When the temperature drops, the city of Vancouver packs away all it’s summer gear and fully embraces the winter season with open arms. Businesses and attractions all around the city decorate their storefronts, transform their displays, and hold special events to welcome in the holidays. Everything you saw in the summer months becomes a whole new experience in the winter with lights, music, laughter, and all around jolly good times. Check out the most festive spots in the city to get the most cheer, mirth, and joy out of this upcoming holiday season.
Stanley Park Bright Nights
The Stanley Park train runs along a 2 km track through the forest within the park. From November 28 until January 1 the route is transformed into a dazzling display of lights and live performances for Stanley Park’s Bright Nights. Three million twinkling lights fill the park along with festive displays and wintery scenes. You can buy tickets to the train for either the matinee or evening show and you can also explore the Plaza by donation to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
This year’s Glow Vancouver theme is Santa’s Lost Presents, running from November 21 until January 5. The main draw of Glow is the gorgeous lights that line the garden trails but they also have a playground for the kids to play on, a licensed bar for the adults to grab a drink, delicious treats for everyone, and a vendor market that features some of the best local artisans and small businesses from around the city. If all of that isn’t enough Glow for you, check out Santa’s Sleigh Adventure, another Glow event held in Abbotsford, about an hour’s drive outside of Vancouver.
Capilano Canyon Lights
Capilano Suspension Bridge is an exciting place to go anytime of the year but if you visit from November 22 to January 26 be prepared to be stunned by the Capilano Canyon Lights. Hundreds of thousands of lights are strung up throughout the park, along the suspension bridge, and all around the Treetops Adventure and Cliffwalk areas. The 110 foot, 250 year old Douglas fir trees that support the Treetops Adventure will be adorned with lights, making for the oldest and largest Christmas trees in the world. Kids can also go on a Snowy Owl Prowl, decorate gingerbread cookies, and sing carols with the holiday band.
Peak of Christmas
Head up to Grouse Mountain from November 22 until January 5 and check out the Peak of Christmas. Dazzling light installations are set up around Blue Grouse Lake and the Theatre in the Sky will be playing Christmas movies throughout the holiday season. Kids can make crafts and write letters to Santa at Elf Headquarters or the whole family can take a skate on the 8,000 square foot mountaintop ice skating pond.
Vancouver Christmas Market
Overlooking the Vancouver Harbour at the Jack Poole Plaza, the Vancouver Christmas Market is one of Vancouver’s most cherished holiday traditions. From November 20 until December 24 you can explore over 80 stalls filled with treats, treasures, and gift ideas for everyone. Adults can visit the exclusive WunderBAR for festive cocktails or try some German beer and hot-spiced Glühwein from the marketplace. Bring the kids on December 1st for Kids Day and they’ll be able to see Santa, meet their favorite princesses, and complete a treasure hunt within the market.
Polar Express Train
About an hour outside of Vancouver is the town of Squamish where you’ll find the Polar Express Train. On November 23, 24, 30, December 1, 7, 8, 14, and 15 you can take a 50 minute train ride filled with cookies, hot chocolate, carols, and stories. Visitors can also explore the North Pole Workshop and Gingerbread Village, build toys, and meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus. There is no official dress code but PJs are encouraged for the entire family.
VanDusen Festival of Lights
For a stunningly lit stroll through the garden, check out VanDusen Festival of Lights from November 30 until January 5. Visitors can watch the dancing light show on Livingstone Lake, ride the carousel, and take photos with Santa in Santa’s Lodge. There is a Fireside Lounge where you can warm up by the fire and a piano in the garden to play some tunes and sing some carols. Be sure to bring your phone or camera and grab some selfies in the frames, sets, and other selfie spots located around the park.
Vancouver Santa Claus Parade
On Sunday, December 1st, the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade will be making its way down West Georgia Street, turning on to Howe Street, and finishing at Davie Street. You can purchase tickets to have breakfast with Santa before the parade at the Fairmont Hotel. After breakfast, pre-parade festivities will be going on at the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza. The parade starts at 12:00 pm and finishes up with the chance to get photos with Santa.
Aurora Winter Festival
The Aurora Winter Festival offers an unforgettable experience hidden away within a magical village. There’s a tube park, frozen skating rink, story time with Santa, a holiday market, breathtaking light displays, rides and games, food gardens, live music, theatrical performances, and enchanting characters. The festival runs from November 22 until January 5 in Hastings Park and the PNE fairgrounds.
Lights at Lafarge
Head to Coquitlam’s Town Centre park on November 30th for the opening night of Lights at Lafarge, a free light display which wraps around the 1.2 km loop of Lafarge Lake. On opening night there will be food trucks, buskers, and live entertainment from 6 – 8 pm but the lights will remain up and illuminated nightly into the new year.
It’s not hard to find something festive to do in Vancouver during the holiday season. These attractions are some of the most popular places to check out but they aren’t the only festivities happening around the city. Many restaurants, hotels, shops, museums, and other attractions do at least a little something to add to the magic that happens in Vancouver over the holidays. All you really need to do is step outside and you’ll be bathed in colored lights and joyous Christmas music on every corner.