23 free things to do in Vancouver this Christmas

Nov 29 2016, 11:39 pm

Christmas can be an expensive time of year for the best of us, and we all want to dive into the holiday spirit while still being able to afford gifts for our loved ones.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of free things to do in Vancouver this Christmas. Here are 23 things that won’t cost you an arm and a leg – or anything at all – and are guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.

Check out some Christmas lights

North Vancouver house with Christmas lights/Michael Iwasaka

North Vancouver house with Christmas lights/Michael Iwasaka

St. Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope

  • What: A longstanding annual tradition at St. Paul’s Hospital is back: Over 100,000 light bulbs, spanning a length of more than 10 kilometres, will be turned on for the Christmas-time Lights of Hope charity campaign supporting the hospital’s initiatives.
  • Where: St. Paul’s Hospital – 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver
  • When: Light display is up throughout December.

Bright Nights at Stanley Park

  • What: Over three million dazzling lights decorate acres of the dark forest, reaching as high as the forest canopy for Bright Nights in Stanley Park. The attraction is also accompanied by a train ride, musics, snacks, entertainment, and even visits with Santa and his elves.
  • Where: Miniature railway area at Stanley Park, Vancouver
  • When: November 28 to January 1, 2017
  • Price: Entry by donation

Holiday Hi-Light Festival

  • What: More than 50,000 Christmas lights + Family Night with Santa, hot chocolate, face painting and more, supporting North Vancouver Firefighters.
  • Where: Park & Tilford Gardens, North Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 27 to December 31, 2016

Dundarave Festival of Lights

  • What: A beloved West Vancouver tradition returns with the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
  • Where: Dundarave Park – 25th Street and Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver
  • When: Every Saturday from November 26 until December 31 2016; noon to 6 pm

Chalet Place, North Vancouver Light Display

  • What: A home up in the high hills of North Vancouver has been lighting up with over 100,000 lights each Christmas for a few years, all in a good cause. The homeowners welcome visitors but encourage a donation to the Harvest Project in return.
  • Where: 4967 Chalet Place, North Vancouver
    When:  Monday, November 28 to Friday, January 6, 2017. On opening night, the lights will be viewable from 6:30 pm, on all other nights, the house will be illuminated from 5:30 pm.

Vancouver Christmas Tree at Robson Square

  • What: For the 10th year in a row, Vancouver’s official Christmas Tree has been lighting up the Christmas spirit, and this year the tree will be located at Robson Square.
  • When: Throughout December, tree lighting on December 2 at 5 pm
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Street, Vancouver


  • What: Lumiere is back to light up Vancouver’s West End with an evening of artistic expression, community engagement, and of course, lights.
  • When: Throughout winter
  • Where: Morton Park – 1800 Morton Avenue, Vancouver and Jim Deva Plaza – 1200 Bute Street, Vancouver

McArthurGlen Vancouver Sparkle Brighter

  • What: Along with one of Lower Mainland’s biggest trees, the centre is decked out in a variety of holiday decorations including 25,000 lights and more than 3,000 festive ornaments.
  • Where: McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver Airport –
    1000-7899 Templeton Station Road
  • When: Throughout December

Trinity Street

  • What: For well over a decade, homeowners on Trinity Street (between the 2400 and 2900 blocks) in East Vancouver are known for going all out during the holidays. While there might not be an actual festival happening, be sure to pass by the neighbourhood and take in the lights.
  • Where: Trinity Street, Vancouver (between Slocan and Renfrew)
  • When: Throughout winter

Festivals & Parades

Santa Claus Parade / Shutterstock

Santa Claus Parade / Shutterstock

Christmas at Canada Place

  • What: Christmas at Canada Place returns for its 29th year with exhibits and activities for the family along the Canadian Trail, the West Promenade of Canada Place. Christmas crafts, the Avenue of Christmas Trees, Rudolph’s Theatre and the historic Woodward’s Windows are all part of this free event.
  • Where: Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: December 16 to December 30, from noon to 6 pm daily; Woodward’s Windows on display from 9 am to 10 pm. Everything closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

  • What: Celebrate the beginning of Winter’s end at the 23rd Annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. Taking place every year on the longest night, the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival brings communities together with a self-guided lantern tour, spread out over a series of blocks in various neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
  • Where: Various locations around Vancouver
  • When: Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 6 to 10 pm

Rogers Vancouver Santa Claus Parade 2016

  • What: The event has become a Vancouver tradition with hundreds of colourful floats and performances. With over 3,500 participants, the parade features bands, choirs, and community groups.
  • When: Sunday, December 4 at noon
  • Where: This year’s parade has a slightly different route. It will start at the same location – Georgia Street at Broughton, continue east along Georgia, turning south on Howe. It will now end on Howe and Smithe.

Meet Santa

Image: Sonika Arora

Image: Sonika Arora

Santa Land at Metropolis at Metrotown

  • What: Santa Claus will be arriving at Metropolis at Metrotown straight from the North Pole, and staying until Christmas Eve. As always, children are encouraged to drop off their letters to Santa at Santa’s mailbox. Just make sure to include a return address and Santa might write back! New this year: Interact with our giant light curtain by choosing your favourite snowflake pattern!
  • Where: Metropolis at Metrotown – 4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
  • When: Santa arrives November 18 until December 24
  • Cost: By donation (minimum $2 per photo)

Santa at Oakridge Mall

  • What: Santa Claus has arrived at Oakridge Mall, and even includes a special pet day. Give Santa your list, and if you’ve been good, you’ll get everything you’ve wished for.
  • Where: Oakridge Mall – 650 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: Santa arrives November 19 until December 24. Click here for hours.

Park Royal Mall Santa

  • What: A jingle of bells and a clatter of hooves means Santa is coming to Park Royal. Join them until Christmas Eve to usher Santa into Park Royal South.
  • Where: Park Royal South – 2002 Park Royal South, West Vancouver
  • When: Santa arrives November 19 until December 24. Click here for hours.

Lansdowne Mall Santa

  • What: Santa comes to Lansdowne Centre with a special free holiday visit in their Holiday Court.
  • Where: Lansdowne Mall – 5300 No. 3 Road, Richmond
  • When: November 19 until December 24


Image: Robson Square

Image: Robson Square

Ice Skating at Robson Square

  • What: The rink at Robson Square is operated seasonally by the provincial government when the temperatures begin to dip, running from morning into the late evening hours. Skaters can skate for free if they bring their own skates while those without skates can rent a pair on-site. There is also a concession stand serving snacks and warm drinks.
  • Where: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver (Robson & Howe)
  • When: December 1 until February 14, 2017; times vary

Yule Duel

  • What: Vancouver’s largest outdoor carolling competition returns to Gastown to kick off the holiday season, bringing together 20 of the city’s top choirs to sing their hearts out to raise money for May’s Place, which provides compassionate hospice care to vulnerable people in the Downtown Eastside.
  • Where: Along Water Street in Gastown
  • When: December 1 from 6 to 9 pm

Have a Christmas movie marathon

  • Whether you’re dreaming of a White Christmas or need a reminder that It’s a Wonderful Life, watching a Christmas movie will surely put you in the holiday spirit.

Visit a Farmers’ Market

Image: esclphotograf / Pixabay

Image: esclphotograf / Pixabay

Kensington Holiday Craft Fair

The 9th Annual Holiday Craft Fair at Kensington Community Centre will feature holiday gifts and stocking stuffers made by talented local artisans along with raffle and door prizes for attendees. This fair also offers free parking.

  • When: Saturday, December 3 from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Where: Kensington Community Centre – 5175 Dumfries Street, Vancouver
  • Price: Free admission.

TOQUE Fundraiser and Craft Fair

This annual craft fair is a fundraiser for Western Front. It features a variety of BC artists and artisans and attracts over 2,000 visitors each year. Proceeds from TOQUE support the music programs year-round at Western Front. Joining the impressive roaster of vendors in 2016 are the Capilano Tea House, Carrall St. Canvas Co., Nepheliad, Tony Dubroy, tuk + milo, and Wasted Effort. Drinks and a barbeque will take place on the opening night.

  • When: Friday, December 2 from 6 to 10 pm, Saturday, December 3 from 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, December 4 from 11 am to 5 pm
  • Where: Luxe Hall at Western Front – 303 East 8th Aveneue, Vancouver
  • Price: By donation

Kensington Holiday Craft Fair

The 9th Annual Holiday Craft Fair at Kensington Community Centre will feature holiday gifts and stocking stuffers made by talented local artisans along with raffle and door prizes for attendees. This fair also offers free parking.

  • When: Saturday, December 3 from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Where: Kensington Community Centre – 5175 Dumfries Street, Vancouver
  • Price: Free admission.

Coquitlam Christmas Farmers’ Market

The Coquitlam Christmas Farmers’ Market will have everything you need to make this holiday a special one. With a selection of artisan crafts, bakers confections, spice, wine, and vinegars, this is one market you wont want to miss if you’re in the area.

  • When: Sunday, December 10 from 9 am to 4 pm
  • Where: Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex – 633 Poirier Street, Coquitlam
  • Price: Free admission.

See also