Christmas in Vancouver, BC: The Best Things to Do

Christmas in Vancouver, BC: The Best Things to Do

Vancouver is a wonderful place to be during the Christmas season. There are tons of light shows, snowcapped mountains, and outdoor activities to enjoy. I’ve been spending the last three or four Christmasses in Vancouver every year, with the exception of staying in Mexico for Christmas last year. It’s always a great place to be and there are so many fun things to do and see. With the help of some wonderful fellow travel bloggers, writers, and photographers, we have put together this list of some of the amazing things to do during Christmas in Vancouver.

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Getting There: FLIGHTS & BUSES
Accommodation: HOTELS & HOSTELS
Getting Around: RENTAL CARS

Skiing at Cypress Mountain

Submitted by Josy Austin from A Walk and A Lark

Christmas in Vancouver | People Skiing on Cypress Mountain
Photo by Josy Austin

One of the best things about Vancouver at Christmastime is when it is raining in the city, that means it’ll be snowing up in the North Shore Mountains! There are 3 ski resorts that overlook the city, but for me the most fun option is Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver.

You can catch a shuttle bus or drive for 25-30 minutes to reach the ski slopes. Once you’re there, you will love it. There are a whole range of downhill ski runs spread over two peaks, of varying levels of difficulty. Or, if you’re not into skiing, you can try tubing or snowshoeing in the “Nordic” area of the resort. Or relax in the lodge with a hot chocolate.

The best thing about Christmastime skiing at Cypress Mountain is the views. In the day time you can see out to Howe Sound and the other North Shore mountains. Then, as it starts to get dark, Vancouver is lit up like a giant sparkly Christmas decoration. It is all ridiculously pretty.

Josy Austin is from the UK but currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She writes about her travels at A Walk and a Lark. You can read her full article about skiing at Cypress Mountain here.

Snowshoeing at Dog Mountain

Submitted by Alison Hodgins from Around the World with Alison.

Vancouver is minutes away from a real-life Winter Wonderland—AKA, the mountains. As the online editor for an outdoor adventure publication, I spend more time climbing through emerald forests and navigating the spines of craggy peaks than I do admiring artificial lights or wandering through craft markets. There’s beauty to be found in both, but I feel more alive, grateful and present when I’m outside working up a sweat. Plus, it’s free! One of the best (and easiest) winter adventures for newbie explorers is snowshoeing Dog Mountain. This short trail is well-loved by pups and people alike. It’s located on Mount Seymour ski resort, so you could also pop on skis or a snowboard if you prefer to let gravity do the work.

Alison Hodgins is a Canadian backpacker who works for Explore Magazine as an Editor and Writer. She also writes about her travels at Around the World with Alison. You can also see more of her travels and photography on her Instagram page here.

Bloedel Conservatory

Submitted by Catherine Ryan Gregory from To & Fro Fam 

Christmas in Vancouver | Bloedel Conservatory
Photo by Catherine Ryan Gregory.

Every winter, the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver puts on its holiday best, making this one of my favorite things to do in Vancouver around Christmas.

This indoor tropical garden and bird conservancy is toasty warm, making it an ideal activity when the Vancouver weather is less than ideal. This little-known BC destination is filled with plants from the tropics and is home to hundreds of free-flying birds. As you walk the paths around the conservancy and over little streams, keep an eye out for all the species, from parrots to finches and pheasants.

Christmas lights and specially themed holiday activities add even more holiday cheer. The birds’ bright colors match the twinkle lights, and you can play a bird scavenger hunt—just get a sheet that lists all the kinds of birds from the front desk. Last year, the conservatory also had a Christmas gnome scavenger hunt, with a prize for anyone who found them all.

The holidays are a terrific time to visit the Bloedel Conservatory. Whether you’re an avid birder or just a cold visitor who wants a pretty place to warm up, you’ll love this hidden gem in Vancouver.

Catherine Ryan Gregory writes about family travel at To & Fro Fam. You can read her full article and review of the Bloedel Conservatory here

Aurora Winter Festival

Submitted by Katy Liang from Photospired.

Christmas in Vancouver - Aurora Winter Festival
Photo by Katy Liang.

The Aurora Winter Festival is a special holiday event that welcomes everyone from families to the young and old to partake in some winter magic. Now in its second year, the festival goes from mid-November all the way until the 5th of January in the new year. As you step into the festival, dazzling lights and a colorful Ferris wheel illuminate the night sky. Hot drinks and warm scarves can be found in the holiday market, and winter activities such as ice skating and tubing will surely get you moving and giggling. For a unique winter experience, head into the “Mystical Worlds”, an expansive forest of lights where a yeti and a team of elves roam. If you are craving Christmas traditions, there is also the North Pole, where you can meet Santa and make your own holiday crafts. There really is no shortage of fun at the Aurora Winter Festival.

Katy Liang writes about her travels at Photospired. You can read one of Katy’s articles about Fall in Vancouver here.

VanDusen Festival of Lights

Submitted by Hannah Kacary from That Adventurer

VanDusen Festival of Lights | Christmas in Vancouver
Photo by April Thompson

The VanDusen Gardens are one of the most popular Vancouver tourist attractions and it gets even better over the Christmas period. From November 30 to January 5, the beautiful gardens are transformed with hundreds of thousands of colorful lights. One of the highlights is the dancing lights show on Livingstone Lake where the lights dance to music. The show happens every 20 minutes so you’re sure to see it when you visit. There are plenty of colorful light archways, a carousel, a fireside lounge, and some super tasty food too.

Tickets cost $21 at the door and definitely make sure to book the week before Christmas as it usually sells out!

Hannah Kacary is from the UK and writes about outdoor adventures with a focus on Western Canada at That Adventurer. You can read her full article on even more winter activities to do in Vancouver here. 

Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain

Submitted by Emma from Forever Lost in Travel

Peak of Christmas - Grouse Mountain Skating Pond
Photo by Emma.

Grouse Mountain is one of my favorite places to visit around Christmas. Despite already being one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions year-round, they go even BIGGER for Christmas. Starting around the end of November every year, The Peak of Christmas is the place to go to really get in the mood for the season. For one thing, it’s where you’ll likely find some snow because even though Vancouver is in Canada, it isn’t often snowy like the rest of the country. But at the top of Grouse Mountain, you’ll be able to look down on the beautiful city below surrounded by softly falling white snow for a picture-perfect winter wonderland scene.

While a lot of the activities are geared towards kids and families (Santa’s workshop, Christmas holiday specials in the movie theater and real-life reindeer to visit), it’s honestly just as fun for the big kids. My friends and I often go for a girls’ “Christmas day of fun” day. And I love nothing more than getting a hot chocolate from the cafe and taking a seat by the roaring fire in the main lodge (preferably with a book). There are outdoor activities too like a Christmas lights walk, an ice skating pond and skiing or snow-shoeing. Ticket prices are around $50 not including rental costs if you do an outdoor activity but check for family deals or locals rates. It’s best to get there earlier in the day so you can enjoy more of the fun.

Emma is from the UK and currently lives in Vancouver. Emma writes about her travels at Forever Lost in Travel. You can find a wonderful article by her on street art in Vancouver here.

Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridges

Submitted by April from April Vera Lynn Travels

Canyon Lights - Capilano Suspension Bridges, Vancouver
Photo by Nikita Taparia on Unsplash.

A few years ago I went with a couple of friends to see the Canyon Lights at Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridges and had such an amazing time. The Capilano Suspension Bridges are open year-round for hiking and daytime enjoyment. However, in the winter you can enjoy the Canyon Lights Winter Festival at the bridges. This festival runs from late November to late January each year.

The first bridge you will cross is the longest one and takes you into the forest. There are thousands of dazzling sparkling lights that you can see all around you. When you reach the other side after the first bridge, you will enter a series of smaller bridges that run high into the treetops of the forest. Twinkling lights sparkle all around you and when you come down you will see incredible reflections of globe-shaped lights hovering over a small lake. It’s really like walking into a nighttime fairy tale. To find out more information check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge website here.

The Vancouver Christmas Market

Submitted by April from April Vera Lynn Travels

Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza

You can visit Germany while staying in Canada at the Vancouver Christmas Market! Located in Jack Poole Plaza, the Vancouver Christmas Market usually runs from mid-November to Christmas Eve. There are lots of different kinds of German foods to eat like gulasch, bratwurst sausages, handmade pretzels, Glühwein, and of course, German beer. You can also do some of your Christmas shopping with the many vendors selling things like holiday ornaments, chocolates, jewelry, and toys.

The venue also hosts a large Christmas tree that you can walk inside of for photos. There’s also a small light tunnel and a carousel. The whole place also feels extra festive with live musicians singing Christmas carols while you explore. You can find ticket prices for the Vancouver Christmas Market here.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park

Submitted by April from April Vera Lynn Travels

Christmas in Vancouver | Bright Nights in Stanley Park

Another great thing to do in Vancouver is to visit Stanley Park for their Bright Nights event! Visiting the Christmas light display in Stanley Park is a super fun experience and costs are all by donation. Wander through the twinkling lights displays, listen to Christmas music, and more! You can even get in line to ride the Bright Nights Christmas Train!

When I visited, I arrived at the park quite late in the evening and the line up for the train was super long. We chose not to go on the train but instead just wander around the light displays and we still had a wonderful time! If you want to ride the train, make sure you get there pretty early. The train usually runs from 3 pm to 10 pm. You can find more information about donations and hours here.

April has been blogging here at April Vera Lynn Travels for almost 5 years. She has also written for publications such as Explore Magazine and Matador Network. 

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