The Vancouver Fringe Festival is one of the most extraordinary and popular events in the British Columbia calendar. Each year, tens of thousands of people flock to this Canadian city to experience what's dubbed "the best art festival in BC."
Perhaps the festival's popularity has much to do with its equal-opportunity lottery policy for artists. Everything imaginable is on display, from performing artists to street performances, bands to visual arts, and mimes to comics. Some of it's rather out there, too!
Excited to get going? I'm here to guide you through everything you need to know about the Vancouver Fringe Festival, including where and when it's held! Plus, what to do and see in B.C.'s busiest city.
What Is a Fringe Festival?
You may be reading this article and wondering, "what in the world is a Fringe Festival?"
The concept of fringe festivals began in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the famous Edinburgh International Festival was held. Due to reported elitism, artists who weren't part of it decided to run their own "fringe" festival on the side.
These "unofficial" art showcases took place in basements and empty buildings on the "fringe" of the official festival. Hence the name "fringe festival." Today, fringe festivals are just as popular as the official versions.
Globally, over 200+ fringe festivals take place each year. In fact, there are 20+ held in Canada alone, including the Vancouver Fringe Festival!
Each year, artists submit their names to a lottery for a chance to participate. From novices to professionals, mostly conventional to totally unconventional, all types of creatives are welcome. With such a wide range, fringe festivals always feature something for everyone to enjoy.
When is the Vancouver Fringe Festival?
The Vancouver Fringe Festival has been operating since the 1980s and is now an annual event. Ir generally takes place each September for around a fortnight. For 2023, the projected festival dates are Thursday, 7 September, to Saturday, 16 September.
As the festival occurs at the end of summer, it's still warm enough to enjoy all the sights. Take a Vancouver Gastown food tour to familiarize your taste buds with the local cuisine. Or take a city tour to see the local landmarks.
Where is the Vancouver Fringe Festival Held?
The Vancouver Fringe Festival is held annually on Granville Island and around the city. However, it's not held at one specific venue but at a variety of smaller venues around the area. The exact locations vary from year to year, depending on the festival's needs.
False Creek Gym, The Nest, Ron Basford Park, and The Cultch are a handful of venues used in the past. As such, seating ranges from around 50 seats up to a few hundred. Formatting of the seating depends on the type of venue the artist requests and what is available.
Check out the official Vancouver Fringe Festival website to get accurate information on dates and venues.
Events at the Vancouver Fringe Festival
As with most fringe festivals, the Vancouver Fringe Festival runs off the mission of "theater for everyone," resulting in a mix of acts. Some shows are family-friendly, while a few are more violent or packed with adult material.
Other shows are poetic, intellectual, silly, or just flat-out WEIRD. That's the beauty of fringe festivals, and nothing is off-limits! That being said, the acts in the Vancouver Fringe Festival can be loosely broken up into four different categories: theater, dance, comedy, and music.
To give you an idea of what kinds of shows there are, here are a couple of highlights from past Vancouver Fringe Festivals.
Cabaret of Murder
It's true that Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Dennis Radar are all notorious serial killers. But what else do they have in common? ART! The Cabaret of Murder improv group told the story of the art created by some of the most prolific serial killers of all time. No, really!
Blueberries Are Assh*les
A seasoned Vancouver Fringe Festival performer, TJ Dawes performed stand-up comedy on a variety of topics from the English language, the human body, and food culture. Come on, haven't you ever wondered why we all just accept the fact that you must say "bless you" whenever someone sneezes?
Discounted HotPot Center
The Discounted HotPot Center group told seriously funny stories of what it's like to be a Hong Kong immigrant in Canada. Most intriguingly, these tales were accompanied by live cooking demonstrations! Naturally, coming hungry to this show was an awful idea.
Things to Do Near Vancouver's Fringe Festival
The Vancouver Fringe Festival is held in British Columbia, one of the most beautiful provinces in all of Canada. Besides the festival, there is so much else to do and explore here!
Just a ferry ride away from Vancouver is the beautiful town of Tofino, the perfect escape for camping, surfing, and bonfires during sunset. Check out our guide on spontaneous Tofino trips to plan your trip.
Another stunning place to visit while in Vancouver is the beautiful garden city of Victoria. A tour of the Butchart Gardens is particularly delightful. All the sights here will make you feel like you've been transported from Canada to an idyllic European town!
If you're looking for ideas, there are a lot included in this Victoria, BC, weekend getaway guide. With so much to see and do in Victoria and around the island, you should definitely consider doing some planning ahead of time.
If you want to explore more festivals and different parts of Canada, check out the Osheaga Music Festival. Usually held at the end of July, it's the ideal kick-off to the Vancouver Fringe Festival!
Buying Vancouver Fringe Festival Tickets: Tips & Tricks
First-timers at the Vancouver Fringe Festival may have difficulty figuring out all the ins and outs of buying tickets. Here are some tips to make sure you get tickets for all the most thrilling shows at the festival!
Tickets Pricing & Info
The fantastic thing about the Vancouver Fringe Festival is that the ticket prices are affordable, making this one-of-a-kind festival accessible to everyone. Generally, tickets cost $15 per show.
All tickets are also electronic, so it's recommended that you buy them ahead of time to get into the show you want. Every day of the festival, select shows are discounted to "half-price shows," meaning you can get tickets for 50% off. $7.50 for a live theater show is a steal of a deal!
Each show comes with a festival guide that explains to you what it's about and the audiences for which it's suitable. Some shows are rated "family-friendly," while others are rated "18+" or "intense." Using this guide will ensure you make the best choice and have a blast at the festival.
Frequent Fringer Passes
For those festival goers who're mega theater-obsessed, purchasing a "Frequent Fringer Pass" is a must. These multi-buy passes allow you to buy tickets in bulk and go to multiple shows. Overall, a much cheaper option than just buying the tickets individually.
Multi-buy passes come in groups of 5, 10, and 25 shows, offering savings of up to 18%. So, you end up seeing much more for much less. If you're interested, make sure to buy a pass ahead of time, though, as they always sell out!
You can also buy a "Friends of Vancouver Fringe" membership for a set annual fee, which includes free membership, a big ticket discount, and more perks.
Fringe Membership Card
In addition, to show tickets, each Fringe Festival attendee must sign up for a Fringe Membership. Membership costs $10 per person, and they tie that person and whichever shows are bought on it together. The Vancouver Fringe Society sells these memberships to offset the costs of the festival.
The membership sales allow the performers to keep all the money they make from ticket sales to their shows. So just know that the money is well-spent. Yes, it's an extraordinary way to support these wonderful artists!
Other Fringe Festivals
Worried about missing out on the Vancouver Fringe Festival? The good news is that hundreds of fringe festivals take place across the world each year!
Toronto, Calgary, Montréal, Ottawa, Victoria, and more cities all hold one over the summer periods. Though dates generally differ per festival, from early July to late September.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest and oldest Fringe Festival in the world. Other popular options include The Edmonton Fringe Festival, the Rochester Fringe Festival, and the Perth Fringe Festival.
Take your pick of international fringe festivals, as they happen in areas from Africa to Europe, Asia to the Americas, and the Pacific to the Middle East. Wherever you are in the world, there's a fringe festival for you! Did you know you can even register to start your own?
Is the Vancouver Fringe Festival Worth It?
If you love the performing arts, then Vancouver Fringe Festival is certainly worth it. The tickets are affordable, the acts are varied, and there's always something new and exciting afoot. What more could you ask for?
Get Planning With Pilot!
Now you know all the ins and outs of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, as well as some helpful tips. Suppose you're considering visiting Vancouver and British Columbia before or after the festival. In that case, you'll want to use Pilot to help make the most of your trip!