50 things to do this Winter in Vancouver

Dec 19 2017, 9:04 pm

Winter isn’t Vancouver’s finest time of the year. It’s cold, dark, grey, rain mixed with a little bit of snow. That being said there is a lot of stuff happening in the city from now unti March. Here is our guide to Winter in Vancouver.

Christmas in Vancouver

Lights of Hope Vancouver St Paul's Hospital 4

Image: Peter So Photography

We’ve highlighted 24 things to do in Vancouver this Christmas. Some of which are below.

Bright Nights at Stanley Park

During the holiday season, the Bright Nights Train and Plaza at Stanley Park sparkles with three million twinkling lights, decorating the darkness that comes early at this time of year.

  • When: Thursday, November 27, to Sunday, January 4 (Closed on Christmas Day)
  • Where: Stanley Park, more info here
  • Tickets: Entrance by donation (to see the lights), $6-11 for train tickets

Get a glimpse of the Santa Claus Christmas Parade in Vancouver

The annual Rogers Santa Clause Parade in Vancouver brings in close to 300,000 people to the downtown core to watch Santa and his reindeer march through the downtown streets.

  • When: Sunday, December 7, start time 1 p.m. end time 4 p.m.
  • Where: The parade is in downtown Vancouver, located just blocks from the Burrard, City Centre, Granville and Waterfront SkyTrain stations.
  • Parade route: The 1.8 kilometre parade route starts at Georgia and Broughton, travels east on Georgia to Howe, turns south on Howe, and finishes at Howe and Davie.

Watch the Tree Lighting Ceremony at Jack Poole Plaza

The 50-foot tree will be the tallest Christmas tree in the city.

  • When: Friday, December 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver Convention Centre

Christmas at Canada Place

The sails will be lit up in festive colours and you can also check out the Woodward’s Windows display.

The Woodward’s Windows are a treasured part of Vancouver’s history that was originally displayed in the Woodward’s department store. The windows featured classic holiday scenes with animated characters and elaborate decor.

Following the closure of the Woodward’s department store, Canada Place purchased the displays in 1993 and has continued to incorporate them into the Christmas at Canada Place experience.

Get a real Christmas tree

If you live in a condo, chances are you aren’t allowed to have a real tree, however, for those of you who can, there are plenty of tree lots around the city to get a real tree this Christmas. Check out our guide on where to buy real Christmas trees in Vancouver.

Go for a walk and check out the many light displays around the city

From Robson Street to the Sheraton Wall Centre, hotels and offices will have some amazing festive displays. The Trinity Street light display in East Vancouver are always impressive. Some notable spots to check out:

  • St. Paul’s Hospital
  • Harbour Centre
  • Canada Place
  • Jack Poole Plaza
  • Robson Square
  • Sheraton Wall Centre
  • Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival in East Vancouver

Karaoke Christmas Trolley Tour

Three hours of Christmas family fun featuring Stanley Park’s Bright Nights Display and Van Dusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights.

  • When: December 10 to December 30 (no tours on Christmas Day)
  • Where: Departure at 6:30 p.m. from Canada Place every evening

Pay a visit to the Christmas Market in Vancouver

The beloved annual Vancouver Christmas Market will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in the heart of downtown at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza starting November 22 and will run until Christmas Eve.

With a total of over 50 unique vendors, local and international flavour, beautiful lights and delicious food, guests of all ages will find something to satisfy their yuletide appetites at this year’s Christmas Market.

  • When: November 22 to December 24, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on December 24)
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza – 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

See the tallest Christmas tree in the world at Canyon Lights in North Vancouver

  • When:  November 29 to January 3
  • Holiday activities from 4 to 9 p.m.; Park is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (except Christmas Day when the park is closed)
  • Price: $69 for a family (two adults, one or two children – includes memberships for B.C. residents) or $32.95 for adults, $12 for children (6-12) 
  • Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver

VanDusen Garden’s Festival of Lights

Experience the Festival of Lights, a frozen winter wonderland with over one million lights decorating VanDusen Garden.

Stroll with friends and family through themed areas and enjoy the Dancing Lights show on Livingstone Lake, the gnome performance, and the shadow puppet show. Have photos taken with Santa, savour holiday treats, and delight in much more!

  • When: Wednesday, December 10 to Sunday, January 4. Closed on Christmas Day
  • Where: VanDusen Botanical Gardens – 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver

Flyover Canada Christmas Edition

FlyOver Canada transforms into a winter wonderland this holiday season as we take guests on a magical journey with Santa across Canada and on to the North Pole – from December 5 to January 6.

  • When: December 5 to January 6
  • Where: 201-999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • Tickets: at FlyOver Canada

Stay active even if it’s cold outside

Polar Bear Swim

Image by Mark Klotz

Take a dip at the annual Polar Bear Swim

Kick start 2015 on a cold note with thousands of other Vancouverites as they all take a dip in English Bay at the annual Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day.

Go for a Bike Ride

Yeah, we said it. Winters in Vancouver can have the odd warm week or two, so take advantage of any sunny weather by going on a bike ride. We’ve listed 10 amazing bike routes you can try.

Go ice skating for free at Robson Square

Open from December 1 until, likely, the end of February 2015, go skating in the heart of downtown!

  • Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Holiday dates and times

  • Christmas Eve, December 24 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Christmas Day, December 25 – Noon to 5 p.m.
  • Boxing Day, December 26 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • New Year’s Eve, December 31 – 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • New Year’s Day, January 1 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver (Robson & Howe)


  • Skate rental ends 30 mins prior to close
  • Cash only
  • Helmets are mandatory for Children 12 years and under
  • Skate and helmet rentals, and a concession stand are available on site
  • Skating is free if you bring your own skates
  • Rentals are available for a cost of $4

Hit the local ski hills or head up to Whistler

Rain in Vancouver means snow on the mountains. With plenty of ski hills to choose from why not take advantage of what Mother Nature has graced Vancouver with, moutains and plenty of them.

Hit the gym

It’s almost the new year after all, and in the winter everyone goes to the gym at least once before they fall back into their normal routine. The first week of January will be busy but it will be back to normal within a few days.

Go for a run

Even in the Winter months you’ll see the seawall full of runners. Why not join them and shed some of that holiday weight!

Play some indoor badminton

Badminton Vancouver opened their courts on Mitchell Island back in 2012. The state of the art facility offers 12 courts featuring Mondo badminton floor, which is the same supplies to the Olympic Games.

  • Where: 13100 Mitchell Road, Richmond
  • Phone: (604) 325-5128

Concerts, Parties and More


Check out Contact Music Festival

Blueprint, in partnership with Live Nation Canada, has announced the full artist line-up and details for the city’s most anticipated electronic music event of the year: CONTACT Winter Music Festival.

  • Where: BC Place Stadium, Vancouver
  • When: The December 26 and 27 event will be open to all ages, and will feature VIP areas for attendees who are 19 and older carrying ID. Doors open at 5 p.m. each day, with acts running until midnight.

Book your night out for NYE

It’s never too early to plan for the biggest night out in the city, this holiday season, make sure to grab your tickets to the NYE party of your choice. Check out our guide to NYE 2015 Parties in Vancouver.

Concets galore

From Trap superstart R.L. Grime to Sir-Mix-Alot the winter season is a good one for the music fans in the city. From big to small we have covered them all. Check out our listings for more concert information.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

The most fun you can have with your knitwear on. Celebrate a season of sweateriness with the original Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. It’s your opportunity to showcase your ugliest, loudest, jingle-bell-est sweater and grant a wish for a seriously ill child.

  • When: Friday, December 19
  • Where: Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Take in a dinner and a show at Stake Restaurant and the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.

  • Dec. 14th Comedy Night w/ Peter Kelamis, Kyle Bottom, Sunnee Dhaliwal  Tickets Online
  • Dec. 20th Naked & Everlast (Hard Rock’s 1-year anniversary party)  Tickets Online
  • Dec. 31st Party 2015 with Loverboy New Year’s Party & Dinner Tickets Online
  • Feb. 24th Tom Cochrane with Red Rider Tickets Online

Food and Drinks


Girl drinking hot chocolate via shutterstock

Vancouver Craft Beer Week’s Holiday Beer Festival

20 of the best craft breweries + live music + photobooth + ugly sweater contest

  • When: Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.
  • Where: Studio East, 1480 Frances St.

Grab a hot chocolate at the annual Hot Chocolate Festival

Back again this year, the annual Hot Chocolate Festival celebrates the best in the city. Look for more information on the 2015 dates on Vancity Buzz when they are released.

Dine Out Vancouver

Dine Out Vancouver Festival is Canada’s largest annual dining celebration, attracting tens of thousands of local and visiting food enthusiasts to experience the city’s exceptionally diverse culinary scene at restaurants all over the city.

Enjoy Some of the finest street food at Street Food City 2015

  • When: Wednesday, January 19 to January 25
  • What: Part of the Dine Out Festival, this event brings together a wide variety of popular Vancouver Street Food carts in one location: the Vancouver Art Gallery’s North Plaza.
  • Where: Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza

Vancouver Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey Stadium

  • When: Saturdays through April 26
  • What: Shop for fresh produce and more at Vancouver’s winter farmers market.
  • Where: Nat Bailey Stadium, Vancouver

Celebrate Family Day with an evening out

Enjoy family day by taking your family to out to one of these family friendly restaurants.

Check out some of the city’s best eats

Pack on the pounds this winter before you get into summer fitness mode. May we suggest a great brunch or burger spot.

Vancouver International Wine Festival

  • When: February 23 – March 1
  • What: multiple tasting events, wine seminars, and gala evenings to satisfy your
  • Where: Various locations around Vancouver

Festivals, theatre and other things to do around town

Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade 2014

Image: W.D. Worden

Chinese New Year Parade and Festival

Ring in the year of the ram in Chinatown.

  • When: February 22, 2015 at 11 a.m.
  • Where: Parade starts at Carrall and East Pender, travels through Chinatown and ends at Carrall and Keefer.

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

Take part in one of the world’s oldest traditions at this annual event that celebrates the return of the light after the year’s shortest day. Lantern displays, live music and events in five Vancouver neighbourhoods.

  • Where: Locations in DTES, Yaletown, Granville Island, and Chinatown

The Nutcracker

Follow the fearless female heroine, Clara, as her Christmas dream becomes magical reality. Danced to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, Clara’s turn-of-the-century stately mansion becomes a whirlwind fantasy of live toy soldiers, dancing mice and a mischievous bear who steals the Christmas pudding. Tickets here.

  • When: December 12 to 14, performances at 7:30 p.m.; December 13 to 14, performances at 2 p.m.
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre
  • Who: Royal Winnipeg Ballet

PuSh Festival

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is one of Vancouver’s signature events. The festival expands on the horizons of Vancouver artists and audiences with work that is visionary, genre-bending, multi-disciplined, startling and original. The Festival showcases acclaimed international, Canadian and local artists and mixes them together with an alchemy that inspires audiences, rejuvenates artists, stimulates the industry and forges productive relationships around the globe.

  • When: January 20 to February 8, 2015
  • Where: Various Locations

Chutzpah Festival

An annual celebration of Jewish music, dance, theatre & comedy in venues across Vancouver

  • When: February 19 to March 15, 2015
  • Where: Various venues

Go shopping

We’re not just talking about Christmas here, but also those “legendary” boxing day sales and of course all the stuff that goes on sale in January that didn’t sell during the month of December.

Holidays at Vancouver Aquarium

Celebrate the holidays with your aquatic friends and experience a winter wonderland like no other!

  • When: Ongoing until January 4
  • Where: Vancouver Aquarium

LunarFest Vancouver

The lunar new year festival returns with exhibitions, performances, a Lantern Palace, and the mini-food festival Dumpling Fest, the dumpling fest is only one tent, so don’t go thinking there will be many tents offering up dumpings.

  • When: Friday, February 20 to 22
  • Where: Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza
  • Cost: Free

 Winterruption Festival on Granville Island

The annual Winterruption Festival is an all-ages arts festival that includes theatre, live music, food, and local and international arts. The mix of free and ticketed events include kids’ theatre, art walks, open art studios, and live music from Coastal Jazz and Blues Society .

  • When: February 20 – 21
  • Where: Granville Island

Talking Stick Festival

The annual Talking Stick Festival is a celebration of Aboriginal performance and art, featuring music, dance, theatre, visual art and storytelling.

  • When: February 17 to March 1, 2015
  • Where: Various locations around Vancouver

Hop aboard the No Pants Skytrain ride

Every year hundreds of Vancouverites take off there pants and hop on the Skytrain. The look on unsuspecting peoples faces, priceless.

  • When: January 11, 2015
  • Where: Meet up point at Commercial and Broadway Station. Time has yet not been confirmed.

Gluten Free Expo & Non-GMO Show

  • When: January 17-18, 2015, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Where: Canada Place @ 999 Canada Place
  • Advanced Online Tickets: $12, limited quantity. Tickets at the Door: $15 for adults, and free for accompanying children 10 years of age and under.

Chinatown Mall Holiday pop up streetwear marketplace

Chinatown Mall is Vancouver’s original pop up streetwear marketplace, occurring seasonally in historic Chinatown.

They work with the best emerging artists, artisans, brands, collectors, curators, designers & shops to create a unique shopping concept targeting Vancouver’s ever growing streetwear community.

  • When: Saturday, December 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Where: 50 East Pender, Chinese Cultural Centre, Vancouver.
  • Tickets: tickets available on Eventbrite

Myst Escape Game

Imagine yourself in a world where reality collides with ideas in fascinating ways, where becoming a fantasy character is no longer only in stories, and where impossibles only exist to be made possible.

  • When: Monday to Wednesdays: 4 to 10 p.m., Thursdays: 4 to 11 p.m. , Fridays and Weekends: 2 p.m. to midnight, Holidays: 2 p.m. to midnight
  • Where: #140-6851 Elmbridge way, Richmond
  • Phone: 604-655-4321

Get crafty


Make It! Vancouver

Make It Vancouver returns to the PNE Forum, bringing over 250 artists from all over Canada with them!

  • When: December 4 to 7
  • Hours:
    Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Where: PNE Forum – 2901 E Hastings, Vancouver

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy 2014

Shop the work of 20+ artists in the world of fashion, art and design.

  • When: December 13 to 14
  • Where: Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street

Got Craft?

Vancouver largest indie craft fair’s holiday edition happens over two days and aims to bring together a community that fosters handmade and DIY culture. The fair features over 75 handmade designers, craft workshops, tasty treats, music, free swag bags and more!

  • When: Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Where: Maritime Labour Centre – 1880 Triumph Street, Vancouver

2nd Annual East Van Holiday Artisan Market

  • When: Saturday, December 20
  • Times: Noon to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Studio East – 1480 Frances Street, Vancouver

River District Winter Craft Fair

  • When: December 7 and December 21
  • Times: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: River District Centre, 8683 Kerr Street, Vancouver
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