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22 free things to do this winter in Vancouver

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Daniel Chai Dec 08, 2017 11:06 am 3,442

Experience winter in Vancouver without breaking the bank! Here are 22 free things to do in Vancouver this season, from Ice Skating to New Year’s Eve and more!

For more things happening around town, check out our events section.

Santa Claus Parade 2017

Santa Claus at a previous parade in Vancouver (Sergei Bachlakov/Shutterstock)

Santa Claus at a previous parade in Vancouver (Sergei Bachlakov/Shutterstock)

  • What: Father Christmas returns to the city on Sunday, December 3, with thousands of people expected to participate in the parade and line the parade route. The parade starts at noon, at West Georgia and Broughton, then travels east along West Georgia, before turning south on Howe and finishing at Howe and Davie. The event has become a Vancouver tradition with hundreds of colourful floats and performances from bands, choirs, and community groups.
  • When: Sunday, December 3, 2017
  • Time: Christmas Square from 10 am to noon, parade starts at noon
  • Where: Christmas Square outside Vancouver Art Gallery; Parade starts at West Georgia and Broughton, ends at Howe and Davie – Vancouver
  • Tickets: Free! Donations for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank are encouraged.

Dundarave Festival of Lights 2017

  • What: The Dundarave Festival of Lights is back for another Christmas, offering four days of festive, free concerts, a Christmas fair, and a Forest of Miracles. The festival, which supports the Lookout Emergency Aid Society’s North Shore Shelter, begins on Saturday, December 2 on Dundarave Beach. You’ll be able to enjoy concerts in the Longhouse and the Nativity Pavilion for free, decorate the festival Christmas Tree, and shop at the Christmas Fair. Dusk will see the official lighting of the Festival’s Forest of Miracles, the largest outdoor display of Christmas trees in British Columbia.
  • When: December 2 to 23, 2017
  • Time: Every Saturday afternoon
  • Where: Dundarave Beach – 25th Street at Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver
  • Admission: Free

Christmas at Canada Place

  • What: The 30th annual Christmas at Canada Place invites you to experience the nostalgic tradition of the Woodward’s Windows, a magical holiday lighting display, the Sails of Light, and the festive Avenue of Christmas Trees. Presented by the Port of Vancouver.
  • When: Now to December 31, 2017
  • Time: 8 am to 11 pm (closes at 6 pm on December 31)
  • Where: Canadian Trail (west promenade) and North Point, Canada Place
  • Admission: Free

Britannia Shipyards Artisan Christmas Craft Fair 2017

  • What: Get your craft on this holiday season at the first annual Britannia Shipyards Artisan Christmas Craft Fair. With more than 30 different vendors serving up artisanal festive fare, this event will be the perfect place to pick up one-a-kind gifts for you or your loved ones this holiday season.
  • When: Saturday, December 2, 2017
  • Time: 8 am to 11 pm (closes at 6 pm on December 31)
  • Where: Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site
  • Admission: Free

Lumière YVR 2017

Christmas in Kerrisdale Festival

  • What: Each Saturday afternoon in December, residents and visitors can head down to Kerrisdale Village on West 41st Avenue between Larch St. and Maple St. to take part in the free festive activities. Brass bands, Santa, horse and carriage rides,  and roving carollers are all part of the cherished family event. In addition to the events taking place on the four Saturdays, free ice skating will also be offered at the neighbourhood arena from 5:30 to 7 pm. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
  • When: December 2, 9, 16, and 23, 2017
  • Time: Noon to 4 pm
  • Where: Kerrisdale Village – West 41st Avenue between Larch and Maple Street
  • Price: Free

New West Craft Christmas Night Market

  • What: A Christmas night market featuring over 50 vendors, food, drinks (including wine and beer), and live music will be offered at the city’s River Market this holiday season.
  • When: Saturday, December 2, 2017
  • Time: 6 to 9:30 pm
  • Where: River Market – 810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster
  • Admission: Free

Shipyards Christmas Festival 2017

  • What: The Shipyards will be transformed into a winter wonderland, full of family friendly activities, plus the Sky Wheel and a new Winter Artisan Market.  There will also be ornament/lantern making, gingerbread decorating, a storytime tent, face painting, balloon creations and live music. The Mayor of North Vancouver will be officially lighting the Christmas tree, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos.
  • When: Saturday, December 2, 2017
  • Time: Starts at 4 pm. Ferris wheel runs from 4 pm to 10 pm, Christmas tree lighting at 5 pm
  • Where: The Shipyards – 15 Wallace Mews, North Vancouver
  • Admission: Free, but donations are welcome.

Abbotsford Winter Jubilee 2017

  • What: The free festival on December 2 includes a family-friendly craft beer and wine garden, food trucks, Christmas carollers, a tree lighting ceremony, Santa and Mrs. Claus in a parade to Downtown Abby, live entertainment, children’s activities, pony rides, handmade and artisan marketplaces, a family photo booth and a Christmas fireworks display.
  • When: Saturday, December 2, 2017
  • Time: 5 to 9 pm
  • Where: Essendene and Montrose Avenues in Downtown Abbotsford
  • Price: Free

Heritage Christmas

  • What: ​Heritage Christmas with old-fashioned fun. Special entertainment is scheduled throughout the season including theatre performances, community choirs, street characters and musicians.
  • When: Now to January 5, 2018
  • Time: November 25 to December 15: Monday to Friday 1 to 5:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 9 pm; December 16 to January 5: daily 1 to 9 pm (closed December 24 and 25)
  • Where: Burnaby Village Museum – 6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
  • Admission: Free

5th Annual Christmas Tree Festival

  • What: Check out the Christmas Trees at the Port Coquitlam Museum and Archives and partner locations Leigh Square, Terry Fox Library, and City Hall. Take part in the Christmas Tree Festival Scavenger Hunt for more festive fun.
  • When: Now to December 31, 2017
  • Where: PoCo Heritage Museum and Archives – 150-2248 McAllister Ave Port Coquitlam
  • Price: Free

Lights at Lafarge Winter Lights Display

  • What: More than 100,000 twinkling lights will illuminate Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam this holiday season, in a magical outdoor display for visitors of all ages. The Lights at Lafarge Winter Lights Display is one of the largest free outdoor light events in the Lower Mainland, and this year’s spectacle will be even bigger and brighter than ever before. The display will wrap its way entirely around Lafarge Lake, leading visitors on a 1.2-km loop through 10 themed zones. There will also be roving performers, hot chocolate, festive choirs, and even a holiday fair.
  • When: Now to January 21, 2018
  • Time: Dusk to 11 pm
  • Where: Town Centre Park – 1299 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam
  • Price: Free admission

Steveston Festival of Trees 2017

  • What: The event allows merchants and community groups from the Steveston area to show off their creative talents by decorating their own Christmas trees, which will be on display inside the historic cannery for a friendly competition. Favourite designs are decided by votes, and the winners take a prize. The multi-day festival kicks off on December 1 at the Cannery Farmers’ Market, and runs right through until New Years Eve.
  • When: December 1 to 31, 2017
  • Time: 10 am to 5 pm
  • Where: Cannery Farmers’ Market – 12138 Fourth Avenue, Richmond
  • Admission: Free

Vancouver Christmas Tree at Robson Square

  • What: A huge Christmas tree will light up Robson Square, and people will celebrate the holiday season with free snacks, photos with Santa, and a holiday concert. You can also Buy-a-Bulb to raise funds for the Vancouver International Children’s Festival. For $5 you can purchase five bulbs to help light the tree, or you can get 15 for $10.
  • When: Tree lighting is Friday, December 1; tree remains lit throughout December 2017
  • Time: Tree lighting on December 1, 2017 from 5 to 7 pm
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Street, Vancouver
  • Price: Free

Yule Duel Vancouver 2017 carolling competition

  • What: Hundreds of voices from over 20 of Vancouver’s best choirs will again echo through the streets of Gastown on Thursday, December 7, 2017 during Yule Duel: BC’s largest outdoor carolling competition.
  • When: Thursday, December 7, 2017
  • Time: 6 to 9 pm
  • Where: Gastown
  • Admission: Free, but a $5 donation to May’s Place is suggested.

Kitsmas on West 4th

  • What: Everything is set to be merry and bright over in Kitsilano, too, as the West 4th Business Improvement Association (BIA) is hosting its annual Kitsmas event, on right now through to December 24. The highly-anticipated month-long event is designed to make holiday shopping a little easier, and more merry and decorative. Oh, and it even includes free valet parking on select dates! Seriously.
  • When: Now to December 24, 2017
  • Where: West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, Vancouver
  • Price: Free. Parking by donation.

Robson Square Ice Rink 2017

Robson

@bilalsayed19/ Instagram

  • What: The provincial government’s Robson Square Ice Rink is slated to reopen on December 1 for the 2017/2018 season, and as per tradition skating is free for all ages for those who bring their own skates. Those without skates can rent a pair on-site. A concession stand on the side will also serve warm drinks and snacks.
  • When: December 1, 2017 to February 28, 2018
  • Time: 9 am to 9 pm from Sunday to Thursday; 9 am to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday
  • Where: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver (Robson Street & Howe Street)
  • Cost: Free for all ages if you bring your own skates. Skate rentals are $4, and rentals end 30 minutes before closing time.
  • Note: Helmets are mandatory for children 12 years and under. Robson Square Ice Rink accepts cash only.

Vancouver Polar Bear Swim

  • What: The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world. Its initial swim was in 1920, when a small number of hardy swimmers took the plunge into English Bay on New Year’s Day.
  • When: January 1, 2018
  • Time: 2:30 pm
  • Where: English Bay
  • Price: Free. Participants must register online. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank will be accepting donations of non-perishable food or cash – please be generous

Gingerbread Lane at Hyatt Regency Vancouver

  • What: The annual Gingerbread Lane features more than 30 gingerbread creations designed by secondary schools, professionals, and amateur culinary artists. As well as providing a welcome dose of holiday feels, the event also helps to raise money local charities with more than $80,000 secured during its 26 year history to date.
  • When: December 1 to 29, 2017
  • Where: Hyatt Regency Vancouver – 655 Burrard Street, Vancouver
  • Admission: Free

Concord’s New Year’s Eve Vancouver

Image: Jenn Chan / New Year’s Eve Vancouver

  • What: The largest NYE celebration in Canada, this year’s event is poised to be even bigger and better than before complete with free live music, fireworks shows, and more.
  • When: December 31, 2017
  • Where: Canada Place
  • Price: Free

Hastings Park Winter Farmer’s Market

  • What: Find a great selection of local produce, fish, meat, dairy, artisan prepared foods, baked goods, local crafts, craft alcohol producers, and food trucks.
  • When: Every Sunday from November 5 to April 29 (except December 24 and 31)
  • Time: 10 am to 2 pm
  • Where: Hastings Park Centregrounds – 2901 East Hastings Street
  • Admission: Free

Nat Bailey Stadium Winter Market

  • What: Each week you can look forward to finding locally grown vegetables and fruit, meat and seafood from local ranchers and fishermen, artisan cheese and bread, herbs and seasonal nursery items, baked goods, prepared foods and artisanal crafts.
  • When: Every Saturday from November 4 to April 21 (except December 30)
  • Time: 10 am to 2 pm
  • Where: Nat Bailey Stadium – 4601 Ontario Street
  • Admission: Free

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Daniel Chai
Daniel is a writer and comedian based in Vancouver, BC.

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