Francisco. If you have time to explore this cultural gem, stay for lunch, then take a stroll through the stunning Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It was named a world top city garden by National Geographic.

See Vancouver's most popular sites on this 4-hour sightseeing tour.

Gastown, the historic district of Vancouver, is the oldest neighborhood in the city and has been completely revitalized. A favorite among urban professionals, Gastown is one of the most popular areas for Vancouver nightlife. Try The Irish Heather, Incendio, or Gastown Gamble for a fabulous dinner. Walk along the picturesque cobblestone streets and check out the Gastown Steam Clock.

Capilano Suspension Bridge is a nature-lovers must-see attraction on a visit to Vancouver. It has a dramatic span of 450 feet across the Capilano River, which rushes by 230 feet below. It is located in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park at 3735 Capilano Road, twenty minutes north of Vancouver. Free shuttles run from downtown hotels to the park.

Experience Vancouver's beautiful surroundings on a guided North Shore tour.

Remember you will need a passport to travel to Canada. If you do not have one, you can still get an expedited passport before the Celebration of Light begins. Also, keep in mind that if you have had a DUI within the last ten years, you will not be able to enter Canada without special permission.

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