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Fireworks in Edmonton
Photo Credit: Sameer Ahmed, @sameer.design
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North to Alaska - Celebrating Local Culture

North to Alaska - Celebrating Local Culture

Western Canada and Alaska are rich with cultural experiences. As a traveler driving through the region, one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself is to participate in one of the many cultural events happening throughout the year. These festivities can not only be enjoyable for the whole family, but also tell the story of each area and allow visitors to embrace the traditions and experiences that are unique to each area.

With events ranging from folk and bluegrass music festivals to Indigenous culture and art celebrations, each event provides travelers with a new opportunity to learn and connect with the communities they’re visiting.

We’ve outlined events along each of the Inside Passage, Gold Rush, or Rockies routes through Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Alaska below, so no matter which way you drive, you’re sure to encounter some fun!

Alberta

Aside from the breathtaking landscapes found here, Alberta offers a diverse array of cultural experiences meant to engage visitors and fuel the soul. Whether you're a music enthusiast or just looking to learn more about Indigenous traditions, a stop in this province while headed along the Rockies route has something to offer for everyone.

  • Hosted in Gallagher Park, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival allows artists, visitors, and locals to participate in a celebration of music, culture, and community. Featuring performances by renowned artists, attendees can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of folk music while enjoying the festival's vibrant atmosphere.
  • If your travel plans are taking you through Alberta during the spring and summer months, consider stopping by one of the area's Pow Wow gatherings. Pow Wows are Indigenous gatherings that bring together people across generations to celebrate culture. Whether you're seeking to deepen your understanding of Indigenous culture or simply looking for a memorable cultural experience, Alberta's Pow Wow gatherings offer a welcoming environment where people of all backgrounds can come together to celebrate and learn.
  • Alberta Day, celebrated annually on September 1, marks the anniversary of Alberta becoming a province and serves as a time to commemorate the province’s rich history and diverse cultures. Everyone is encouraged to partake in the festivities, events, and community gatherings hosted across the province which celebrate the spirit of Alberta pride.

To find even more events in the region, visit TravelAlberta.com

Edmonton Folk Festival
Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Photo Credit: Travel Alberta, Roth and Ramberg

British Columbia

British Columbia's vibrant cultural scene offers travelers several opportunities to participate in events that celebrate the spirit and creativity of the area. Whether you’re traveling along the Inside Passage, Gold Rush, or Rockies routes, explore the rich traditions of the Squamish Nation in Whistler or marvel at the blooming of Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver.

  • Available through May 2024, the "100 Years of Unity” exhibition at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) provides guests with an in-depth look at the journey of the sixteen villages that came together as the Squamish Amalgamation on July 23, 1923. This exhibition allows visitors a glimpse into the shared history and strength of the Squamish Nation through weavings, carvings, and historical artifacts.
  • Each spring, the city of Vancouver hosts its annual Cherry Blossom Festival, an event inspired by the Sakura Festivals in Japan and the Japanese cultural tradition of hanami (flower viewing). From pop up events to a Sakura Days Japan Fair, the festival offers a myriad of ways to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of cherry blossoms. Whether you have a relaxing picnic beneath the blooming trees or taking a leisurely bike through the city, the Cherry Blossom Festival provides many opportunities to embrace the beauty of spring.
  • Sometimes the best way to learn about a culture is through its food. Attend the BC Seafood Festival in Mount Washington on Vancouver Island to truly discover the connection between land and sea. Celebrating the sustainability of the region’s seafood, as well as local producers and chefs, this event offers cooking demonstrations, master classes, cookouts, and more.

Check out HelloBC.com for additional cultural festivities in the region.

Cherry Blossom Festival in BC
Cherry Blossom Festival. Photo Credit: Destination Vancouver, Vision Event Photography Inc.

The Yukon

Each year, the Yukon comes alive with events meant to celebrate the area’s diverse heritage. From the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival in Dawson, which showcases the talents of local artists to the rich traditions, arts, music, and stories of the First Nations peoples honored during the Adäka Cultural Fest, each event offers a unique opportunity to connect with the spirit of the Yukon and create memories that last a lifetime.

  • Held during the last weekend in June, the Adäka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse was first launched in 2011 to celebrate of Indigenous culture and heritage of the people of all 14 First Nations. This annual event allows visitors the opportunity to engage with Indigenous artists and performers through a variety of activities, including traditional and contemporary music, dance, drumming, storytelling, film screenings, daily artist demonstrations, art and traditional craft workshops, cultural presentations, an art gallery, and more.
  • The Yukon Riverside Arts Festival, hosted by the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) in the historic town of Dawson City, is a celebration of music and art from both local and regional artists. A yearly event that has assisted with transforming Dawson City into a cultural hub, this festival has an exciting lineup of exhibitions, performances, and interactive activities for the whole family to enjoy.
  • For travelers that are fans of bluegrass music, the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival is a must. Those looking to experience the magic of bluegrass music in a breathtaking environment should not miss a stop in Haines Junction in June. Attendees can enjoy performances by top bluegrass bands and musicians from across the area, as well as participate in jam sessions, workshops, and concerts.

Read more about cultural events in the area at TravelYukon.com.

Music Festival in Yukon Territory
Photo Credit: Government of Yukon

Alaska

Alaska is known for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural history, and vibrant communities. The state offers visitors a wide array of cultural events that are waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re looking to join in on the festivities in Juneau during Celebration or marvel at the magnificent athleticism displayed during WEIO, each event is an opportunity to experience the diversity of Alaska and a celebration of all that has made the state what it is today.

  • Juneau in June is an exciting time as visitors can participate in Celebration, a biennial festival hosted by Sealaska Heritage Institute that celebrates the rich heritage of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures. One of the largest gatherings of Southeast Alaska Native Peoples, this event includes a diverse array of activities including traditional Indigenous song and dance, arts and crafts, food, and individuals speaking local Alaska Native languages.
  • The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO), held annually in July in Fairbanks, was established in 1961 to allow Alaska Native competitors from nearby villages to showcase their strength, endurance, balance, and agility by participating in a series of athletic games to display the preparedness needed for survival. Since then, it has grown into a world-renowned competition, gaining national attention and drawing in participants from all over. A few of the traditional games include a four man carry, knuckle hop, ear pull, keel jump, and a greased pole walk. Along with the athletic events, WEIO encourages dancing, storytelling, and various audience participation games meant to provide friendly competition and laughter.
  • Travelers passing through Anchorage in June are invited to participate in the Juneteenth Citywide Celebration, an annual event celebrating the commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. In Anchorage, this historic occasion is honored with a week full of events and activities that celebrate African American culture, history, and community. Attendees are encouraged to participate in various panels and discussions held throughout the week that touch on social justice issues and highlight the resilience and unity of the African American community.

Find additional cultural events to plan a trip around at TravelAlaska.com.

Celebration in Juneau
Celebration. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska

 

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