Vancouver is a beautiful destination throughout the entire year, and I love going up whenever I can. You shouldn’t ignore winter just because it’s not summer or autumn when you can see the leaves changing colors. There are a ton of Christmas activities in Vancouver to check out, so bundle up and get out there to check some of them out.
I’ve spent many winter days up here over the year, roaming Gastown’s old cobblestone alleys bathed in the glory of holiday lights. The Vancouver Christmas market is one of my favorite places to buy one-of-a-kind gifts, and I love visiting it every year. While it’s a bit of a drive from Seattle, I always try to get up at least once a season because the city has different offerings from my hometown.
You won’t want to miss Christmas in Vancouver, whether you come for the ice skating, the pop-up holiday bars, or to take in the festive atmosphere. Here are some of the most entertaining places to go during this brief yet fun holiday season.
1. Join the Festive Spirit at the Vancouver Christmas Market
Date: November 16 – December 24
Times: 4:00 pm to 9:30 pm from Monday to Thursday (weekends and holiday times vary)
Address: Jack Poole Plaza (1055 Canada Pl., Vancouver, BC V6C 3L5)
Vancouver in winter brings a seemingly endless supply of frosty things to do, but nothing evokes the essence of Christmas quite like the Vancouver Christmas Market. This event has everything from scavenger hunts for kids to German-themed food vendors (which is my favorite part of visiting; it reminds me of wintertime in Leavenworth).
The Vancouver Christmas Market is known for providing a vast number of themed stalls, which range from handcrafted gifts all the way to hand-painted holiday chocolates. This market is a beautiful way to soak up the joyous spirit while completing your Christmas gift-buying list.
This exciting event also has a variety of attractions and activities to look out for. Whether you’re getting lost in the walk-in Christmas tree or find yourself belting away at the festive-themed karaoke party, you’re in for a Christmas feast of choices.
Unique Experience: Look out for the marvelous mascots of the market, Holly and Jolly, to take the perfect picture for your holiday Christmas card. This charismatic duo are gingerbread characters and are a treat to see on the market’s premises.
2. Enjoy the Twinkling Wonders of Christmas Lights
One thing this hearty time of the year brings is the sprinkles of multicolored strings of lights throughout the city, from simple house decorations to outstanding installations. Take a look at a few sparkling structures that you won’t want to miss out on:
Granville Island Festive Lights
Date: Starts on November 11
Times: Sunset to 10 pm
Address: Within the Fairview neighborhood
A popular, covered outdoor space is known by the waterfront; Granville Island becomes bespeckled with lights during the festive season.
This space shines with lights on November 1st in anticipation of the return of Daylight Standard Time to provide a sense of cheer in these colder times. The holiday light installation, however, only makes an appearance later in the month.
As Granville Island is a whopping 40 acres of space filled with various establishments, you can stroll the vicinity and take in the variety of light fixtures in full throttle. Past installations included a canopy of stringed lights for a “walk under the stars” experience.
Unique Experience: An illuminated star’s brilliant and impressive structure can be found in the Public Market courtyard, an excellent marvel with a hot chocolate in hand.
Coming from Seattle? Here are the best stops on a Seattle to Vancouver road trip.
VanDusen Festival of Lights
Date: TBC (Past events took place from November 25 to January 2)
Time: 4 pm to 10 pm
Address: 5251 Oak St, Vancouver, BC V6M 4H1
As the VanDusen Botanical Garden is the crowning jewel of one of Vancouver’s cultivated natural splendors, this event must be seen in person to capture its grandeur.
Typically, the extensive garden grounds are adorned with all kinds of Christmas lights, creating a seemingly magical atmosphere on this night garden walk. This event is usually closed on Christmas Day.
From the serene garden ponds to the regal wonders of the rose garden, you’ll be able to experience this popular attraction in a whole different light (literally).
Unique Experience: Be sure to keep your eyes peeled at the end of each hour throughout the evening as a dazzling display of light shows takes place for a few minutes in the garden.
3. Go to the Bright Nights in Stanley Park
Date: November 30 – January 1
Time: 4 pm to 10 pm
Address: Stanley Park (690 Pipeline Road, Stanley Park, Vancouver)
One of the most popular attractions in Vancouver during the day, this green space transforms at night during the holiday season (which is also amazing in Vancouver in the fall). With life-size candy cane structures, a brightly lit walkway, and a giant reindeer lining the vicinity, you’ll feel transported to Santa’s winter wonderland.
The beloved miniature train known to frequent this event was decommissioned in the past year, but onlookers are hopeful of its return if repairs are completed in time. Beyond the seemingly unending supply of cheery lights, visitors can enjoy live performances and grab a bite at a food truck on the premises at one of the most entertaining Christmas activities in Vancouver in 2023.
Unique Experience: You can snap a picture of the antique fire truck displayed at Stanley Park during this time. This structure is an important symbol, as the profit from the event goes to the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund.
4. Fly with Santa at FlyOver Canada
Date: November 16 – January 2
Time: 10 am to 8 pm
Address: Canada Place (999 Canada Pl. #201, Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1)
A thrilling experience for all ages, FlyOver Canada is a wonderful way to delve into the Christmas spirit through a cinematic journey. This activity is advertised as an indoor ‘outdoor’ adventure, so this jolly journey is the perfect rainy-day activity during the winter months. I recently did this during my 2-day trip to Vancouver earlier this year and loved it.
This experience is a simulation show that allows you to explore Canada without ever leaving your seat. This includes extensive procedures to ensure a life-like experience, which includes flight motion seats, wind, and scent spray features, making for a fun Vancouver Christmas activity.
While the standard FlyOver adventure includes features such as a coast-to-coast look at Canada’s attractions, this establishment offers a holiday-specific experience. The Christmas edition offers a ‘Soaring with Santa experience,’ which comes equipped with an air travel simulation to the North Pole.
Unique Experience: If you’re looking for a souvenir to encapsulate this merry memory in the skies, you can purchase a photo keepsake to commemorate your visual journey.
5. Travel up Grouse Mountain
Date: Open throughout the season
Time: Depending on daylight and weather conditions
Location: Part of the North Shore Mountains
Adding Grouse Mountain to your Christmas activities list is a must, as it provides a kaleidoscope of diverse experiences and adventures. From ski trips to enclosed wildlife watching, this mountainous journey will be the peak of your holiday when looking for things to do in Vancouver at Christmas.
This high-altitude attraction implements a Peak of Christmas experience during winter at the top of the mountain (and if you want a longer road trip, check out the things to do in Whistler in the winter when you go on the Vancouver to Whistler drive).
With ice skating, Santa workshop visits, and the chance to meet real reindeer on the itinerary, Peak of Christmas will be sure to transform any Scrooge into a festive season fanatic.
This holiday happenstance usually starts in late November and is the ultimate chance to marvel at the snow-covered Vancouver in all its frosty glory. Other activities include walking through a tunnel of colorful lights and other various holiday installations, such as an illuminated deer structure.
Snowy conditions on the mountain can be hazardous, so be sure to peruse the website for any closed attraction announcements in order to avoid disappointment.
Unique Experience: Head to the Blue Grouse Lake to see the twinkling light displays as they provide a glorious glow to this immense body of water.
You’ll also love visiting Mount Washington when looking for what to do on Vancouver Island in the winter.
6. Grab a Drink at Festive Pop-up Places
While the yuletide signifies the popularity of traditional Christmas activities, a walk on the boozy side could be the perfect chance to shake up the festive season. I always love checking out holiday pop-up bars for fun Seattle Christmas activities, but Vancouver has its own share. In anticipation of the most beautiful time of year, Vancouver brings a fine selection of themed pop-up bars to enjoy:
Date: Usually starts around mid-November
Address: Vancouver Alpen Club (4875 Victoria Dr., Vancouver)
With festive drinks and seemingly dripping with Christmas decorations and cheer, this annual pop-up spot is the place to be. While the entrance fee might be a bit steep ($19 per person), you’ll be welcomed with a drink to cheer the night away in style.
This bar has a wide range of offerings on the menu, from traditional classics such as egg nog to non-alcoholic beverages. Generally, this drinking den only accepts patrons over the age of 19, but it has been known to host a few dates that are family-friendly.
A Christmas Cocktail Story
Date: TBC (usually throughout the month of December)
Time: Bookings start around 6:30 pm
Address: Dalina (687 Main Street, Vancouver)
If you’re looking for a Christmas drinking experience with some retro flare, A Christmas Cocktail Story is an excellent option for thirsty individuals looking for something different. Traditionally, this event has a stipend to cover the cost of a welcome drink, another cocktail, and a Christmas dish at this Christmas event in Vancouver.
Other fun beverages on the menu include snowman-themed shots and the Lump of Coal cocktail to order for your mischievous friends. As seating is limited, you’ll need to book your spot on your preferred date well in advance to partake in the merriment of this unique Christmas activity in Vancouver.
7. Go Ice Skating at Robson Square
Date: Usually starts at the beginning of December
Time: 9 am to 9 pm (till 11 pm on weekends)
Address: 800 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A7
Robson Square might be the ultimate place to get your Christmas shopping done in a dash, and what better way to celebrate this achievement than the merrymaking activity of skating? An ice rink made to practice your twirls and glide your way into the holiday spirit, this classic holiday is a must.
This ice rink operates from 9 p.m. until the evening, leaving plenty of time to slot this activity into your busy holiday schedule. Admission is free, but you’ll be charged $5 for skates if you don’t bring your own (including a helmet for individuals looking for extra safety).
Unique Experience: If ice skating gives you the chills, enjoy hot chocolate and people-watch strangers flying (and falling) across the icy plain.
8. See the Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Date: November 17 – January 21
Time: 10 am to 8 pm
Address: 3735 Capilano Rd., North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1
A mere 12-minute drive from the city center of Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a great holiday activity if you’re seeking a thrill-seeking experience and Christmas things to do in Vancouver. This bridge is suspended 230 feet over an expansive forest and the Capilano River and becomes sprinkled with fairy lights during the holiday season.
With strings of lights strewn on the trees, forest floor, and bridge, it feels like you’re following a sparkle (its group name) of multi-colored fireflies at night. Beyond the illuminated pleasures, you can enjoy freshly brewed hot chocolate on the premises. This is one of my favorite things to do with kids, as mine always love seeing the lights at night.
You’ll also love doing this after Christmas, as one of the best things to do in Vancouver in January.
Unique Experience: Join the adventurous activity of the Snowy Owl Prowl scavenger hunt to fully immerse yourself in a daring Yuletide expedition.
9. Take a Trip to Gingerbread Lane
Date: TBC (Typically starts at the beginning of December)
Address: Hyatt Regency Hotel (655 Burrard Street, Vancouver)
A charming holiday display in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, this festive activity treat will surely satisfy any sweet tooth. This hotel showcases a variety of gingerbread creations made by a number of professional individuals, local students, and artisans, which is an astonishing feat to witness (you’ll find a similar winter activity in Seattle).
The hotel itself typically creates the main centerpiece, which has in the past included a sizable gingerbread house. With a tasty display dubbed Gingerbread Lane, a visit to this establishment is sure to be a delicious occasion when you’re looking for things to do at Christmas in Vancouver.
Unique Experience: Each year brings another festive theme, which is used to serve as inspiration for these beautiful biscuit displays; see if you can guess it by simply strolling through the mastery of culinary arts.
Heading south? You’ll love all the winter activities in Portland, Oregon.
10. Witness the Big Elf Run at Stanley Park
Date: December 9th
Time: 2 pm
Address: Stanley Park (690 Pipeline Road, Stanley Park, Vancouver)
A cheery cardio-crazed event at Stanley Park, the Big Elf Run is a stunning display of individuals dressed as elves running with glee. Whether you’re an onlooker or a participant, this event is a quirky sight to see, which will make you feel part of the community and let you participate in one of the best Christmas events in Vancouver.
There are a variety of run distances to enter if you wish to partake, from an easy one-kilometer walk or run to 15-kilometer challenges. These events are also pet- and stroller-friendly, which creates spectacular inclusive Christmas activities in Vancouver for all individuals (and their fur children).
Entry fees include a wide selection of perks, such as chip timing technology and even a medal made from wood that can be used as a festive addition to your Christmas tree. With prize giveaways and a dedicated DJ station, this jolly happening is a great opportunity to run off any extra helpings of holiday pudding.
Unique Experience: Unable to attend the event in person? The Big Elf Run offers a virtual experience where runners can log in with an access code and run live along with racers from their own chosen location.
FAQ: Vancouver Festive Activities
While it can be exciting to venture out and enjoy Christmas attractions without a plan, it’s wise to organize your holiday event schedule in order to get to every event you wish to attend. Even if you only have three days in Vancouver, take a look at these common queries to take into account when planning your holiday event itinerary.
Is Christmas in Vancouver Worth a Visit?
The festive and wintery wonder of the Yuletide is one of the best times to visit Vancouver. With plenty of Christmas-themed activities and attractions, you’ll surely have an eventful holiday in this captivating Canadian city.
Whether it’s a stunning display of delicious treats at a Christmas market or simply enjoying a hot beverage during the cold weather, this season is a treasure to experience. If you’re not up to braving the chilly temperatures, there are indoor experiences (such as FlyOver Canada) that will be sure to create wonderful Vancouver winter memories.
How is the Weather During Winter?
While many might think that most Canadian cities experience a terribly cold winter, Vancouver encounters milder temperatures than other regions. The town also gets a little snow but does experience rain during the season.
Extreme weather conditions, such as negative temperatures, might not occur, but it’s always good to play it safe by packing warm clothing for your winter trip. The colder season should also not limit your chance to experience fantastic outdoor activities, such as winter hikes in Vancouver.
What Child-Friendly Christmas Activities Are There in Vancouver?
As Christmas is seen as a time period to spend with your loved ones, a significant percentage of holiday events can be attended by your whole family. From the baked cookie displays of Gingerbread Lane to the Big Elf Run walk option, you’ll have a cornucopia of festive activities to choose from to enjoy with little ones.
What Activities Can I Do on Christmas Day?
A few places keep their doors open on Christmas Day, but there might be an adjustment to their operating hours. If you’re looking to pass the time with your children, the Vancouver Aquarium and Robson Square Ice Rink are open for people to enjoy.
You can also visit public and free spaces, such as Vancouver parks, to stroll through and absorb the festive cheer in the streets of this city. If nothing tickles your fancy in the city, this could also be the perfect opportunity to embark on a day trip to other nearby regions.
What Should I Pack for Christmas in Vancouver?
Whether you are a native of this Canadian city or visiting Vancouver for two days, winter is a wonderful time to experience this urban space. Mid-November and December are considered the wettest months of the year, so you’ll need to pack accordingly.
Waterproof clothing items and an umbrella are the perfect companions for your trip if you’re planning a variety of outdoor activities on your journey. If you’re looking forward to skiing in Vancouver, be sure to pack a few essential items.
This includes snow trekking boots as well as items such as gloves to brave the frosty weather in the mountains with comfort and style.
You’ll love checking out all the Christmas activities in Vancouver during this time of year.