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.
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
There is nothing better than a crisp, fall day. Our city is especially gorgeous at this time of year, with all the glorious fall colours out in full force. Why not spend your next (and rain-free!) day off exploring our city and checking out the fall leaves. Grab yourself a pumpkin spiced latte (see our previous blog on best places to grab em’ here), bundle up in a warm scarf, and get ready for a great new Instagram picture. Here are the best places to check out some fall foliage in Vancouver!
We obviously had to kick off this list with Stanley Park. Named the “best park in the world” by Trip Advisor, Stanley Park has over 1000 acres of beauty to explore. In the fall, the park is bursting with red, yellow and orange leaves. Talk a walk or bike around the iconic sea wall, and get those cameras ready.
University of British Columbia & Pacific Spirit Park
The gorgeous University of British Columbia (UBC) campus is surrounded by Pacific Spirit Park. Both the park, as well as the campus itself, is a great place to see some fall leaves. Walk one of the many trails through the park, or simply take a walk around the beautiful campus that is home to over 50,000 students and is one of the top 3 schools in the country.
Queen Elizabeth Park
This gorgeous park is the highest point in Vancouver, giving stunning views of our downtown core and the North Shore mountains. At this time of year the park is a great place for a fall picnic or walk through the gardens. You can also visit the Bloedel Floral Conservatory while you’re there! Located within the park, the conservatory is a wonderful place to escape the cold air for a little bit and checkout a wide variety of tropical plants and birds.
Our observation deck offers stunning 360 degree views of the city. Come see the fall colours from above during the day, and then come back in the evening for a beautiful fall sunset and the city’s night lights. Tickets are valid for the entire day! We are open 7 days a week from 9 am to 9 pm. See you soon!
We Vancouverites consider ourselves some of the luckiest people in the world. We get to enjoy a bustling cosmopolitan city and live remarkably close to nature. The sea, mountains, and temperate rainforest are right at our doorstep, making Vancouver an extremely livable city that attracts millions of tourists every year. For many visitors from abroad, no trip is complete without seeing some exotic Canadian wildlife. While many will flock to the many national, provincial and regional parks near the Greater Vancouver area, encounters do occur within the city. Although sightings of large animals such as coyotes, black bears and even the occasional cougar do happen in suburban neighbourhoods, it is possible to view wildlife safely and in their natural, yet urban, habitat. Here are some suggestions to help you check off those exotic Canadian animals from your bucket list.
Although an urban park, Stanley Park is truly a wild haven at the heart of the city. With over one thousand acres of dense forest, wetlands and lakes, it is home to many native and introduced species of mammals, such as beavers and river otters (look for them around Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon). However, it is the over 200 species of birds that make wildlife viewing exciting, especially in the spring. While duck, gulls, and Canadian geese are ubiquitous, look for nesting pairs of bald eagles and great blue herons high up in the trees. Even though there are only about five bald eagle nests and ninety great blue heron nests, they are fairly easily seen nesting or flying around the park, lakes and seashore.
Many other city parks are home to wild populations of birds and mammals; Hinge Park in Olympic Village has been home to a beaver or two this past winter. While it might take a bit of luck to see a beaver, the dam they built in the pond is hard to miss. In Vanier Park, Kitsilano, it was a family of river otters that were seen this past winter frolicking in the pond. Further afield, Burnaby Lake Park is another great bird-watching location, with great blue herons, eagles, raptors and numerous species of waterbirds wading in the lake. Parks further from the City of Vancouver may also be home to larger wildlife such as coyotes, deer, black bears and even cougars!
If you wish to view some large Canadian wildlife safely and within minutes of downtown, you can head up to Grouse Mountain and visit the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. There you will find Grinder and Coola, the two resident grizzly bears who were both rescued fifteen years ago and have just come out of hibernation. Towards the base of the mountain, you will also find Alpha, a timber wolf who was once in the movie industry. You can learn all about these animals and more by catching a Ranger Talk, or attending a Birds in Motion demonstration, where you will get to witness the impressive hunting skills of Grouse’s birds of prey.
Vancouver’s famous seawall stretches from the Burrard Inlet to Stanley Park and all the way to Point Grey, making it Vancouver’s favourite urban features. While out for a walk or bike, the seawall can also be an opportunity to see some marine wildlife – and we don’t just mean the everyday seagulls! You may find other birds such as cormorants and great blue herons perched by the water, as well as harbour seals swimming or poking their head out of the water. You can often find them near marinas, such as in Coal Harbour or at Granville Island, where fishermen sometimes feed them. On rare occasions, whales may visit Vancouver’s harbour and may even be seen from the seawall, such as Bigg’s killer whales looking for some seals, or last summer’s grey whale that was seen over a few weeks within meters of the seawall. This past couple of weeks, a humpback whale has been seen in the harbour, so if you don’t have the chance to get out on a boat, you may still get lucky.
Strait of Georgia
The best place to see whales, however, is aboard a whale-watching boat heading out of the harbour into the Strait of Georgia. Although trips do go out year round, mostly from Victoria, we are now approaching the prime whale-watching season. Boats will mostly be on the lookout for killer whales, the iconic black and white British Columbian species. Killer whales are often found in groups called pods that can contain three or four to over thirty. Humpback whales are also frequently found during the spring to early fall as they head north to feed in our waters. Other species frequently seen around Vancouver include harbour and Dall’s porpoises, seals and Steller sea lions later in the season. Whale watching is also a great chance to appreciate the coastal beauty of British Columbia, with terrestrial species such as deer and even eagles!