Labor Day may mark the unofficial end of summer, but there’s still time to plan a last-minute getaway to Richmond, B.C. — and to enjoy the city’s Night Market, which runs through October 10.

Founded by entrepreneur Raymond Cheung in 2000, Richmond’s Night Market is the biggest outdoor night market in North America. Cheung was inspired by the family-friendly night markets that are popular in Asian countries. “In places like China and Taiwan, night markets are quite popular because most people work late,” he explains. “Night markets became popular because it was a chance for families to go out, have dinner and socialize.” When Cheung moved to  Richmond, he saw an opportunity to recreate this well-loved market atmosphere. Night Market began in a small parking lot in Richmond and has rapidly expanded over the years, currently drawing between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors per night.

Here’s your guide for a weekend getaway to Richmond, how to make the most of the Richmond Night Market, and other activities in the area.

Plan your visit to Richmond Night Market

A weekend activity, Richmond Night Market is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The hours are 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

The market is best known for its food stalls; over 120 vendors serve up mouthwatering international dishes ranging from Taiwanese fried chicken to Hawaiian shrimp to bao bun desserts.

Yoseb Vardeh, a vendor whose booth Bao Fun specializes in Asian desserts, says that Richmond Night Market attracts visitors from all over the world. “They come to Night Market because we’re known for our Asian food so it’s a good chance to sample a whole lot of what Richmond offers,” Vardeh says. “If you don’t know where to go in Richmond, you don’t know where the good food is, and it can be secluded and hard to find. For people who want to do a really good food tour of the city, Night Market is the place to be.”

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Cheung describes the food court as “the heart of Night Market,” but delicious food isn’t the only thing Night Market has to offer. Merchant stalls offer a wide variety of products from Asia such as jewelry, camping equipment and Japanese comic items that are popular among teenagers. “There’s something for every age and every interest,” Cheung says of the merchant stalls.

Night Market also has a huge game area for kids, with two huge bouncing castles 60 feet wide and two levels high. There is also entertainment every night, ranging from dance performances to martial arts. The entertainment schedule is available online.

Every year Cheung chooses a new theme for Night Market and this year it’s “Summer of Magic Rainbow.” The theme is inspired by recent events — when the COVID pandemic hit, Night Market wasn’t able to open for almost two years, which created a setback for everyone involved. “We had put a lot of time and effort into preparing for 2020 because it was our 20-year anniversary, so it was bad timing,” Cheung says. He explains that the magic rainbow theme came about because after every rainstorm is over, a rainbow emerges at the end. “We visualized the end of the pandemic and the magic rainbow finally coming out,” says Cheung. “We’ve gone through this tough time and that’s how we got this idea; we finally see the rainbow coming out.”

The “Magic Rainbow” theme is reflected in the decorations at Night Market. Approximately 100 custom-made neon lights adorn the food court and colorful banners have been placed throughout the venue. “It’s a new beginning and we want to bring back the opportunity for people to gather together with friends and family,” says Cheung.

Because Night Market attracts thousands of visitors each evening, a few insider tips will help you make the most of the experience. Richard Fung, who operates three popular stalls at Night Market (Aloha Boy, Thirsty Pony and Flying Pig) suggests arriving early, as there can be a line at entry. There is an Express Pass available that allows you to skip the line; this can be purchased for $35 upon arrival. Cheung also recommends that visitors arrive early and bring cash. Be sure to exchange your American dollars for Canadian money before you go to Night Market as there isn’t an exchange service on-site and you’ll want to have cash on you as not every vendor accepts credit cards.

If you can’t squeeze in a weekend getaway before October, don’t fret — Night Market reopens in April with a new theme.

Extend your weekend with a dash of history

In addition to Night Market, Richmond has many other excellent activities to enjoy during a long weekend. A visit to Steveston, a small fishing village within the city, is an enjoyable way to learn about Richmond’s fascinating history and culture.

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a national historic site, is the perfect place to learn about Richmond’s local culture and the history of British Columbia’s fishing industry. The cannery’s current featured exhibition titled “Waves of Innovation” focuses on innovation in the Pacific Northwest’s commercial fishing industry and the impact on the communities. The interactive exhibit explores the history of energy, preservation and fishing methods. Permanent exhibits at the cannery include the 6,500 square foot Herring Reduction Plant, which closed in 1979. The plant remains exactly the same as the day it closed, so you can get an up-close look at the machinery.

You won’t want to miss out on Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can watch the active fishing boats and then enjoy top-notch seafood. You can’t go wrong at Pajo’s, which has been serving up some of the best fish and chips for nearly forty years. The restaurant offers outdoor seating so you can take in the beautiful views, but it can be hard to nab a table due to the restaurant’s popularity, so your best bet is to go during off-peak hours. Get dessert (or a sweet snack) at Timothy’s Frozen Yogurt. Top dinner spots that boast excellent food and views are Catch Kitchen + Bar, known for its crabcakes, and Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant, which has been named “Richmond’s Best Restaurant” by Richmond News. And don’t miss Steveston Seafood House, serving seafood sourced directly from the fishers working out of Steveston.

And finally, if all those water views just aren’t enough and you want to get out onto the water yourself, whale watching tours run from April through October and can be booked online.

Richmond is a thriving city where culture and character converge in a stunning setting. Explore more.