If you haven’t noticed yet, Christmas is coming. Stores have switched to their holiday playlists, coffee shops and breweries are serving up seasonal beverages, and even we’ve compiled an unboring Christmas wish-list for travellers. How can you find the holiday spirit in Vancouver? I'm so glad you asked.
Get Lost in Enchant Christmas Light Maze
The world’s largest light maze has made its debut in Vancouver. Hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights ignite the 5,000m2 area in a festive glow. There are Christmas-themed light-up sculptures, 40 local vendors, 12 food trucks and a 19-metre tall Christmas tree that features 85,000 LED lights alone.
Cost: $14.95 – $19.95
Where: 1st & Crowe Street
When: November 25 – December 31;
Hours: 4 – 10 p.m.
Attend a Christmas Tree Lighting
Evergreen trees around the Lower Mainland will be brightened with strings of colourful bulbs in the coming weeks. Events, such as the Vancouver Christmas Tree Lighting, often include live music, free food, kid-friendly activities and the opportunity to donate to a charitable cause. Missed the initial lighting event? Don’t fret—lights will still ignite around the city every evening until Christmas!
Where: Robson Square
When: December 2
Time: 5 –7 p.m.
Sip Glühwein at the Vancouver Christmas Market
Vancouver Christmas Market
My favourite part of Christmas is steaming beverages. Nothing beats Glühwein, also called Mulled Wine, Vin Brulé or Gløgg around the world. Warmed red wine mixed with cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and juice is a staple of German Christmas Markets. Browse for unique presents, eat traditional food, enjoy the live entertainment or simply soak in the festive atmosphere at the 7th annual Vancouver Christmas Market.
Cost: $4 - $8
Where: Jack Poole Plaza
When: November 26 – December 30
Hours: Varied; view the schedule here.
Ride the Christmas Train through Stanley Park’s Bright Nights
On cold winter evenings, Stanley Park blazes with three million little Christmas lights. The matinee Christmas train caters to families and school groups, while the night train is ideal for couples and friends. A hearty portion of ticket sales support the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
Cost: $6 - $12
Where: Stanley Park
When: November 28– January 1
Hours: Matinee: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., evening: 3 – 10 p.m.
Count down the 12 Nights of Christmas at Robson Square Ice Rink
This outdoor rink resembles a snow globe, illuminated with colourful lights and imbued with live entertainment. When your legs get tired, take a break and slurp some hot chocolate from the on-site concession. The rink is open every day throughout the season, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Cost: Free! ($4.00 for skate rental & helmet)
Where: Robson Square
When: December 13th – 24th
Hours: Sun - Thurs: 9 a.m. – 9 pm.; Fri & Sat open until 11 p.m.
'12 Nights' performers kick off at 6 p.m.
Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Raymond Chan, Photomedia, permission from VanDusen Botanical Gardens
Come December, more than a million lights adorn the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. No holiday season in Vancouver is complete without strolling about this twinkling wonderland. Santa will be on site receiving holiday letters from the kids and of course taking photos with tots on the nice list. Live performances, light shows, storytelling and more all promise to entertain and delight.
Cost: Adults $18.50, children (4-11) $11, youth $14.25 & family $40 (2 adults/2 kids)
Where: Oak St. & 37th Ave.
Dates: December 1- January 2
Hours: Varied; view the schedule here
Donate to St. Paul’s Foundation Lights of Hope
Brilliant stars sparkle in a grand arch over the exterior of St. Paul’s Hospital as a symbol of hope and inspiration for the patients stuck inside for the holidays. You can donate to this fundraiser here.
Cost: By donation; viewing is free
Where: Paul’s Hospital
When: November 25 – January 9
Hours: After dark til late
Attend Roger’s Santa Claus Parade
The 13th annual Roger’s Santa Claus Parade takes over the streets of downtown Vancouver December 4th. Join the crowd of 300,000 spectators that gather to enjoy the atmosphere of the parade, or cuddle up at home and watch it broadcasted.
Where: Broughton & Georgia to Howe & Smithe
When: December 4th
Time: 12 p.m.
Capilano Canyon Lights
Tourism Vancouver/ Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights transform the park into an enchanted forest. After dark, cross the suspension bridge and then explore the forest canopy on Treetops Adventure before venturing onto Cliffwalk. There's also a 153-ft live Christmas tree, sing-along and craft stations.
Cost: Adult $39.95, seniors $36.95, youth $26.95, kids $13.95, kids under 6 are free. Check online for additional discounts.
Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge, lower North Vancouver
When: November 24 - January 8
Hours: Park hours are 11 a.m. - 9 pm. but holiday activities kick off at 4 p.m.
Take part in activities at Canada Place
Every year, the Port of Vancouver hosts a smattering of celebrations along the Canadian Trail. Woodward’s Windows, a traditional favourite, feature classic holiday scenes with animated characters. You’ll also find Rudolph’s Theatre, the Avenue of Christmas trees and a 4.5-metre-tall snow globe.
Cost: Free! (photographs inside globe are by donation)
Where: Canada Place
When: December 16th – 30th
Hours: Noon – 6 p.m.
Summit the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s North Pole. Meet Santa and his reindeer, admire the sweet creations in the SOS Children’s Gingerbread Village and marvel at the light installations that brighten the snow.
Cost: $89.95 for a family pass
Where: Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver
When: November 25 – January 2
Hours: Varied; view the events schedule here.
Participate in the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival
December 21st marks the shortest day of the year. It’ll also be the 23rd year in a row the Secret Lantern Society has hosted Winter Solstice celebrations around Vancouver. While not distinctly “Christmas”-y, this multicultural event includes dancing, singing and fire performances, as well as a lantern procession.
Cost: Free (some locations ask for a $5 donation)
Where: Chinatown, Granville Island & Yaletown
When: December 21
Time: 6 – 10 p.m.
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