10 Things to do in Vancouver at Christmas

Christmas in Vancouver has a special and enchanting energy. From Christmas markets to gingerbread house displays, there's something for everyone - here's an itinerary with everything you can take advantage of!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

10 Things to do in Vancouver at Christmas

Vancouver Christmas |©David Evanochko

Vancouver is a multicultural city, where Christmas is very special. Temperatures drop considerably in December, usually ranging between 3° and 7°, so I recommend wearing warm clothes to enjoy all the activities. The city opens the doors to its seasonal attractions, such as FlyOver Canada, which is a themed flight over the North Pole.

You can also take advantage of the lights switch on, enjoy the Christmas events scattered in different parts of the city and experience the Christmas markets. Additionally, the Santa parade is a must-see, especially if you go with children. If you want to take advantage of the best things to do in Vancouver during the Christmas season, you can't miss the gingerbread house display and the events at the Grouse Mountain pine tree.

1. Fly over the North Pole at FlyOver Canada

FlyOver Canada|©Gayvan.com
FlyOver Canada|©Gayvan.com

FlyOver Canada is a very fun activity, available all year round in Vancouver. However, at Christmas it has a magical touch, as it transforms into a flight simulation over Canada's North Pole. You can explore the country's most iconic landscapes, such as Niagara Falls, while enjoying special effects that include smells, fog, turns, winds and more.

During the journey you will meet Santa's elves and helpers as you pass through Christmas-inspired locations. Additionally, breakfasts with Santa are organized, allowing you to spend a magical morning tasting Christmas dishes. You can even drop a letter in the North Pole mailbox located in the cafeteria. Please note that flights are available from November to January.

If you want to purchase tickets for the Vancouver FlyOver Canada experience, please note that it is located in Canada Place, the harbor district that offers the best views of Vancouver Bay. The experience lasts approximately eight minutes and you can find tickets starting at 23 euros. Please note that children under the age of 15 get in free.

Buy tickets for Vancouver FlyOver Canada Experience

2. Enjoy the Canyon Lights festival and Christmas events on the Vancouver Suspension Bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge - Canyon Lights|©Natulive Canada
Capilano Suspension Bridge - Canyon Lights|©Natulive Canada

Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge is a unique Christmas location, as winter activities take place from November to January. Each year it is covered with thousands of colorful lights, which are installed during the Canyon Lights festival. It is a different plan outside the city, which allows you to breathe fresh air under the treetops. There are caroling groups in the vicinity, as well as gingerbread cookie making workshops.

In general, the Canyon Festival offers a variety of activities and craft workshops for children, such as Christmas tree making. Please note that to access the festival, you only need to purchase tickets to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver.

Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge

3. Visit Vancouver's Christmas Markets

market in Vancouver|©Ken Lane
market in Vancouver|©Ken Lane

From November onwards you can enjoy Vancouver's Christmas markets, some of which are temporary, but you can also find options available throughout the winter season. The main one is the annual Vancouver Christmas Market, a fun outdoor option. It takes place in Jack Poole Plaza, where you can cover yourself from the cold with a mulled wine, do your Christmas shopping and buy crafts.

Their events are inspired by German and Austrian traditions, so you'll find craft beers from those countries. Additionally, you can visit Santa's residence, ride the Christmas carousel, go on a treasure hunt and more. Other markets not to be missed include:

  • Pacific Arts Market: is a quaint market, where a Christmas bazaar is held in November, where you can find household goods, clothing, crafts and food. There is also Santa's workshop offering last minute Christmas shopping deals, as well as live music and things to do in Vancouver with kids.
  • Japan Market: in early December, this market usually offers a Christmas fair, where the main attraction is the Japanese food stalls.
  • Granville Island Market: it is an ideal spot for Christmas shopping, it also has a children's market with attractions for the little ones. I recommend you to sign up for a guided tour of the market, to learn more about its gastronomic and entertainment proposals.

Book a visit to Granville Island Market

4. Climb to the Christmas peak at Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain, Vancouver|©zxorg
Grouse Mountain, Vancouver|©zxorg

Grouse Mountain is an icon of the region, where you can find a variety of activities and attractions, such as snowboarding, skiing and hiking. In winter it transforms into the Canadian North Pole, so you can see Santa's reindeer and ice skating. Here the festive atmosphere, decorations and magical adventures will allow you to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest.

Additionally, by booking tickets to Grouse Mountain you can visit Santa in his workshop, as well as enjoy the enchanting Light Walk light show. You can also learn about local birds and explore the grizzly bear habitat. If you're going with kids, don't miss The Theatre in the Sky, where Christmas movies are shown. There's also a craft area and an elf headquarters for writing letters to Santa Claus. It's an ideal destination if you're looking for things to do in Vancouver in winter, as you'll find snowshoe trails, ski areas and a skating rink.

Buy tickets for Grouse Mountain

5. Don't miss Vancouver's Christmas boat parties and Carol Ships Parade of Lights

view of boats in the harbor|©otaku
view of boats in the harbor|©otaku

Christmas cruises are a must-see stop in Vancouver, in fact to kick off the season the Carol Ships Parade of Lights takes place. This event lights up the city's harbors and ships, usually in early December. You can see the catamarans sailing from the Burrard Yacht Club to Lonsdale Quay.

The evening procession can be seen from the harbor, where free activities and entertainment are held. However, the best way to enjoy this event is aboard a cruise ship. Christmas parties on Vancouver ships are a classic that allows you to see the light show, dine on Christmas dishes and enjoy Christmas carols. In addition, bars and nightclubs are set up on board, ideal for celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve.

6. Take advantage of the Christmas lights in Vancouver.

Vandusen Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights|©Raymond Fairweather
Vandusen Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights|©Raymond Fairweather

In December the streets of Vancouver are embellished with hundreds of light shows, thanks to the arrival of Christmas. I recommend you to take a tour to explore the city, a great option is to participate in a bike tour of Vancouver or take advantage of the best tours in the city's tourist bus. Especially, near dusk and during the night where you can better appreciate the decorations, some lights that you can not miss are:

The Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

The Vancouver Botanical Garden offers an annual event, with Christmas light displays. It's known as the VanDusen Festival of Lights and offers a fairytale atmosphere with millions of twinkling lights, food stalls and live entertainment. You can stop by the gingerbread houses in the treetops, as well as visit Santa's workshop.

It's an ideal environment for the whole family to spend your winter vacations. The lights are installed in November and are removed in January, so you can take the opportunity to stop by if you are looking for things to do in Vancouver in winter. You can find tickets from 12 euros, to explore this fun labyrinth considered the green lung of the city.

Sneak off to Coquitlam's Christmas Lighting

Lights at Lafarge is a Christmas light display near the long Lafarge. Specifically, it is located forty minutes from Vancouver, in the mini-town of Coquitlam. It is not usually as crowded as other events in the region, so you can enjoy an exclusive experience. The forest is usually decorated with hundreds of lights and looks like something out of a Christmas movie.

It is a free winter attraction, where a Christmas night market is usually set up, ideal for enjoying a mulled wine. You can experience this event between November and January, so you have plenty of time to admire the decorations and enjoy the magic and comedy shows, food stalls and live entertainment.

Marvel at the holiday lights on Granville Island and Harrison Lake

Granville Island is a great destination at Christmastime, as it hosts the lighting of the boardwalk. You can enjoy this attraction between November and January, keeping in mind that this island is actually a residential neighborhood surrounded by museums, galleries and breweries. During these dates you can find activities for the whole family, while enjoying the exhibits.

Another must-see is the Lights By the Lake Festival at Harrison Hot Springs. It's a themed celebration where you can enjoy the winter nights. Usually, the inaugural event is held in November with dance performances, Santa presentations and skating rinks. You can even find decorations in area restaurants and appreciate the iconic snowmen.

7. Join Vancouver's Santa Claus Parade

Vancouver Santa Claus Parade|©visualgrover
Vancouver Santa Claus Parade|©visualgrover

Vancouver's annual Santa Cla us Parade is a massive free event, which includes live entertainment by bands, floats and dance troupes. It usually starts on West Georgia Street and there are other events beforehand such as Christmas breakfasts, Santa Claus letter stations, face painting for children and more. A fun fact is that some people often dress up in costumes that are not directly related to Christmas.

Some pre-events are held near the Vancouver Art Gallery, most are free family activities. Other Christmas parades taking place nearby include:

  • Aldergrove Christmas Light Parade: this is an evening parade held in a community about an hour from Vancouver. The main attraction is the lights and floats.
  • Timms Community Center Parade: is a parade that is accompanied by Christmas events, such as craft workshops, ice carving demonstrations and beer tasting.
  • Bowen Island Parade: an activity that is part of the Lantern Festival, the parade goes from Village Square to Union Steamship Marina. Highlights include Santa's arrival by boat, caroling groups and theatrical performances for the little ones.

8. Take the high elves' tour in Stanley Park.

Bright Nights|©Nick A
Bright Nights|©Nick A

Stanley Park is a magical location during the holiday season, as it hosts the legendary Bright Nights, where the interactive train is the main attraction. Please note that tickets for the train are sold online months in advance, usually selling out in a matter of minutes. This attraction allows you to insert yourself into the journey of the great elves, which will take you through the forest in a locomotive from 1961.

The price of tickets for the train starts at 10 euros per person, although there are special offers for children and seniors. In the square you will find free activities, as well as extravagant displays and light shows. You can enjoy the parade of trees, as well as participate in the Christmas workshops. In addition, every year the Christmas theme is different.

9. Attend the holiday display at the Steveston Festival of Lights

Steveston Festival of Lights|©Gord McKenna
Steveston Festival of Lights|©Gord McKenna

Throughout the month of December you can enjoy the activities of the Stevenston Festival of Lights, also known as Stevenston Winter in the Village. It takes place in Steveston, located in the Richmond neighborhood of Metro Vancouver. Here you can't miss a tour of the Christmas decorations, as well as the seasonal food stalls.

Most people are attracted by the Christmas display, where the pine trees and lights are an unrepeatable spectacle. Nearby there is a port area, where you can see illuminated boats. I also suggest you to go to the Festival of Trees in mid-December, whose entrance fee is approximately 10 euros. You can buy pine trees, see the decorated trees on display and vote for the best one. Other activities not to be missed include:

  • The Craft Fair: which offers a festive atmosphere, and is an ideal place to enjoy a hot drink and shelter from the cold. Admission is a donation at the discretion of the individual.
  • Stevenston Christmas Market: an ideal market for souvenirs, crafts and clothing.
  • Santa in Town: it is an annual activity, where most of the activities are free. Santa usually arrives by boat and inaugurates the celebration. In addition, there is a parade and free carriage rides.
  • The dog parade: it is a very fun Christmas race, where you can bring your pet dressed up as Santa's reindeer. It is held on the Phoenix Pond Bridge, the best dressed dogs receive a prize.

10. Delight yourself with Hyatt Gingerbread Lane, gingerbread house display at Hyatt Regency

Hyatt Regency Vancouver Gingerbread Lane|©Chris Clarke
Hyatt Regency Vancouver Gingerbread Lane|©Chris Clarke

Gingerbread houses are a Christmas classic, in fact Vancouver is hosting a free event where you can build your own. This is the Hyatt Gingerbread Lane gingerbread house display, which has become a real tradition, having been held since 1992. Each year there is a different theme, the most popular have been the North Pole, the Grinch and Charlie Brown.

It is held at the Hyatt Regency hotel, and is available throughout the month of December with cooking workshops and tastings. As an added bonus, another Christmas event not to be missed is the tree lighting in Robson Square. It is the main pine tree in the city, so it is very important and is accompanied by concerts, free cookie stations and live entertainment.