shoppers look at products during the day at the vancouver christmas market

Top Things to Do in Vancouver at Christmas & Best Christmas Activities

Whether you’re planning a Vancouver Christmas trip or just looking for things to do over Christmas break, you’re in luck.

Our city’s stunning beauty gets an upgrade over the holidays with festive light displays, holiday decor, and all sorts of Christmas events.

In fact, Vancouver’s Christmas activities might just be enough warm the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge himself!

Vancouver Christmas Activities: The Best Christmas Things to Do in Vancouver

A girl stands with Santa in the Light Walk, Grouse Mountain
Instagram: @grousemountain

Visit the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain

During the holidays North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain transforms itself into a winter wonderland.

In addition to offering the area’s best night skiing, Vancouver’s North Pole offers a whole host of Christmas activities for visitors of all ages.

The Light Walk allows you to snowshoe or walk a magically lit nature path. There’s also an 8,000 sq ft mountain top skating rink is perfect for romantic forays and families alike.

Finally, if you’re visiting Vancouver with kids a visit to Santa’s Workshop and a meeting with Dancer and Vixen is a must. 

Get My Grouse Mountain Skyride Tickets

Enjoy Our German-style Vancouver Christmas Market

The Vancouver Christmas Market offers German-style holiday traditions right in the heart of Jack Poole Plaza at Canada Place.

There’s just nowhere else to find so many top Vancouver Christmas activities all in one location.

You’ll shop for stocking stuffers at over 80 artisan huts offering unique handcrafted gifts, breathe in the crisp winter air sipping on mulled wine, drink German beer, and sample culinary delights from all over the world.

That’s not even factoring in the family-friendly holiday-themed music and entertainment

In 2022 the event runs from November 13th – December 24th.

stanley park christmas train

Ride the Bright Nights Train at Stanley Park

A visit to Stanley Park is a must for any Vancouver itinerary, regardless of season. This urban forest oasis wasn’t dubbed the world’s best park for nothing.

A visit during the holidays takes on a whole other meaning, as the popular Bright Nights Train winds its way through Stanley Park’s riveting rainforest.

Kids (and adults, let’s face it) of all ages can sing along to their favourite carols as they take in the festive displays scattered along the ride. 

This local holiday tradition is one of the best things to do in Vancouver at Christmas for families. The train typically runs from late November till January 2nd. 

A skier goes downhill

Ski and Snowboard the Local Mountains

Ask any local about Vancouver winter activities and expect usual speech: “you can step outside your office or hotel in downtown Vancouver and be on the slopes in 30 minutes”.

This is no word of a lie – Vancouver’s top skiing mountains are just minutes from downtown.

Yes, just above North Vancouver on the North Shore Mountains are the following:

  • Grouse Mountain (33 runs and 5 terrain parks, most accessible and best for snowboarders)
  • Seymour Mountain (40 runs, best for beginners and cross country skiing)
  • Cypress Mountain (53 runs, largest total terrain and best for experienced skiers)

Visiting with no gear? Packages with downtown pickup and equipment rental can be booked using the button below:

Book My All in One Ski Package Now

Not convinced? Just 90 minutes up the road along the Sea to Sky Highway is world-class ski resort Whistler.

Check out the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge is already one of Vancouver’s top things to do – especially if you you like to mix in a little excitement with your beauty.

If you’re visiting Vancouver over Christmas it becomes even more stunning: as an end-to-end-lit, multi-coloured changing display that illuminates the canyon below.

This year the Canyon Lights will be in place from November 19th – January 22nd – between 11:00 am and 9:00 pm daily (closed Christmas Day).

The Treetops Adventure and Cliffwalk get a colourful makeover as well. Add the Arc de Lumina, the eighth tallest Christmas tree in the world, and festive music and we’ve got the perfect Vancouver Christmas activity.

Book My Canyon Lights Tickets Now

skaters skating on the robson square skating rink

Go for a Skate in Vancouver’s Robson Square

The city of Vancouver’s best outdoor rink is in Robson Square – just steps from Vancouver’s best hotels.

Located in a subterranean space adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery, this charming little rink provides one of Vancouver’s top holiday activities for families – especially with their 12 Days of Christmas live music program.

I recommend you grab some hot chocolate at nearby Thierry Alberni and check out the nearby Robson Christmas Tree for the perfect holiday evening.

The rink opens in early December and remains open through the holiday season. Skating is free and skate rentals cost $5.00.

Soar with Santa at Flyover Canada

Canada Place’s FlyOver Canada offers an epic state-of-the-art 4D flight simulator right down to simulated mist.

You will hang suspended, feet dangling, before a 20-metre spherical screen and experience Canada’s amazing scenery and most famous landmarks.

The Christmas flight includes one extra stop: the North Pole. The flight even features a guest appearance from Santa himself inside his sleigh. The popular Vancouver Christmas attraction runs from December 8th to January 3rd 2023.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking the button below. Just make sure to select a date that Soar with Santa is running.

Book Soar With Santa Now

Courtesy: Tourism Whistler

Spend the Holidays in Whistler

It should be a crime to skip over one of the world’s most beautiful drives and forgo visiting one of Canada’s great resort towns: Whistler.

Co-host of the 2010 Olympic Games, a 5-star ski resort, home to an amazing array of gourmet restaurants and spa experiences (like Scandinave), Whistler is at the top of every list of day trips from Vancouver regardless of the season.

Christmas events (2022 dates TBA) include: Christmas carolers, the Winter Solstice Concert, photos with Santa, dress like Santa day, and more.

No car? You can book all in one transport packages using the orange button below:

Book Your Whistler Transport Now

Related: Best Hotels in Whistler

hikers arriving at the panoramic view of howe sound at the sea to sky gondola vancouver squamish

Experience the Spirit of Christmas at Sea to Sky Gondola

Near the town of Squamish, the Sea to Sky Gondola is a Swiss-style gondola that rises 2905 feet up a mountain offering amazing views of the Coast Mountains and Howe Sound below.

If you visit during the Christmas season you’ll find the popular Christmas Forest Walk, featuring festively decorated forest hike. Nearby you’ll have access to snowshoeing, winter walking, and snow tubing. 

You can also enjoy a hot chocolate or decadent fondue while you partake in a variety of holiday-themed events

Book My Gondola Tickets Now

Enjoy a Holiday Drink With Friends

Spending quality time with family or friends is best done grabbing a few drinks at one of Vancouver’s best bars. After all, it’s the holidays. 

Younger people should head right for the rowdy Granville Strip, known for its nightclubs and pregame bars. Older drinkers will love Yaletown’s sleek lounges or the laid-back dive bars of Main Street or Commercial Drive.

Gastown and Chinatown are also home to some of the trendiest hideaways.

A holiday-themed crawl of East Vancouver’s numerous craft breweries are also sure to impress. 

The Festival of Lights at Vandusen Garden

Illuminate Your Soul at VanDusen Garden’s Festival of Lights

Toss on your favourite winter jacket and bring the kids to Vancouver’s favourite holiday festival: Vandusen Garden’s legendary Festival of Lights.

Here, you’ll find over one million lights strung throughout the fabulous winter blooms of the city’s largest botanical garden.

On special nights you can stroll along the lakeside and watch it glisten in the glow of the spectacular northern lights. There’s also a lush Rose Garden – resurrected and enlightened to enact a spectacular winter replica.

Over Vancouver Christmas you’ll find holiday decor throughout – including reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and even a karaoke trolley tour. 

Book My Karaoke Trolley Tour Now

Attend the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade

Every December the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade winds its way throughout downtown Vancouver’s streets.

You’ll find up to 2500 participants, including marching bands, floats and dance troupes – with an obvious holiday theme.

The parade begins at around noon (2022 date TBA) and proceeds East on Georgia St. starting at Broughton. Kid’s activities continue throughout the day near the Art Gallery.

Attendees are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or donations for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Visit Western Canada’s Largest Christmas Store

Every September in Vancouver Potter’s Nursery (in the suburb of Surrey) transforms itself from a standard garden centre into Canada’s largest Christmas store.

All in all, Potter’s Christmas Store contains tens of thousands of items crammed into its 28,000 sq ft space.

You’ll find virtually every type of holiday item imaginable. From an incredible variety of themed Christmas lights to tacky Christmas sweaters and a large variety of holiday-themed treats

A selection of over 50,000 ornaments guarantees you’ll find something that is one-of-a-kind. 

Christmas lights at Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC
Courtesy: Butchart Gardens

Go to Victoria for the Butchart Gardens Christmas Tour

The world-renowned Butchart Gardens in Victoria attracts over one million visitors a year, and offers one of the most spectacular Christmas illuminations of any of Canada’s top attractions.

Luckily, their Twelve Days of Christmas decor can be easily accessed with a day tour package directly from Vancouver.

Here, after hotel pickup you’ll take a 90-minute ferry cruise across the Salish Sea. Once you’re in Victoria, you’ll be granted a few hours to explore the iconic Fairmont Hotel, Chinatown, and the Parliament Buildings all dressed up in their holiday best.

Then they’ll take you to Butchart Gardens and bring you back to Vancouver.

Book Your Victoria Tour Now

Take in a Christmas Show or Musical

The Vancouver area is home to numerous festive concerts and musicals throughout the holiday season. 

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is an age-old Christmas tradition, and in 2022 you can check out a fantastic rendition at the Center for Performing Arts near the Stadium District.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra also performs Christmas music. In 2022, this local tradition will offer performances in North Vancouver and Surrey –  before offering 4 shows at the Orpheum on December 16th and 17th.

Grab that Last Minute Gift for a Loved One

If you’re downtown during Christmas in Vancouver, Robson Street is home to a number of international retailers and Pacific Centre Mall. Premium designer brands and high-end jewellery stores can also be found a short walk away on Alberni Street. 

If you’re looking for something more unique, I’d recommend checking out the independent boutiques and Indigenous galleries of Gastown or Granville Island.

The Lower Mainland’s largest shopping centre is Burnaby’s Metropolis at Metrotown, a 30-minute Skytrain ride from Downtown.

Related: Best Shopping in Vancouver

Embrace the Spirit of Giving at St. Paul’s Lights of Hope

If you’re downtown at night, make sure you make a quick side trip to St. Paul’s Hospital.

From a distance, you’ll see over 4,000 feet of lights & 400 illuminated stars, as well as  a fancy new digital projection element.

This Lights of Hope is a campaign to raise money to fund urgently needed equipment, life-saving research, and community programs.

Over the event’s 22-year history it has raised over $40 million dollars in community donations. In the true spirit of the holidays why not stop by, enjoy the lights, and make a small donation?

Vancouver Christmas FAQs

Is Vancouver good for Christmas??

Yes! Christmas is one of the best times to visit Vancouver. All of the city’s main plazas, parks, gardens and attractions are fully decked out in Christmas lights and decor. You’ll also find a Christmas festivals at most major attractions, a Christmas market, a Christmas parade, and much more.

What are some things to do in Vancouver over Christmas?

The most popular things to do in Vancouver during Christmas include:

  • The Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
  • Vandusen Garden’s Festival of Lights
  • The Santa Claus Parade
  • Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas 
  • The Vancouver Christmas Market
  • The Bright Nights Train at Stanley Park

What are some secondary Vancouver Christmas activities?

You can do a little Christmas shopping at Pacific Centre or along Robson Street. Then, you can check out the nearby Robson Christmas tree and head downstairs to skate at Robson Square’s free skating rink. It’s also a fantastic time to check out the city’s best bars and restaurants along Main Street.

What are some Christmas events in Vancouver in 2022?

  • St Paul’s Lights of Hope (late Nov to early Jan)
  • VSO Christmas Music Fest (Dec 16 and 17)
  • Christmas Market (Nov 13 to Dec 24)
  • Soar with Santa Flyover (Dec 8 to Jan 3)
  • Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge (Nov 22 to Jan 19)
  • Santa Claus Parade (TBA)
  • Vandusen Festival of Lights (late Nov to early Jan)

Does Vancouver have a Christmas Market?

In 2022 the Vancouver Christmas Market will run from November 13th top December 24th in Jack Poole Plaza near Canada Place and the Olympic Cauldron. The German-style market contains 80+ artisan huts selling a host of Christmas-themed crafts, ornaments and stocking stuffers.

What is Vancouver’s weather like in December?

Vancouver in December is comparable with European cities like London or Amsterdam and American cities like Seattle or Portland. That’s to say, it gets cold and dreary but it is by no means a typical Canadian winter full of snow and ice.

Expect a fair bit of precipitation – let’s take a closer look:

  • Average high – 6.3 degrees Celsius (43.3 Fahrenheit)
  • Average low – 0.8 degrees Celsius (33.4 Fahrenheit)
  • Record high – 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit)
  • Record low –  -17.8 celsius (0 Fahrenheit)
  • Average precipitation days – 19.7 days
  • Average snowfall days – 2.8 days

As you can see, Vancouver winters are relatively temperate – though cold spells are possible. But rain is the main concern, with 19 days having some level of measurable precipitation. And while snow isn’t as common as in the rest of Canada – December is Vancouver’s snowiest month. So I wouldn’t discount the possibility entirely.

What are Vancouver’s odds of a white Christmas?

Based on Environment Canada data from 1955 to 2013, there is a 10 percent chance of a white Christmas on any given year. However, due to climate change, the chances have actually increased to 15 percent since 1994 – due to increasing coastal storm patterns in the region.

Ready for a Vancouver Christmas?

Frankly, I don’t care whether you’ve been naughty or nice – these things to do in Vancouver during Christmas should more than keep you busy while Santa makes the call!

That said, if you’re looking for something a little more custom don’t be afraid to hit me up in the comment section below.

Happy holidays 🎅

Julian

I've used online guides on five continents to find the world's greatest travel spots and this is my chance to give back - with insider info on my home, the mighty Vancouver BC!

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