Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fireworks, 1st night: Canada

Tonight is the first night of HSBC Celebration of Light fireworks competition in Vancouver. Tonight's country is Canada.

Hundreds of thousands of people will be making their way downtown in a sort of organized chaos. West End roads like Denman and Davie will be closed to traffic right after rush hour. People will be setting blankets up on English Bay as early as 4pm. But honestly? If you don't need a massive picnic spot, you can probably just wander down there for 9pm and stake out a spot on the lawns in front of those ugly 1960's-style apartment towers on Beach Avenue by Gilford. That's what I've done in the past, even 10 minutes before they start (which is 10pm, by the way). Otherwise, it's usually best to get there no later than 8pm if you're looking for a comfortable spot to sit on the beach.

People who have never attended the fireworks before often ask where the best viewing location is. Personally I've always found that English Bay beach, right in front of the barge, is best. That's where you get the full effect of the music and the artistic display of the fireworks - the way they were meant to be experienced.

However, English Bay is only great if you're already downtown and don't have to fight traffic or the hordes via public transit. It's even worse leaving, as there's a mass exodus of what could possibly be 200,000+ people - don't expect to get anywhere quickly. Even better are the police helicopter spotlights dispersing the crowds. Fun times indeed.

But a few years ago we had a friend in town and brought him out to Granville Island's Bridges restaurant for dinner. It just happened to be the same night as the fireworks. We sat on the patio and had a beautiful view of the fireworks behind the Burrard Street Bridge. It was picture perfect.

Decades ago as a child growing up in Richmond, my Dad would drive me and my sister into Vancouver for the fireworks. We'd drive down Arbutus through Kerrisdale eventually entering Kitsilano. Somewhere, somehow, we'd find parking by Vanier Park and would perch ourselves on the path, straining our necks to watch the fireworks across English Bay. But it was so worth it in the end.

For information on tonight's fireworks, visit

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