Visiting Vancouver in the winter can be a wonderful experience during a lovely time of the year. To make the very most of your trip, it’s a good idea to know exactly what to expect while you’re here. Travellers from around the world might assume they’ll see a lot of Canadian snow and some harsh weather but Vancouver actually has a more mild winter than the rest of the country and the weather is pretty tame. There’s plenty to see and do around the city during the winter months so plan in advance and have the best possible time during Vancouver’s crisp and cool winter season.
Vancouver Weather in the Winter
Vancouver experiences one of the most mild winters in all of Canada. We get very little snow, if any, and temperatures rarely go below -5 Celsius or 23 Fahrenheit. You can typically expect an average winter day to be around 5 Celsius or 41 Fahrenheit. There is, however, plenty of rain. In the winter months we usually get around 15 days of rain per month, so expect you’ll have a 50/50 chance of seeing some rain during your stay.
Some days will be beautiful and dry, maybe even a little warm, and others will be grey and damp. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be experiencing any snow storms in the Vancouver area but the odd one has occurred here and there in past years. You may see a few light snow falls, but when it does snow the streets are cleared almost immediately and kids head in droves to the nearby parks to play in the fresh snow.
What to Pack for a Vancouver Winter
Packing for a winter in Vancouver can be a little tricky because Vancouver weather is somewhat unpredictable. You might be expecting rain every day and then be treated to gorgeous sun. It’s probably not going to get overly hot but you might get some nice days, so bring a few options that won’t have you sweating rivers when the sun does decide to show its face.
Layering is the most important thing to keep in mind when packing. Start with a thin long sleeved shirt, add a sweater, and have a waterproof jacket ready in case it rains or gets bitterly cold. Waterproof shoes or boots are a must, but there will likely be dry days as well if you want to bring your favorite pair of heels or dress shoes. Gloves, toques, and scarves are also a really good idea if you aren’t a fan of the cold. If you have the option to bundle up or remove a layer or two, no amount of cool weather or unexpected sun can ruin your day.
Things to Do in Vancouver in the Winter
Most of the popular attractions in Vancouver transform over the holidays to offer their visitors a special, wintery experience. Capilano Canyon decks their trails out in lights, Burnaby Village turns into a winter wonderland, and the Stanley Park train offers a gorgeous Bright Nights ride. The entire city lights up and takes on a festive glow, with all of the best attractions joining in to make every winter season a magical experience for both the local population and well as the visiting tourists.
Aside from the regular attractions, Vancouver also sees a ton of special winter events. Incredible Christmas markets pop up in every neighborhood, such as the Vancouver Christmas Market in the Jack Poole Plaza, or Christmas at Hycroft, held within the lavishly decorated, historical Hycroft Manor. The light display at Glow Vancouver is one of the most dazzling Christmas experiences in the city. The Vancouver Santa Claus Parade is an epic all day event the whole family will love. Starting out with Breakfast with Santa at the Fairmont Hotel, the festivities move over to the Christmas Square for face painting, crafts, letters to Santa, other other fun activities. The parade then travels along West Georgia Street onto Howe Street and is later followed up by pictures with Santa.
Not every holiday event in Vancouver is centered around Christmas. The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival brightens up the darkest night of the year with lanterns, fire, singing, and dancing, incorporating many cultural traditions into the celebration. The Lunar New Year Festival is a Chinese New Year celebration that lasts from the new moon until the 15th day of the first Lunar Calendar month. Events happening around Vancouver and Richmond include lion dances, cultural performances, and fireworks.
Ski Hills Around Vancouver
Vancouver doesn’t get much snow but the ski hills surrounding the city are covered in it. If you’ve got your heart set on a white Christmas or you’d just like to put those new winter boots to the test, trek up to one of the many ski hills surrounding Vancouver. Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas features an 8000 square foot mountaintop ice skating pond, Christmas crafts at Elf Headquarters, and a breathtaking Light Walk installation set up around Blue Grouse Lake.
Christmas in Whistler is a magical experience filled with snow, twinkling lights, and holiday events and activities. Whistler Village is transformed into shining display of vibrant colors against stark white snow. Aside from simply skiing and snowboarding, you can skate with the family in the Olympic Plaza, zipline across the snow capped trees of the old growth rainforest, or cruise the slippery slopes of the Coca Cola Tube Park.
For more skiing, snowboarding, tubing, tobogganing, and snowshoeing, check out Mt. Seymour, Cypress Mountain, and Sasquatch Mountain Resort. Any of these snow covered mountains are a great place to visit with the family. You can play all day in the snow and then warm up in their cozy restaurants, lodges, and cafes for a bite to eat and a piping hot beverage to sip while you defrost.
Vancouver in the Winter
Vancouver has a lot going on during the winter months. When the weather drops it’s like the city transforms into a whole new place. Nature lovers move from the parks and beaches and head up to the ski hills or frozen lakes and ponds. The weather never really gets bad enough to keep people cooped up inside but you’ll see plenty of boots, gloves, and scarves roaming the streets with people trying to stave off the brisk chill of the day. Come prepared for a cooler climate, possibly even a touch of snow, and you’ll have a wintery and wonderful time.