So you want to see some fireworks, hey?First off, it’s going to be crowded. You’ve been warned. If you still insist on seeing the fireworks live, then read on.Here’s what you need to know about watching the Honda Celebration of Light in downtown Vancouver this summer.Map
Here’s a handy map for navigating the 2019 Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver, B.C.
When are the fireworks? Who’s competing this year?In 2019, the Celebration of Light will take place over three nights:• Saturday, July 27: India: Amir Morani Fireworks• Wednesday, July 31: Canada: Firemaster Productions Inc.• Saturday, Aug. 3: Croatia: Mirnovec FireworksThe fireworks begin around 10 p.m. each night, with the winning team being announced on Aug. 6.Where do the fireworks take place and how can I watch them?The fireworks are set off from a barge located in English Bay, with the show visible from several vantage points in and around the West End, Kitsilano and some spots along the downtown Vancouver False Creek area.Your best bet will always be to transit, walk or cycle. TransLink will be offering more frequent service, modified routes and extended hours for buses, SkyTrains and SeaBus. You can find all that information here.Some viewing points are more crowded than others, and some are easier to access than others. Take your pick.English Bay BeachThis is by far the busiest spot from which to watch the fireworks but also where many of the official festivities take place, including music stages, the Pete McLeod airshow, the judges, VIP seating and official Celebration of Light PA system where the fireworks soundtrack will be broadcast.For a good view, you’ll need to park yourself on the beach early in the day with a beach blanket to wait for the show. The buzz is undeniable but be warned — it will be crowded and could be a challenge meeting up with friends close to showtime. The exit afterward is usually slow-moving as well.Crowded? Very. VERY.Food? Great West End selection nearby or pack your own. Food trucks will be parked along the beach.Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.Best way to get there? Take transit downtown and then walk from central downtown into the West End; it’s a 20- to 40-minute walk, depending on where you start from.Cycling in along the seawall is good too — there will be complimentary bike valets set up from 6 p.m. onwards along the beach, though leaving with a bike could be a challenge if crowds take over the pathways.Don’t bother trying to drive — it’s usually a nightmare unless you park far away from the beach, and nearby roads shut down beginning at 7 p.m.Second BeachThis is a partially obstructed view of the fireworks but that also means it’s a bit less crowded than English Bay Beach. A good spot if you’re exploring Stanley Park before hunkering down at Second Beach to watch the fireworks.The Second Beach Stage will host official festival entertainment, as well as other family-friendly activities nearby. A site-wide liquor licence means you’ll be able to enjoy a cold brew at this venue.Crowded? Bearable.Food? Food trucks will be parked nearby but your best bet is to pack some food and snacks since restaurants aren’t within walking distance.Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.Best way to get there? Take transit downtown early in the day and walk into Stanley Park. Cycling would work well too since the beach is located on an easy riding route. You could drive into Stanley Park, but be mindful of parking fees and the lots will likely fill up quickly.Kitsilano / Vanier PointThis is a great alternative if you want the atmosphere but don’t want to be trapped downtown, or if you’ve got kids and want to keep out of the downtown fray. There’s both sand and grass, as well as some benches if you’re lucky enough to snag one.You’ll be able to see the fireworks happening downtown, though there usually aren’t any loudspeakers broadcasting the show’s soundtrack. For that, you’ll have to bring your own radio to tune into LG 104.3 FM or a smartphone equipped with the festival’s mobile app to play the simulcast.Crowded? Yes.Food? There are a few restaurants and bars nearby and will likely be some food trucks, but your best bet is to pack a picnic.Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.Best way to get there? Take transit along Broadway or West 4th and get off between Burrard and Arbutus, then walk about 20 minutes down to the beach.Cycling is also a good bet, but driving will be a challenge. If you plan to bring a car, you’ll have to park in the nearby residential area and walk in. Nearby road access shuts down at 6 p.m. and reopens around 11 p.m.What else is there at the Celebration of Light Festival?Before the fireworks, there is live music and entertainment throughout the afternoon.The Park Stage at Second Beach will host live music beginning at 2:15 p.m. and wrapping just after 9 p.m., while the Z-Fest Stage at English Bay will have music beginning at 7 p.m. and ending around 9:30 p.m. To see the full lineup of bands expected on each day of the festival, click here.There’s also the Honda Zone at English Bay from 2 to 6:30 p.m., where family-friendly activities will take place along with the Pete McLeod Airshow above the English Bay Beach at 7:45 p.m.As for food, there is no shortage of food trucks that will be located near English Bay Beach and Second Beach as part of the festival. Those who prefer a less crowded experience can purchase dining packages. There are VIP lounges offering live music, food and drinks if you’re so inclined.
Crowds gathered for the fireworks display from team USA Disney at the Honda Celebration of Light at English Bay, Vancouver, July 30, 2016.
Gerry Kahrmann /
What’s with the tickets? I thought the festival was free?The Celebration of Light is free to watch, but those who prefer can buy a ticket for a dining package. The package includes food and drinks through a partner restaurant and a seat in the VIP section during the show. There are several packages:The Keg Steakhouse + Bar Lounge: This ticket gets you into the party on top of English Bay’s Bathhouse Roof beginning at 6:30 p.m. and is 19+ only. There’s music, panoramic views of the beach, live music, two complimentary drinks and access to a private bar, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and grill station and VIP washroom facilities. Tickets are $159 and up.Concord Lounge: This ticket puts you into an exclusive sectioned-off area of English Bay near the Inukshuk sculpture. It’s the closest viewing spot and your ticket includes live music, two complimentary drinks and a private bar, a BBQ and VIP washrooms. Tickets start at $169 with reserved tables starting at $209.YVR Observation Deck: This ticket does not include complimentary food or drinks but does get you a reserved seat in the VIP viewing bleachers, access to dedicated washroom facilities and an all-ages licensed area. Tickets are $44 and up. There is a cash bar available as well as alcohol-free zones by request.Air Canada Business Class Cabanas: If you’re rolling in with a big crew, then this spot is for you. Private cabanas complete with complimentary appetizer platters and bar service; dedicated washroom facilities and bar access are available for rent, allowing you to host up to 24 of your friends and colleagues.What should I bring and what should I leave at home?You should definitely bring:• Radio or smartphone with Celebration of Light app to broadcast fireworks soundtrack.• Beach blanket to mark your territory and some cushions/seat mats for comfort.• Water, food and snacks.• Sunscreen and bug repellant — when it gets dark and you’re watching the show, it’s a bug’s feast.• Playing cards or a book to pass the time while waiting for the show.• If you plan to take videos or photo, you’ll want a good camera for low-light settings and a small tripod.You should definitely not bring:• Alcohol — you can be sure police will be on the lookout.• Lawn chairs — heavy to carry in and out and you’ll likely obstruct someone’s view.• Beach umbrella — the idea of having shade is great but an umbrella is a challenge in a firstname.lastname@example.org/stephanie_ip
Pyrotechnicians prepare launch tubes onboard a barge moored in English Bayin anticipation of India’s fireworks show which will kick off the 2019 Festival of Light on Saturday.
Jason Payne /