50 things to do in Vancouver this winter

Dec 10 2016, 1:27 am

We know winter can bring biting cold and snowy streets. But it also brings a flurry of fun activities to do during the season.

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So from festivals to food, Santa to snowshoeing, concerts to comedies, here are a ton of Vancouver winter events you need to check out.

Christmas fun

Vancouver Christmas Market

  • What: The 7th annual authentic German-inspired Christmas Market creates the perfect atmosphere to get into the holiday spirit. Find a selection of traditional food and drinks, and broke vendors offering authentic wood carvings and toys, knitted goods, nutcrackers, pottery, and other unique gifts.
  • Where: Jack Poole Plaza – 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Now until December 31

Enchant Christmas Light Maze

  • What: Enchant 2016 brings the world’s largest Christmas light maze to the heart of Vancouver, combined with a bustling local vendor market, live performances, warming seasonal eats and drinks, and much more.
  • Where: 1st and Crowe Street, between the Cambie Street Bridge and Olympic Village
  • When: Now until December 31

Meet Santa

No matter where you live in the city, there’s a good chance the jolly ol’ elf isn’t too far away. He’s gracing Metro Vancouver malls with his presence until Christmas Eve, so be sure to check out our list and pay him a visit.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park

  • What: More than three million dazzling lights decorate hectares of the dark forest, reaching high as the forest canopy for Bright Nights in Stanley Park. There’s also a train ride, music, snacks, entertainment, and visits with Santa and his elves.
  • Where: Miniature railway area in Stanley Park
  • When: Now until January 1

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.

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: Now until December 31.

Dundarave Festival of Lights

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

Capilano Canyon Lights

  • What:  Experience a North Vancouver tradition, as thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the iconic suspension bridge, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk, and other areas of the park, during Canyon Lights.
  • Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge – 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
  • When:  Until January 8.
  • Tickets: $13.95 to $39.95; admission is free for kids under 6

Chalet Place, North Vancouver Light Display

  • What: A North Vancouver has been lighting up with over 100,000 lights each Christmas for a few years, all for a good cause. The homeowners welcome visitors but encourage a donation to the Harvest Project in return.
  • Where: 4967 Chalet Place, North Vancouver
  • When:  Until January 6. The house is illuminated nightly at 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 is located at Robson Square.
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Street, Vancouver
  • When: Throughout December


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

Holidays at the Aquarium

  • What: Scuba Claus is back in town for another underwater adventure at the Vancouver Aquarium. He’ll be making special trips to deliver gifts to the most deserving creates in the sea while entertaining guests on the other side of the glass. Once that’s done, you can catch a showing of the Polar Express in 4-D.
  • Where: Vancouver Aquarium – 845 Avison Way, Vancouver
  • When: Now until January 2

Festival of Lights at VanDusen

  • What: See the botanical garden covered in more than a million lights. Find reindeer and Scandinavian goes roaming the trails.
  • Where: VanDusen Gardens – 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver
  • When: Now until January 2

FlyOver Canada Christmas

  • What: FlyOver Canada transforms into a magical winter wonderland. Have fun helping Santa search for his missing elves during an exhilarating flight across Canada and on to the North Pole.
  • Where: 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Now until January 2

Stay active (even though it’s cold out)

Skating/Robson Square

Image: Robson Square

Go skating at Robson Square

  • What: The Robson Square Ice Rink brings free skating (with your own skates) to downtown until the end of February. If you don’t have skates, rentals are available. The rink also features a concession stand with snacks and warm drinks.
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Square, Vancouver
  • When: Daily, from 9 am to 9 pm Sunday to Thursday, and from 9 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays.

Hit the slopes at a local mountain

Go for a run

Go tubing or tobogganing

When there’s snow on the ground, there are numerous mountains in Metro Vancouver to try your hand at snow tubing and tobogganing:

Go snowshoeing

Whether you’re a regular or a beginner, snowshoeing is a fun and easy way to get outside in the winter, see some marvelous scenery, and have some exercise. See our list of snowshoeing trails near Vancouver, or places to snowshoe with your dog if you want to bring your best friend out.

Snowshoe fondue at Grouse Mountain

  • What: Up your winter wonderland game with a private group snowshoe tour and evening of fondue at Grouse Mountain.
  • Where: Grouse Mountain Resort.
  • When: Available six days a week (Thursday to Saturday), throughout the winter season. Reservations are required three business days in advance, and tours start at 7 pm.

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.
  • Where: English Bay
  • When: January 1

Moonlight snowshoe with Take a Hike Foundation

  • What: Join friends and family for a guided night-time snowshoe, and enjoy great food, music, and prizes all in support of a good cause.
  • Where: Mount Seymour, North Vancouver
  • When: February 25

Hit up the gym

Get a jump on those new year’s resolutions and hit the gym! Or just look at these photos inside downtown Vancouver’s swanky new fitness club.

Food and drinks

Winter patio at Reflections (Lindsay William-Ross/Daily Hive)

Hot Chocolate Festival

  • What: Back for its seventh year, chocoholics will love this cocoa-fueled festival, which features an unbelievable array of exotic and specialty hot chocolates.
  • Where: Various locations throughout the city.
  • When: January 19 to February 14.

Dine Out Vancouver

  • What: Presented by Tourism Vancouver, the Dine Out Vancouver festival comes complete with a full 17-day schedule of delicious events that provide festivalgoers with unique culinary experiences to please their palate.
  • Where: Various locations throughout the city
  • When: January 20 to February 5

Street Food City VI

  • What: Celebrating its sixth anniversary, Dine Out Vancouver’s Street Food City brings the chance to try a bunch of Vancouver’s Street Food carts all in one place.
  • Where: Robson Street and South Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery
  • When: January 23 to 29, 11 am to 3 pm on weekdays, 11 am to 5 pm on weekends

Gluten Free Expo

  • What: Discover and sample hundreds of gluten-free products while learning from leading experts, at Canada’s largest gluten free event.
  • Where: Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: January 14 to 15, from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Tickets: Available online, or at the box office (cash only)

Vancouver International Wine Festival

  • What: The festival attracts some of the biggest industry names from around the world and is firmly established as the continent’s premier wine event and among the biggest, best and oldest wine events in the world. It features wine tastings and pairings, gourmet dinners and luncheons, educational seminars and culinary competitions, and benefits bard on the beach.
  • Where: Various downtown locations
  • When: February 11 to 19
  • Tickets: Available online

Find out who’s the Best Sommelier in BC

  • What: The third annual Best Sommelier of BC competition sees 16 competitors going head to head to see who’s the best in the BC wine world. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, this is one competition you don’t want to miss.
  • Where: Centre Ice Club at Rogers Arena – 800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver
  • When: January 9

Pop-up Winter Patio at Reflections

  • What: Previously just an April to September warmer-weather option, the pop-up winter patio at Reflections will definitely get you into the holiday spirit and warming right up.
  • Where: Reflections at Rosewood Hotel Georgia – 801 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
  • When: Now until December 30

Winter farmers’ markets

Hastings Park

  • What: Find a great selection of local produce, fish, meat, dairy, artisan prepared foods, baked goods, local crafts, and food trucks.
  • Where: Hastings Park Centregrounds – 2901 E Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, January 8 to April 30

Nat Bailey Stadium

  • What: Find local produce, meat, seafood, artisan cheese, bread, herbs, baked goods, artisanal crafts, and more.
  • Where: Nat Bailey Stadium – 4601 Ontario Street, Vancouver
  • When: Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm, January 7 to April 22

Celebrate New Year’s Eve

new years

Image: New Year’s Eve Vancouver

Concord’s New Year’s Eve Vancouver

  • What: After 2016’s inaugural event that brought over 80,000 attendees, making it 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, two fireworks shows, and more.
  • Where: Canada Place
  • When: December 31 starting at 6:30 pm

Book a restaurant

If you want to stay indoors and enjoy a meal, and have fireworks in your mouth instead, then check out our list of restaurants serving up NYE dinners.

Hit up a party

Or if you’re in the mood for just a good ol’ party, then check out list of NYE parties in Vancouver.

Festivals, theatre, and other events

vancouver no pants skytrain ride

No Pants SkyTrain Ride/Shutterstock

No Pants SkyTrain Ride

  • What: The No Pants Skytrain Ride is an annual global event started by Improv Everywhere in New York in 2002. The mission is simple: you ride the SkyTrain with no pants.
  • Where: Meet on the south side of the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain Station by the ticket machines. From there, the group will divide. Full route coming soon.
  • When: January 8

CONTACT Winter Music Festival

  • What: A two-day, post-Christmas indoor music festival, featuring 20 different artists.
  • Where: BC Place – 777 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver.
  • When: December 26 and 27
  • Tickets: Available online


  • What: STOMP, the international percussion sensation, makes its anticipated return to Vancouver
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre – 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
  • When: January 13 to February 7

PuSh Festival

  • What: The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is one of Vancouver’s signature performing arts events.
  • Where: 750 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
  • When: January 16 to February 5
  • Tickets: Available online 

Talking Stick Festival

  • What: A vibrant, two-week celebration of extraordinary Aboriginal performance.
  • Where: 1425 Charles Street – Vancouver
  • When: February 16 to 26


  • What: Vancouver’s favourite winter festival celebrates its 11th year with music, dance, film, theatre, art, food, craft, indoor and outdoor activities and so much more.
  • Where: Granville Island
  • When: February 19 to 21.


  • What: Chutzpah! The Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival is the Lower Mainland’s winter music, dance, comedy and theatre festival presenting international, national and local artists.
  • Where: 950 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: February 16 to March 13
  • Tickets: Available online

Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade

  • What: The annual Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver returns to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.
  • Where: Chinatown
  • When: TBA

Concerts and comedy shows

show concert


2016 Year in Review improv

  • What: 2016 has been quite the crazy year, and Vancouver TheatreSports League improvisors will create on-the-spot mashups of all of the events.
  • When: December 26 to 31
  • Where: The Improv Centre – 1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island

The Boys are Back in Town!

  • What: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo perform high-brow hilarity.
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre – 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
  • When: January 20 and 21


  • Where: Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre – 6066 Thunderbird Boulevard, Vancouver
  • When: February 1


  • Where: Commodore Ballroom – 868 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: February 1


  • Where: Commodore Ballroom – 868 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: February 3

Sam Roberts Band

  • Where: The Orpheum Theatre – 601 Smithe Street, Vancouver
  • When: February 7

The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj

  • Where: Vancouver Playhouse – 600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
  • When: February 10
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