Expo 86 was a time of glory for Vancouver. It was the moment the city first came on the world stage, and was an epic celebration that lasted over the course of six months.
The event was projected to attract roughly 13 – 14 million people, but by the end of the fair over 22 million people had attended.
These beautiful vintage photos capture the electric atmosphere that was Vancouver’s most iconic party!
Expo 86: A Stroll Down Memory Lane
Many of the attractions and infrastructure that we have come to know and love were created during the event: the Telus World of Science, Plaza of nations, the Skytrain, gondolas, BC Place, Canada Place, and much more. The event ushered in a new era of development in addition to tourism within the city.
The fair also brought such celebrity superpowers to our waterfront city as Princess Diana, Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and K.D. Lang.
The CEO of Expo 86, and one of British Columbia’s most prominent businessmen, Jim Pattison, said that no one could have predicted what immense and far-reaching effects the success of the fair would have. Vancouver went from being practically devoid of tourist activity to a profoundly metropolitan as well as a bustling tourist hotspot.
Focusing on transportation as a theme for the event, the expo introduced such groundbreaking technology as the monorail, which transported 60,0000 people to and from the event each day. The gondolas were all the more impressive: over 10 million people made their way to the grounds high overtop the city in the beautiful structures.
Known as the “scream machine,” the roller coaster at Expo 86 is now located at Six Flags in St. Louis.
A fun, spaceship inspired sculpture took centrestage in the waterpark at the fair. Referred to as UFO U20, the sculpture now resides in Terrace, BC in Mount Layton Hot Springs Resort.
This photo captures the fun atmosphere of the park on the day that the Expo opened in 1986. Science World, now known as the Telus World of Science, was founded during this time.
Expo 86 harkens back to a time before the Vancouver of today, and before the 2010 Olympics. Further, it reminds us of the tremendous impact the event had on our oceanfront city.
For more history stories, check out our History section.