It’s the most wonderful time of year again, where the city lights up and the Christmas cheer begins! Amongst the chaos of the holiday season, one of the most magical and inner child-provoking activities has to be exploring the many Christmas light displays around Vancouver. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find yourself in a glittery winter wonderland at some point this season. Whether it be a family outing, a friendly get together with the crew, or a romantic night out, there’s a place for you to explore this Christmas.
Here are some of the options in and around the lower mainland!
Capilano Suspension Bridge – North Shore
Open year round, the Capilano Suspension Bridge puts on a spectacular show with its Canyon Lights throughout the holiday season. Along with the suspension bridge, the rest of the park is decorated with tens and thousands of lights and displays. After some exploration, make your way to the craft tent for more Christmas activities! If you’re a local, don’t forget to show your BC licence for a yearly pass for the cost your admission price!
When: November 23 – January 28
Location: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
Admission: Admission varies, click here for more information
Lafarge Lake – Coquitlam
This is the lower mainland’s largest free outdoor light celebration. Located in the heart of Coquitlam, take a stroll around the beautiful lake or join in the many free activities! Lafarge Lake can be easily accessed from the Evergreen Line as well.
When: November-January 21
Location: Lafarge Lake, Coquitlam
Bright Nights Christmas Train – Stanley Park
Vancouver’s beautiful Stanley Park is even more wondrous lit up in twinkling Christmas lights. Take the delightful mini railway through the forest and be taken on a magical Christmas journey, on the Bright Nights Christmas Train.
When: November 30-January 6
Location: Stanley Park, Vancouver
Grouse Mountain – North Shore
What gets you into the Christmas spirit than snowy mountains, warm drinks by the fire and the twinkling of Christmas lights on the mountain side? Visit Grouse Mountain for a white Christmas this year! Loaded with different activities, you’re sure to have a great time with friends and family.
When: November 24-January 7
Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Admission: Admission varies, click here for more information.
The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – Vancouver
Do you remember that scene in Disney’s Tangled, where the sky fills with glowing lanterns and you get all warm and fuzzy inside? You too can experience that in three different locations around downtown Vancouver. With the choice of Yaletown, Chinatown or Granville Island, the city will come alive for the Winter Solstice celebrations with a night full of entertainment and activities to experience.
When: December 21
Locations: Gathering Place Community Centre (Yaletown), Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Chinatown), Various locations in Granville Island
Admission: Admission varies, click here for more information.
VanDusen Festival of Lights – Vancouver
One of the most beautiful spots here in Vancouver, VanDusen Botanical Gardens puts on a spectacular light show every year, with over one million twinkling Christmas lights on display. Your ticket also includes a magical carousel ride!
When: December 1-January 7
Location: 5151 Oak Street, Vancouver
Admission: Admission varies, click here for more information.
So make your plans, grab a cup of hot chocolate and set aside an evening to let your inner child run free and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season under a blanket of twinkling wonder!
Harbour Centre’s Vancouver Lookout is celebrating its 40th anniversary. As a part of its “coming of age”, Vancouver Heritage Foundation has partnered with the Lookout and invites you to experience different perspectives on the city through a new event series from this special vantage point. Perspectives: Talks & Discussions will explore stories – surprising, thought-provoking, and thrilling – that have shaped Vancouver over time.
Five talks from different speakers will offer insight on a range of topics including Indigenous stories and context, South Asian history and immigration, architectural development and change, Vancouver’s music scene and nightlife, and the city’s seedy criminal history.The mix of daytime and evening events runs September through November. Coffee will be provided at morning talks.
For more information, visit: vancouverlookout.com/blog or follow #VancouverPerspectives on social media.
Please plan to arrive at Harbour Centre at least 15 minutes before the posted start to allow time to take the elevator to the Lookout. Each talk will begin promptly 15 minutes after the posted start time.
Blanketing the City: Musqueam Stories
Saturday September 23
Debra Sparrow and Kamala Todd
The dominant stories of our city tend to be those of the colonial culture, which has written itself into the built form and the narratives of Vancouver. Musqueam artist Debra Sparrow’s people have lived here for thousands of years, her people’s history and relationships with this land are “written in the earth”. Metis-Cree filmmaker and community planner Kamala Todd holds deep gratitude for the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish people, who so generously share their lands and wealth – while being in many ways written out of the story and landscapes of Vancouver. Join us for a dynamic conversation that weaves important Indigenous stories and asks how we can inhabit an urban past, present and future which fully reflects and embodies the Indigenous people of these lands.
Historic Crime: Early Forensic Investigations
Thursday October 19
Join Author Eve Lazarus for a night of true crime as she draws on stories from her latest book Blood, Sweat, and Fear: The Story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s First Forensic Investigator. Starting in 1907 as the City Analyst for the City of Vancouver, John F.C.B. Vance worked in several buildings in downtown Vancouver before being named honorary inspector for the VPD and put in charge of the newly formed Police Bureau of Science (now housing the Vancouver Police Museum). Vance used his cutting-edge skills in serology, toxicology, firearms examination, trace evidence and autopsy to solve some of the most sensational crimes of the twentieth century. His techniques were so effective that there were seven attempts on his life, and for a time, he and his family were under constant police guard.
Heritage from Up High
Sunday October 29
Join John Atkin, as he explores the constantly changing Vancouver landscape and tells the stories behind some of its most iconic buildings and neighbourhoods. Hear about the Woodward’s site including the story behind the store’s demolition, learn about gold rush money, renewal and restorations around the Flack Block, gaze down at the Morris J. Wosk centre as you hear its tale of demolition threats and eventual adaptive reuse as well as the complex history of Waterfront Station where modern uses have breathed new life into this venerable building.
Vancouver After Dark: History of the Entertainment Scene
Thursday November 16
Downtown Vancouver was home to legendary nightclubs throughout much of the last century where, thanks to Vancouver’s geographic location, many performers would kick off tours. Today, most of the theatres of Granville Street are gone, and only a few legendary nightspots remain. How did some of Vancouver’s clubs remain, and others simply disappear? Is the city’s “Granville Entertainment District” really the answer? Author Aaron Chapman explores the history and future of Vancouver’s music scene.
Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity working to support the city’s built heritage through educational programming and awareness building. To find out more about VHF, visit vancouverheritagefoundation.org.
This event (November 16 only) will feature a cash bar from Vancouver’s first micro distillery, Long Table Distillery.
Cultural Landscapes: Vancouver’s South Asian Community
Sunday November 26
Naveen Girn, Paneet Singh and Milan Singh
In one of the earliest South Asian Canadian novels, Sadhu Singh Dhami wrote that sometimes the landscape of Vancouver can evoke the idea of home because “the Fraser was much like the Sutlej gliding through the plains of the Punjab.” This talk looks at how migrants over the past 100 years have worked to create belonging and thread their lives into the story of Vancouver. From the epic tale of the Komagata Maru to clandestine freedom movements, from the fight for civil rights to the living legacy of trauma and displacement, this talk will illuminate South Asian stories and intercultural relationships that can only happen in Vancouver.
If you’ve been following the local news at all, you’ll know that the talk of the town in Vancouver since early December has been snow and ice – and salt. Although winters in Vancouver are usually known to be mild and rainy, this year we’ve been getting snowfall after snowfall. And while the residents may complain, for tourist it means you can finally enjoy a true Canadian winter right in the city.
Hit the Mountains
Vancouver is renowned for its proximity to mountains that offer all kinds of winter (and summer) activities. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour are located across from Vancouver on the North Shore, and have been getting lots of snow this year. All are quickly reached from downtown Vancouver, and offer lessons, rentals and night time skiing, as well as many other winter activities.
Cypress Mountain offers the highest vertical rise of the North Shores. It is the most popular with locals, with amazing views and the greatest number of expert runs. Having hosted the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, it also boasts 5 terrain parks. If cross-country is more your thing, you’ll find 19km of trails, as well as snowshoe trails.
Grouse Mountain is one of Vancouver’s biggest attractions, where the Skyride Gondola will bring you right to the top. It offers great skiing, again with amazing views, but if you prefer a more relaxed day, Grouse Mountain is the place for you. Excellent dining, a theatre, snowshoeing, zip-lining and even skating await you at the Peak of Vancouver.
The eastern-most mountain, Mount Seymour is perhaps lesser known with tourists. A great choice for families or beginners, it receives the most snowfall of the North Shores, and also has snowshoeing, tobogganing and snow tubing.
Unlike most of Canada, winters in Vancouver rarely dip below freezing, making outdoor ice skating rather unlikely. Luckily, we’ve got Robson Square Ice Rink, right in the heart of downtown. Located next to the Vancouver Art Gallery, steps from the Robson Street shopping district, it is open from 9am to 9pm daily (11pm on Friday and Saturday). With free access to the rink and $4 skate rentals, skating at Robson Square is a Vancouver winter-time favourite.
However, if you are hoping for the real Canadian experience of skating on a frozen pond, you might just be in luck. For the first time in 20 years, Trout Lake in East Vancouver completely froze over in early January and was opened to the public for skating by the Vancouver Park Board. This is weather dependent, so visit their website for updates on weather, conditions and closures.
See Holiday Lights
There’s something magical in walking around on a cool winter’s night surrounded by snow and colourful lights. Most holiday light displays have come and gone, but the Lights at Lafarge in Coquitlam are your last chance to explore the magic. Easily accessible thanks to the Skytrain Millennium Line extension to Lafarge Lake – Douglas; it is open daily from 4:30 to 11 pm. Until January 22, see over 100,000 lights at the Winter Light Display, as you walk the 1.2 km loop around Lafarge Lake through 10 different themes.
Catch a Hockey Game
While it isn’t an outdoor activity, going to a hockey game is a true Canadian winter-time experience. The Vancouver Canucks are the local NHL team, vying for the Stanley Cup. While the team has been struggling to stay in a fighting position lately, attending a game is still a guaranteed exciting evening. Upcoming games at Rogers Arena are January 17, against Nashville, January 20 against Florida, and February 2nd against San Jose.
Feeling jetlagged or fatigued? Is the early wake up time hampering your mood? Well, the solution to combating this is simple: breakfast! Even when you are travelling it is important to remember that breakfast has long been recognized as the most important meal of the day and for good reason!
There is no shortage of great breakfast places in Vancouver, but the good news doesn’t stop there, many of them are actually located in close proximity to the Vancouver Lookout. Start your day off with a hearty meal at any of the restaurants recommended below and then come on over to the Lookout to get your 360° view of our beautiful city!
Brioche (3 minute walk)
Brioche Urban Eatery is conveniently located in the popular Gastown district. Their breakfast menu is loaded with local West Coast ingredients paired with traditional breakfast items such as omelettes, sandwiches, and pastries. This is the perfect place to stop at for a quick but delicious meal to start off your day.
Where: 401 West Cordova Street
Hours: Monday to Friday (7am-9pm), Saturday to Sunday (8am-9pm)
Pure Bread (4 minute walk)
Originally opened in Whistler, BC, Purebread is a local bakery that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth! If you’re short on time in the big city, stop by this bakery for a bite! Once you walk into Purebread, you are immediately greeted with a display of freshly-baked breads and pastries, guaranteed to make your mouth water! Why not take your meal to go and head up to the Lookout with your friends and family to enjoy breakfast with a view?
Where: 159 West Hastings Street
Hours: 8:30am-5:30am daily
Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar (7 minute walk)
After a long week of exploring, waking up early on the weekends can be a little difficult, so why not give brunch a try? With 2 locations in Vancouver, Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar has been operating since 2011, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping! Named after Richard Chew, a local Vancouverite with a passion for the hospitality industry, Chewies serves up the freshest breakfast dishes at their Coal Harbour location. From the ‘Big Chief Breakfast’ to Jambalaya, there is something for everyone at this beloved local restaurant.
Where: 110-1055 West Hastings Street
Hours: Saturday to Sunday (11am-2:30pm)
Jam Café (8 minute walk)
If you walk along Beatty Street on any given day, you will see a small line forming outside a rustic building. Originally from Victoria, BC, Jam Café is one of Vancouver’s newest hot spots. Their specials are posted daily on their website – there’s always something new and exciting to try! With creative menu items such as ‘The Gravy Coupe’ to ‘The Harrison Fernando’, there is never a dull moment at Jam Café! We recommend going early in the morning before the brunch rush as they don’t take reservations.
Where: 556 Beatty Street
Hours: Monday-Sunday (8am-3pm)
Nelson and the Seagull (10 minute walk)
Nelson and the Seagull is known for its simple yet nutritious breakfast menu. From everyone’s favourite go-to avocado on toast to the classic poached eggs, there’s bound to be something for everyone. With a focus on local fare, you’ll also fall in love with the freshly made in house bread. Its minimalistic concept and design sets the tone for a relaxed environment, perfect for chats over coffee or for quiet mornings with a newspaper.
Where: 315 Carrall Street
Hours: Monday to Friday (8am-5pm), Saturday to Sunday (9am-5pm)
Polar Bear Swim
Need a quick refresher to start off your New Year? If so, the annual Polar Bear Swim is just for you! Gather on the beautiful beaches of English Bay with thousands of locals and visitors to welcome the New Year with a plunge into the cold ocean water. Register now!
Date: January 1st
Location: English Bay
The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is one of the most anticipated events throughout the year. With exhibitions and performances from local and international artists, you can count on having a splendid time with friends and family. Click here for tickets!
Date: January 16th – 21st
Locations and Times: Various locations, click here for more information.
Vancouver International Boat Show
For 5 days in January, join fellow boat enthusiasts for the Vancouver International Boat Show! Spend a day at Granville Island to see the Floating Show, and then head over to BC Place to look at some more spectacular boats! Click here for information regarding tickets.
Date: January 18th – January 22nd
Location: BC Place and Granville Island
Time: 10:00am-8:00pm (Wednesday – Saturday), 10:00am-5:00pm (Sunday)
Vancouver Chilly Chase
Start your New Year with the Vancouver Chilly Chase! There are 4 distances to choose from, so grab your pair of runners and get ready for a great run around the Downtown Vancouver Seawall!
Date: January 22nd
Location: Seawall behind Creekside Community Recreation Centre
Time: Times may vary depending on the distances, click here for more information!
Jump into 2017! The annual Polar Bear Swim is happening on January 1st, 2017 at English Bay Beach. Ring in the New Year with a refreshing and chilly plunge into the ocean with thousands of other brave “polar bears!”
The very first Polar Bear Swim happened in 1920, and since then it has become a Vancouver tradition to take a sobering dip into the ocean to celebrate the first day of the year. Founder Peter Pantages led the first swim with just a group of 10 people. This year, an estimated 2,550 people will take the icy cold challenge. It doesn’t matter if it’s your 57th time or your first time braving the Pacific Ocean; the Polar Bear Swim is open to all. Don’t forget to dress up in a fancy/funny costume!
Whether you’re participating as a “polar bear” or just watching the spectacle, make sure to add the Polar Bear Swim to your New Year’s Day itinerary. It’s a must see!
Is the cold winter chill putting a damper on your Christmas spirit? Have no fear; the Vancouver Trolley Company has the perfect remedy! The Karaoke Christmas Lights tour is your ultimate Christmas experience around the city, making stops at Stanley Park’s Bright Night Displays and Van Dusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights. However that’s not all, the trolleys will be festively decorated and equipped with karaoke machines for you to show off your vocal chords!
Tours will depart from Canada Place every evening at 6:30pm until December 29th with the exception of Christmas day. Upon pick up, you will merrily make your way through downtown Vancouver before arriving at Stanley Park. After taking some time to take in the lights, the tour will continue through local light displays before arriving at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Not only will you feel the warmth of the holidays radiating through you, your trolley guide is there to entertain and to make sure no song request is left unheard.
The magic of dazzling light displays and the joy of singing your favourite carols at the top of your lungs is guaranteed to put anyone in the best of moods. Additionally, a donation to the Burn Fund is included in each ticket purchased. This tour is by reservation only please visit the website for more details and to book your seats today!
When: December 1st-29th,2016 (except December 25th)
Where: Pick up at Canada Place @ 6:30pm
Rates: Adults ($40), Seniors/Students ($40), Children ($25), Family [2 adults & 2 children] ($125)
With the temperature cooling down to single digits and lights hanging from the trees that line the streets of Vancouver, you can see that the holiday season is just around the corner. Whether you’re visiting for a vacation or a local Vancouverite, there are always new places to discover for holiday shopping! We have compiled a list of places to check out in the Greater Vancouver area that will surely help you knock a few items off your shopping lists!
Since its opening in 1971, Pacific Centre provides its shoppers with a comfortable shopping experience as it spans for 4 blocks and is completely underground! Vancouver can be a little rainy and snowy during the cold winter season, so this is a great place to go for a little heat and shopping. Make sure you check out some of their notable department stores, The Bay and Nordstrom!
Location: 701 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
Hours: 10:00am-7:00pm (Monday-Tuesday), 10:00am-9:00pm (Wednesday-Thursday), 8:00am-9:00pm (Friday), 10:00am-7:00pm (Saturday), 11:00am-6:00pm (Sunday)
Park Royal Shopping Centre
Located in the North Shore, Park Royal has been operating for more than 60 years! With over 280 stores and services within the mall, you won’t be disappointed with their selections. We suggest checking out the stores before or after visiting some attractions such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge or Grouse Mountain!
Location: 2002 Park Royal South, West Vancouver
Hours: 10:00am-7:00pm (Monday-Tuesday), 10:00am-9:00pm (Wednesday-Friday), 9:30am-7:00pm (Saturday), 11:00am-6:00pm (Sunday)
McArthurGlen Designer Outlets
Are you in a hurry to pick up a few things before catching your flight? Luckily for you, McArthurGlen is the newest and closest shopping outlet to the airport. With brands such as Nike and Coach, you’ll get the best deals in town. Don’t forget to also stop by their food court, it is loaded with a variety of new and interesting foods to try (ever heard of a churro sandwich?)!
Location: 1000-7899 Templeton Station Road, Richmond
Hours: 10:00am-9:00pm (Monday-Saturday), 10:00am-7:00pm (Sunday)
One of the busiest shopping districts in Vancouver, Robson Street offers a great selection of stores and local boutiques. While you’re walking down Robson Street, make sure to check out the beautifully decorated trees and different restaurants.
Just a few blocks from the Vancouver Lookout, Granville Street is the perfect place to visit for some Christmas shopping! Not only does this shopping district offer access to Pacific Centre, it also holds the name as one of the most popular entertainment districts in Downtown Vancouver. It’s never a dull moment on Granville Street!
Gastown is one of the oldest parts of our city and acts as one of the best places for souvenir shopping! As you walk down historic Gastown, you will see many local boutiques, art museums, and restaurants. Make sure you walk all the way down to visit the statue of Gassy Jack, the man who built the first bar in Vancouver.
Vancouver Christmas Market
The Vancouver Christmas Market will be celebrating its 7th year at Jack Poole Plaza! This German-inspired market is a great place to visit while you’re in the downtown area. It is easily accessible by public transit (5 minute walk from Waterfront Station) and is kid friendly as well. If you’re already in the Christmas spirit, make sure to ride the Christmas Carousel and browse through the different vendors now!
Dates: November 26 – December 31 (Closed on December 25)
Location: Jack Poole Plaza, 1055 Canada Place
Hours: 11:00am-9:00pm DAILY, 11:00am-6:00pm (Christmas Eve)
Enchant: Christmas Light Maze & Market
Decorated with over 55 000 square ft. of sculptures and lights, Enchant is the world’s largest Christmas light maze. Besides its amazing light maze, there will also be over 50 vendors and food trucks, entertainment, and great photo opportunities. Grab a couple a friends and head over now – tickets are selling out fast!
Dates: November 25 – December 31*
Location: West 1st Avenue & Crowe Street, Vancouver
Hours: Hours may vary, click here for more information
Looking to get in the holiday spirit? Our city is filled with beautiful Christmas light displays to get you in that holiday mood and enjoy some wonderful sights during the most wonderful time of the year!
Light Walk at Grouse Mountain
If you’re looking to head to the mountains this winter season, make sure to stop by Grouse Mountain’s beautiful light walk. Walk among the fur and spruce trees covered in snow for this truly magical light display. Located just beside the mountaintop skating pond, this display is open at dusk every evening.
Where: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
When: Daily, 4:00-10:00pm
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Looking for some thrill to go with your Christmas light viewing? Take a trip to Canyon lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park! From now until January 8th, the entire park is lit up with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. A wonderful family activity, canyon lights is a must see this holiday season!
Where: 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver
When: Daily, 9:00am-10:00pm
Enchant Christmas Light Maze and Market
Visit the world’s largest Christmas light maze at Enchant! Located near the Olympic Village, this holiday event also features a market with over 40 local venders as well as 12 food trucks to enjoy a wonderful meal. Buy tickets online to avoid any disappoint of missing out on the fun.
Where: W 1st Ave & Crowe St, Vancouver
When: Daily, 4:00-10:00pm
Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park
Visit Vancouver’s favourite park this holiday season and check out Bright Nights in Stanley Park. Take a ride on the train and check out the beautiful light displays, all set to live music. A portion of the proceeds will go towards the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund. This great attraction is open until January 1st.
Where: Pipeline Road in Stanley Park, Vancouver
When: Check their website for full list.
Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Head over to VanDusen to check out their wonderful garden light display. With over a million lights, they boast the biggest holiday light display in the city! Open from now until January 2nd, this is a light display that is sure to dazzle all!
Where: 5251 Oak St, Vancouver
When: Check their website for full list.
Looking for a free option? Take a drive or walk around your neighbourhood and try to spot all the houses that are decked out! Happy holidays!
This Christmas you won’t have to lose sleep wondering whether or not you’ve made Santa’s naughty or nice list, ask him yourself over breakfast! Taking time out of his busy schedule up in the North Pole Father Christmas himself is headed to Grouse Mountain to entertain guests from far and wide.
Enjoy the most important meal of the day with Santa while partaking in activities such as face painting and a magic show. However that’s not all! The purchase of admission to breakfast with Santa also includes a round trip Skyride on the gondola and access to all of the Peak of Christmas festivities.
The Peak of Christmas is a popular annual tradition that includes a plethora of different activities and adventures that will keep the family busy from morning till night. After breakfast with Santa go meet his reindeer or visit the Gingerbread village, then go ice skating under the stars, before finally strolling through the Light Walk and taking in the dazzling light tunnel and lanterns. There is no shortage of festive fun up on Grouse Mountain, so bring the family and create wonderful new memories that will surely keep you warm this holiday season!
When: December 3rd, 4th, and 16th – 24th
Hours: Breakfast times will vary, please check the website for more details.
Prices: Adult (19-64) and Senior (65+) $55.95, Youth (13-18) $31.95, Child (5-12) $19.95, Tot (4 and under) $8.95