Nanaimo is quite famous for the annual Nanaimo Marine Festival, which features bathtub racing , an event that was started by the city mayor, Frank Ney, in 1967, who participated in races himself. Participants race from Nanaimo to Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach in a bathtub boat. Thanks to this annual event, the city is now known as the “Bathtub Racing Capital of the World” or “Tub City.” The festival takes place in mid-July; as well as the famous bathtub races, it features live entertainment, a parade, waiters' races, a large fireworks display, and more. Most events are free.

Another notable event that occurs more frequently is the firing of a cannon at the Nanaimo Bastion, a fort established by the Hudson Bay Company in 1853 and the first Western settlement in the area. The cannon firing occurs every day at noon and also for other special events.

Some of the regularly scheduled festivals in the city include the Old City Quarter Multicultural Festival and the Vancouver Island International Children’s Festival , both of which occur in May. Summer is even more exciting, with the Dragon Boat Festival , the Nanaimo Marine Festival , the Summertime Blues Festival , Arts Fest and many others. (See list of events at Tourism Nanaimo for details.) Food, of course, can be found in abundance at this time of year, especially chowder made from freshly caught seafood. During the winter holidays, the city also has an array of Christmas festivities and, later in the season, a Maple Sugar Festival to celebrate French-Canadian culture and the first syrup runs of the year.

For three days in July, the Dragon Boat Festival features dragon boat races in the harbour.

Nanaimo is a 2008 Cultural Capital and has added some great festivals and events to the already amazing roster. Visit the Cultural Capital website for a calendar of events.

Nanaimo is home to so many fabulous festivals. Be sure to check out the Nanaimo Secrets Website to view a video about the festivals and read about other interesting festivals to participate in.