Vancouver's Winter Wonderland: Top 9 Christmas Things to Do

12 Min Read
Nov 20, 2023

Welcome to the heart of holiday magic in Vancouver! As the winter chill sets in and the cityscape becomes adorned with twinkling lights, Vancouver transforms into a wonderland of Christmas delights. In this comprehensive guide, we invite you to embark on a journey through the enchanting world of festive attractions and activities that make Vancouver truly special during the holiday season.

From vibrant Christmas markets offering unique handmade crafts and delectable treats to dazzling light displays that illuminate the city streets, we'll take you on a tour of the most captivating experiences. Uncover the secrets of traditional celebrations, where the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread mingles with the sound of carolers filling the air. 

This guide is your passport to the best Christmas attractions and things to do in Vancouver. Get ready to indulge in the joy of ice skating under the stars, explore charming holiday villages, and witness spectacular festive performances. Let's make this holiday season unforgettable together, as we unwrap the magic of Vancouver's Christmas celebrations, one enchanting experience at a time.

1. Capilano Canyon Lights

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Ah, the Capilano Canyon Lights — where the majesty of nature meets the sparkle of the holiday season. Imagine wandering through the heart of a towering rainforest adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. Sounds magical, right?

Well, it is. Situated in North Vancouver, just a short drive from downtown, this is not your ordinary holiday outing; it's an immersive experience that combines the natural beauty of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park with a festive twist.

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From November 17th, 2023, to January 21st, 2024, the park transforms into an illuminated wonderland. The celebration isn't just confined to the iconic suspension bridge itself.

Oh no, they go all out. Picture unique treetop adventures and cliffwalks, each bathed in the glow of Christmas lights so tastefully arranged they could win awards.

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What sets this apart from other Vancouver Christmas events? It's the seamless blend of outdoor thrills and seasonal enchantment. You're not just viewing lights; you're walking amid them, surrounded by the natural beauty of the canyon.

Feeling brave? Test your balance on the swaying suspension bridge as it lights up the night, creating reflections on the Capilano River below. It's both a feast for the eyes and a tiny, heart-pounding adventure rolled into one!

Location: Capilano Canyon Lights - Google Maps

2. Bright Nights at Stanley Park

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Stanley Park is already a crown jewel in Vancouver's scenic landscape, but during the holiday season, it becomes something truly extraordinary: a whimsical paradise known as Bright Nights.

Taking child-friendly festivities to an unprecedented level, Stanley Park decks its proverbial halls with an eye-popping array of over three million lights. Yes, you read that right—three million! If you're looking for a spectacle of Vancouver holiday attractions, this one definitely deserves a standing ovation.

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Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty. Bright Nights isn't just about the lights; it's an all-encompassing holiday event that captures the imaginations of young and old alike.

As you wander through the park, you'll encounter an array of displays that bring various Christmas stories and characters to life. Santa? Check. Elves? You bet. Snowmen hanging out as if it's a winter social club? Absolutely.

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But here's the kicker: The event doesn't just dazzle your senses; it warms your heart, too. A portion of the ticket sales goes to the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund, making your night out a way to give back to the community.

Location: Bright Nights at Stanley Park - Google Maps

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3. PNE Winter Fair

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The holiday season in Vancouver wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) Winter Fair. Imagine a winter extravaganza where you don't even have to leave the comfort of your car to soak in the holiday atmosphere.

That's right; the PNE Winter Fair offers a drive-thru experience that's different from anything else you'll find in Vancouver.

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In past years like 2020 and 2021, visitors navigated their vehicles through an enchanted route that showcased dazzling Christmas lights, whimsical landscapes, and yes, even live performances!

The performers aren't just standing around, mind you; they're part of a well-coordinated spectacle designed to captivate and entertain you as you roll along.

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Hungry during the tour? No worries, you don't have to drive far to find scrumptious holiday snacks. Food trucks stationed along the route serve up everything from piping hot churros to savory bites, letting you indulge your festive food cravings without even stepping out of your car.

This is not just another holiday light show; it's a full-fledged winter festival on wheels! It's perfect for those who want a unique holiday outing without the crowds or for families looking to entertain the kiddos while staying cozy and warm. As far as Christmas activities in Vancouver go, the PNE Winter Fair offers a singularly delightful way to celebrate the holiday season.

Location: PNE Winter Fair - Google Maps

4. Vancouver Christmas Market

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Ah, the allure of an old-world Christmas market right in the heart of Vancouver—sounds like a holiday dream, doesn't it?

Welcome to the Vancouver Christmas Market, the city's own slice of German Yuletide tradition. Nestled in the scenic Jack Poole Plaza beside the Convention Centre, this market is a treasure trove of holiday goodies that offers something special for everyone.

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As you meander through the market's labyrinth of stalls, the aroma of mulled wine wafts through the air, mingling with the sweet scent of pastries and other mouthwatering treats.

What makes this market stand out from other holiday activities in Vancouver is its authenticity. You're not just walking through any market; you're stepping into a festive environment that could easily make you forget you're still in Vancouver and not in a quaint German town.

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Over here, you'll find artisan vendors showcasing an array of handcrafted items—everything from delicate ornaments to cozy winter garments. The food stalls are another highlight, offering a smorgasbord of scrumptious bites that capture the essence of German holiday cuisine. Imagine sipping on hot cider with friends while sharing a plate of sausages and sauerkraut—it's a culinary holiday in itself!

But wait, there's more. The market also features a whimsical carousel ride and live entertainment to add that extra dash of holiday magic. Trust me, the festive atmosphere here is so contagious; you'll want to stay all evening.

Location: Vancouver Christmas Market - Google Maps

5. Grouse Mountain Peak of Christmas

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If you're craving a Christmas experience that blends the thrill of winter sports with holiday enchantment, look no further than Grouse Mountain's Peak of Christmas.

Situated in North Vancouver, this festive extravaganza is set against the backdrop of the mountain's awe-inspiring vistas. Sure, the city offers a plethora of holiday activities, but how many come with a side of panoramic views of Vancouver from snowy peaks?

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Let's dig into what makes the Peak of Christmas a must-visit. On a typical year, this isn't just a pitstop; it's a full-day adventure!

After taking in the stunning illuminations, you can head to the theatre for some holiday movies—perhaps a Christmas classic to set the mood? And for the kiddos (or the young at heart), a visit to Santa is the icing on the holiday cake.

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But what about some winter action? Oh, they've got you covered. Strap on some skates and glide across the mountaintop ice rink or navigate the trails in your snowshoes and enjoy the Snowshoe Fondue Tour. If you're more of a thrill-seeker, you can hit the ski slopes, which come complete with breathtaking views of the city below. And let's not forget the fine dining options that serve up delectable fare, making for a well-rounded day.

Alright, let's talk turkey—or should I say, tickets. While the Peak of Christmas isn't exactly a budget outing, it suddenly becomes a lot more affordable if you've got a ski ticket. Especially for those with season passes, this combo turns the whole affair into quite the steal!

Location: Grouse Mountain - Google Maps

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6. VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights

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VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights—where nature's beauty meets the magic of the holiday season. Situated in one of Vancouver's most exquisite botanical gardens, this festival is a luminescent wonderland that will leave you spellbound.

We're talking hundreds of thousands of twinkling Christmas lights intricately arranged to accentuate the garden's natural splendor.

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But hey, this isn't just a walk amidst pretty lights; it's a full-blown holiday experience. In typical years, along with the radiant displays, you've got the joy of carousel rides swirling in the mix.

Picture yourself riding a beautifully crafted wooden horse as you whirl under a canopy of shimmering lights. It's like something out of a holiday fairy tale! And let's not forget—Santa makes guest appearances too. A perfect photo op for families or anyone looking to sprinkle a little extra holiday joy into their visit.

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If you're already planning your calendar, the Festival of Lights usually kicks off around November 25th and runs until January 2nd. And you've got a good chunk of the evening to soak it all in—typically from 4:00 to 10:00 pm daily, except for Christmas Day.

Keep an eye out for the 2023 event dates, which are yet to be confirmed but are likely to follow a similar schedule.

Location: VanDusen Botanical Garden - Google Maps

7. Holiday High Tea

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If you're the type who relishes the quieter, more elegant celebrations of the holiday season, then Holiday High Tea in Vancouver should be right up your alley—specifically, at a charming Kitsilano tea salon.

Unlike the outdoor razzle-dazzle of light festivals or the adrenaline rush of winter sports, Holiday High Tea offers a serene yet festive atmosphere to relish the season's joys.

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Starting on December 1, the tea salon rolls out its Festive Takeout Holiday High Tea. Picture this: an array of decadent treats carefully arranged on a biodegradable three-tier tower, complete with festive napkins and reusable rings.

Add to that elegant gold paper plates, petite reusable teacups, and silver cutlery, and you've got yourself a portable yet sophisticated holiday celebration. Whether you're treating yourself or delivering this package of joy to a loved one, it's a unique way to make the holiday special.

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But what if you're itching for a more traditional, sit-down experience? You're in luck. The tea salon also opens its doors for limited in-person seatings throughout December.

These sessions feature a special holiday high tea menu that promises to be every bit as delightful as it sounds.

8. Holiday Concerts and Performances

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If you've ever thought the holiday season is best celebrated with a touch of artistic flair, you'll be delighted by Vancouver's rich lineup of Holiday Concerts and Performances.

Among these, the VAM Symphony Orchestra’s show stands as a highlight, particularly for fans of both classical music and cherished holiday films.

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Mark your calendar for Sunday, December 10th, because that's when the VAM Symphony Orchestra takes the stage at the iconic Orpheum Theatre.

The concert kicks off at 2:00 pm and features an eclectic blend of musical masterpieces. Ever wondered what it would be like to experience "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in a symphonic setting? Well, wonder no more! The orchestra performs selections from the iconic film score, taking the Grinch from the screen to the concert hall.

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But that's not all. Alongside the Grinch, the event also pays homage to classical music with Vivaldi’s "The Four Seasons". It's a unique blend—Christmas storytelling through cinema-inspired music, followed by the timeless notes of Vivaldi.

And the cherry on top? Tickets are incredibly budget-friendly, costing just $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.

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9. Soar with Santa at FlyOver Canada

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Ever dreamt of soaring through the skies with Santa Claus, feeling the wind rush against your face as you traverse Canada's breathtaking landscapes?

Well, your dreams are just a ticket away from coming true, thanks to the "Soar with Santa at FlyOver Canada" attraction. Situated at Canada Place, this isn't your ordinary movie experience; it's a multi-dimensional adventure that promises to engage all your senses.

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During the holiday season, FlyOver Canada transforms into a festive wonderland, offering a Christmas-themed experience that takes the original "flyover" concept to new, yuletide heights. Once you're strapped into your seat, prepare to be whisked away by Santa and his troop of entertaining elves.

The journey starts at the Atlantic Ocean, sweeps through to the Pacific, and even ventures up to the Arctic—all from the comfort of your seat! It's a heady blend of fantasy and reality, showcasing the nation's geographical grandeur while adding a sprinkle of Christmas magic.

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What sets this experience apart? For one, it's both incredibly entertaining and subtly educational—you'll come away with newfound respect for Canada's vastness.

Plus, the whole shebang takes place indoors, making it an ideal family outing regardless of Vancouver's ever-changing weather conditions.

Location:  FlyOver Canada - Google Maps

To Sum It All Up

And there you have it, folks! A jam-packed guide to the top Christmas activities that make Vancouver a winter wonderland worth exploring.

From the twinkling lights at Capilano Canyon to sipping tea in an elegant setting in Kitsilano, and from soaring with Santa at FlyOver Canada to soaking in the melodies at the Orpheum Theatre—Vancouver's holiday scene offers something for everyone.

But don't just take my word for it; the real magic is in experiencing it yourself. Whether you're a local or a visitor, these festive activities provide the perfect backdrop for making holiday memories with friends and family. And hey, who knows, you might even start some new traditions along the way!

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