30 FREE things to do in Vancouver this December

Nov 26 2019, 8:00 pm

No need to blow your budget this holiday season! Get festive with our list of 30 FREE things to do in and around Vancouver this December, including Vancouver Santa Claus Parade, CP Holiday Train, and more!

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

Fun events around town

Vancouver Santa Claus Parade

santa claus parade

Santa Claus Parade

What: One of Vancouver’s largest holiday events – the 16th annual TELUS presents the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade – is happening on Sunday, December 1. More than 300,000 spectators are expected to show up for this year’s event, with the parade including over 2,500 participants, 40 floats, marching bands, dance troupes, choirs, and community groups. There will also be a Breakfast with Santa at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Christmas Square at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza square, and TELUS Photos with Santa happening throughout the day.

When: December 1, 2019
Time: 8:30 to 10:30 am (Breakfast with Santa), 10 am to 12 noon (Christmas Square at the Vancouver Art Gallery), 12 noon (parade), 2 to 4 pm (TELUS Photos with Santa)
Where: Downtown Vancouver
Admission: Free

Robson Square Ice Rink

What: The provincial government’s Robson Square Ice Rink is open for the 2019/2020 season, and as per tradition, skating is free for all ages. Wedged under the covered outdoor plaza at Robson Square, the rink is operated seasonally by the government when temperatures begin to dip.

Skating is free for all ages for those who bring their own skates. Those without skates can rent a pair on-site, for a fee. An on-site concession stand will also serve warm drinks and snacks.

When: Daily from November 30, 2019 to February 29, 2020
Time: Sunday to Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm. Holiday hours vary.
Where: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver (Robson Street and Howe Street)
Price: Free for all ages if you bring your own skates. (Skate rentals are $5, and rentals end 30 minutes before closing time.) Robson Square Ice Rink accepts cash only. Helmets are mandatory for children 12 years and under.

Storytime at Redwood Park

What: Enjoy a fun, fall story inside the treehouse at Redwood Park then explore the forest on a guided seasonal sensory walk. Parent participation required.

When: December 6, 2019
Time: 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm and 1 pm
Where: Redwood Park – 17900 20 Avenue, Surrey
Admission: Free, register online

Cineplex Community Day

movie day

Cineplex Odeon/Shutterstock

What: Cineplex wants you to treat yourself to a free movie day on December 7. For the ninth consecutive year, Cineplex Community Day will treat guests to a selection of popular movies. All proceeds from donations and select concession sales will go toward supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Canada. Popcorn, drinks, and select candy will be available to purchase at $2.50, a reduced price. Film this year include: A Christmas Story, Elf, Gremlins, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and The Polar Express.

When: December 7, 2019
Time: Doors open at 9 am
Where: Participating theatres across Canada
Price: Movies are free, concession snacks at $2.50

Mensch Jewish Delicatessen Pop-up

What: Mensch will be popping up on select dates at Kafka’s Coffee (577 Great Northern Way), where a selection of eats, like its signature slow-brined, smoked, hand-cut New York-style hot pastrami sandwich on fresh rye bread, will be available.

When: December 14, 2019
Time: 6 pm
Where: Kafka’s Coffee – 577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver
Admission: Free

In the BAG Family Sundays

What: Visit Burnaby Art Gallery for a different family-friendly art project this fall. December’s project is Wayfinding with Water.

When: December 15, 2019
Time: 1 to 4 pm, beginning on the hour and half-hour mark with the last at 3:30 pm
Where: Burnaby Art Gallery – 6344 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
Admission: Free

Birding Walks in Surrey Parks

What: A local naturalist leads a birding walk through a Surrey park where you can see the various birds of the city. Learn about Surrey’s diverse habitats while exploring the park.

Walks are drop-in and will happen rain or shine but may be cancelled due to high winds or extreme weather conditions. Wear appropriate footwear and clothing, and bring binoculars and a field guide if you have them. Binoculars will be available to borrow as well.

When: December 21, 2019, January 18, February 15, March 21, April 18, May 16, 2020
Time: 9 am to 11 am
Where: Various parks in Surrey
Admission: Free

The Night Tree Celebration

What: PoCo Heritage TREES hosts The Night Tree Celebration at Kinsmen’s Hall, with a story time, nature-based activities, entertainment and more for the whole family. Hot chocolate and treats will be served.

When: December 23, 2019
Time: 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: Kinsmen’s Hall — 2175 Coquitlam Avenue, Port Coquitlam
Tickets: Online, Free

Holiday Lights and Events

Dundarave Festival of Lights 2019


Dundarave Festival of Light/ John Martin

What: The Dundarave Festival of Lights is back for another season, offering festive, free concerts, a Christmas fair, and a Forest of Miracles. The festival begins with a Christmas tree decorating beach party on Saturday, November 30, at Dundarave Beach. You’ll be able to enjoy concerts in the Longhouse and the Nativity Pavilion for free, decorate the festival’s 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. It’s free to wander among the magical Christmas trees, which are decorated and sponsored to help raise funds to end homelessness.

When: November 30, December 7, December 14, and December 21, 2019
Time: Every Saturday afternoon
Where: Dundarave Beach – 25th Street at Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver
Admission: Free

Yule Duel Vancouver: Carolling for a Cause

What: Hundreds of voices from dozens of Vancouver’s best choirs will sing at the North Plaza, Vancouver Art Gallery, during Yule Duel: BC’s largest outdoor carolling competition. Donations will be collected for May’s Place, which delivers hospice care to vulnerable and marginalized people in the Downtown Eastside.

When: December 5, 2019
Time: 5:30 to 9 pm
Where: North Plaza, Vancouver Art Gallery — 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver
Admission: Free, with donations to May’s Place being collected

Kensington Holiday Craft Fair

What: The 12th annual Kensington Holiday Craft Fair features holiday gifts and stocking stuffers crafted by local artisans. In addition to free parking, the event hosts a raffle and door prizes for attendees.

When: December 7, 2019
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Where: Kensington Community Centre – 5175 Dumfries Street, Vancouver
Admission: Free

Fridays on Front Holiday Market 2019

What: New West’s Fridays on Front returns on December 13 for a special Holiday Market. Marketgoers can head to the festivities happening under the parkade on Front Street and enter for free to enjoy a selection of delicious local eats and drinks available for purchase.

When: December 13, 2019
Time: 5 to 9 pm
Where: Under the parkade on Front Street in New West
Admission: Free

Highstreet Christmas Festival

What: Taking place in Abbotsford, the annual festival includes a 65-foot Christmas tree, holiday shows every Saturday until December 14 from 5 pm to 5:30 pm with pre-show festivities starting at 4:30 pm, photos with Santa, Santa’s Mailbox, and gift wrapping and personal shopping.

When: Every Saturday until December 14, 2019
Time: 5 pm start
Where: Highstreet Shopping Centre – 3122 Mt Lehman Road, Abbotsford
Admission: Free

Coquitlam Christmas Farmers’ Market

What: In addition to finding crafts, spices, wines, and vinegar, visitors to the market will also have a chance to find freshly picked, local produce.

When: December 14, 2019
Time: 9 am to 4 pm
Where: Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex – 633 Poirier Street, Coquitlam
Admission: Free

CP Holiday Train BC 2019

holiday train

CP Holiday Train/ Facebook

What: The 21st edition of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will travel across Canada this holiday season and will be making its annual stop in Metro Vancouver this December. Bring non-perishable donations to support your local food bank, and enjoy live performances by Terri Clark and Dallas Smith.

When: December 16 and December 17, 2019
Time: Pitt Meadows between 8:55 to 9:35 pm (Monday), Port Moody between 5:20 and 6:15 pm; Port Coquitlam between 7 and 7:45 pm (Tuesday)
Where: Pitt Meadows – Corner of Harris Road and Advent Road, at the railway crossing; Port Moody – ​300 loco Road, behind Arena and Rec Centre; and Port Coquitlam – Port Coquitlam West Coast Express Station
Admission: Free

Winter Treasures

What: The 5th Annual Winter Treasures features handcrafted gifts, fine crafts, art, and décor by local artisans. The Winter Treasures Artisan Market is held in conjunction with Blackberry Gift Shop’s annual Christmas Marketplace.

When: Now until December 18, 2019
Time: Various times
Where: Port Moody Arts Centre – 2425 St. Johns Street, Port Moody
Admission: Free

6 Holly Jolly Sundays of Art at the Pacific Arts Market

What: This market features local artists exhibiting paintings, jewellery, pottery, photography, and leather goods, to name a few. Each Christmas market will feature tastings, crafts, wine, and more.

When: Every Sunday until December 22, 2019 (except December 1)
Time: 1 to 5 pm
Where: 2nd floor 1448 W Broadway, Vancouver
Admission: Free

Public Menorah Lighting

What: Head to Richmond Public Library Brighouse Branch for the annual lighting of a 25-foot high steel menorah to celebrate Hanukkah. There will also be children’s entertainment and arts and crafts. Presented by The Ebco Group of Companies, Richmond Public Library and Richmond Cultural Centre, Chabad of Richmond, and The Bayit.

When: December 23, 2019
Time: 5 pm (children’s party), 6 pm (menorah lighting)
Where: Richmond Public Library – Brighouse Branch — 100-7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond
Admission: Free

The Christmas Store at Potters

What: Potters Nursery has made its annual transformation into the 28,000-sq-ft Christmas Store at Potters. Themed areas include a 3,000-sq-ft “Dark Room,” illuminated by themed tree-lights, Petland, and the Nutcracker Room, to name a few. New this year is the store’s very own Whoville, a space dedicated to a wide variety of Grinch-themed items, such as teddy bears, ornaments, mugs, and snow globes.

In addition to over 50,000 themed ornaments, toys, games, and stocking stuffers for kids, adults, and pets, the store will offer food demos and live music on weekends to liven up the Christmas atmosphere.

Time: Various times
Where: 19158 48th Avenue, Surrey
Admission: Free

7th Annual Christmas Tree Festival

What: Get in the festive spirit by checking out the Christmas trees at the Port Coquitlam Museum and Archives and partner locations Leigh Square, Terry Fox Library, and City Hall.

When: Now until January 4, 2020
Time: Various times
Where: PoCo Heritage Museum and Archives – 150-2248 McAllister Avenue, Port Coquitlam
Admission: Free

Heritage Christmas

What: Take a trip back to holidays past at Burnaby Village Museum with Heritage Christmas. See vintage-themed displays, listen to live music, and enjoy theatre performances. There will also be crafts for children, baking in the Farmhouse, and visits with Father Christmas.

When: Now until January 3, 2020 (closed December 24 and 25)
Time: Various times
Where: Burnaby Village Museum – 6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
Admission: Free, carousel rides $2.65

Lights on the Lake at Harrison Hot Springs

What: Harrison Hot Springs will be overflowing with Christmas spirit this holiday season, thanks to the return of its annual Winter Light Festival. Light displays on the Harrison Lakefront will showcase the mythical creature hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, fishing, camping, and windsurfing. The event will also feature a Christmas tree trail and a brand-new synthetic outdoor ice rink.

When: Now until January 12, 2020
Time: Various times
Where: Harrison Hot Springs
Admission: Free

Lights at Lafarge Lake

Lights at Lafarge

Lights at Lafarge (Ania Jedrzejewska / Instagram)

What: Lights at Lafarge Lake is one of the largest free light displays in Metro Vancouver and features more than 100,000 twinkling lights. The outdoor display wraps its way entirely around the lake, leading visitors on a 1.2-km loop through 10 themed zones. The display is located just steps from SkyTrain’s Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station, and the lights will remain on from dusk each night until 11 pm.

When: Now until January 19, 2019
Time: Dusk to 11 pm daily (until midnight on New Year’s Eve)
Where: Town Centre Park – 1299 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam
Admission: Free

Eat fresh with farmers’ markets

Riley Park and Nat Bailey Stadium Farmers’ 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: Open year-round on Saturday (except December 28)
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Where: Riley Park Plaza — 50E. 30th Avenue, Vancouver, Nat Bailey Stadium – 4601 Ontario Street, Vancouver
Admission: Free

Granville Island Public Market

Winter Farmers' Market


What: Open year-round and boasting stalls of fresh, colourful produce, homemade products, and must-try eats. From the ocean, oven, or field — Granville Market has got it all. Grab items to-go or order some grub from one of the many established food vendors at this indoor market. You’re going to leave happy and full.

When: Open year-round, seven days a week
Time: 9 am to 7 pm
Where: 1661 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
Admission: Free

Richmond Country Farms

What: Family-owned and operated for nearly 40 years, Richmond Country Farms is the farm stand adjacent to Highway 99 off Steveston. Open from early spring to just ahead of Christmas, the market has a bounty of fresh local produce and prepared goods.

When: Open Thursdays to Sundays until December 2019
Time: 9 am to 7 pm
Where: 12900 Steveston Highway, Richmond
Admission: Free

Burnaby Artisan Farmers’ Market

What: Launched in June 2008, this open-air market, situated in the North Parking Lot of Burnaby City Hall, offers visitors an assortment of food and craft stalls to peruse every Saturday until “at least Christmas” and possibly longer.

When: Every Saturday
Time: 9 am to 2 pm
Where: North Parking Lot of Burnaby City Hall (4949 Canada Way at Deer Lake Pkwy)
Admission: Free

Cannery Farmers’ Market


Gulf of Georgia Cannery

What: The Cannery Farmers’ Market is Steveston’s indoor winter market, held at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site. This unique market features local food and artisan merchants, as well as live entertainment, inside a historic cannery setting. Admission to the museum is free on market days.

When: December 1, 8, and 15, 2019. February 9 and 23, March 8 and 22, April 5 and 19, 2020
Time: 10 am to 3 pm
Where: Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site – 12138 Fourth Avenue, Richmond
Admission: Free

Port Moody Winter Farmers’ Market

What: Established in 2008, the Port Moody Winter Farmers’ Market began as a bi-weekly market in the lobby and courtyard of the Port Moody Rec Centre. Now a weekly market, shoppers can stop by every Sunday for local BC produce, artisan crafts, and delicious baked goods.

When: Every Sunday until April 26, 2020
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Where: Port Moody Recreation Complex – 300 Ioco Road, Port Moody
Admission: Free

New West Winter Farmers’ Market

What: The market features farm-fresh produce, plants, quality crafts from local artists and artisans, gourmet prepared foods, community information, live entertainment, and more.

Time: 11 am to 3 pm
Where: Belmont Street, New Westminster
Admission: Free

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