50 things to do in Vancouver this Christmas

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Celebrate yule tide joy and everything lovely the Christmas season has to offer with our curated list.

Here are 50 things to do in Vancouver this Christmas. For more things happening around town, check out our events calendar.

Christmas Light Festivals

St. Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope

  • What: A longstanding annual tradition at St. Paul’s Hospital returns in November: Over 100,000 light bulbs, spanning a length of more than 10 kilometres, will be turned on for the Christmas-time Lights of Hope charity campaign supporting the hospital’s initiatives.
  • Where: St. Paul’s Hospital – 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver
  • When: Lights go on November 19 at 6:30 p.m.; display is up throughout November and December.

Surrey Tree Lighting Festival

  • What: A massive Christmas tree at Surrey’s City Hall Plaza will be lit for all to see on Saturday, November 21. The lighting will take place at approximately 6:30 p.m. and the evening will also include performances, story-telling, road hockey, arts and crafts, Santa Claus, a ferris wheel, and more. The SFU Holiday Trolley will also take revelers from Surrey City Mall to City Hall for the event.
  • Where: The Plaza at New City Hall and Atrium – 13450 104th Avenue, Surrey
  • When: Saturday, November 21; noon to 7 p.m.

Bright Nights at Stanley Park

  • What: Over three million dazzling lights decorate acres of the dark forest, reaching as high as the forest canopy for Bright Nights in Stanley Park. The attraction is also accompanied by a train ride, musics, snacks, entertainment, and even visits with Santa and his elves.
  • Where: Miniature railway area at Stanley Park, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, November 26 to January 2, 2016

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge

  • What: The suspension bridge, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk, the rainforest and canyon are transformed into a world of festive lights and visual enchantment. See the world’s tallest living Christmas tree (153 feet tall), experience the voice-activated light show, go on a scavenger hunt throughout the park, sing along with the holiday band, take a family photo at the Winter Pavilion, and more.
  • Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge – 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 27 – Sunday, January 3, 2016; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden

  • What: Stroll with friends and family through interactive themed areas and enjoy the Dancing Lights show on Livingstone Lake, the gnome performance and the Vancouver Public Library’s Tales for a Winter’s Night. Have photos taken with Santa, savour holiday treats, and delight in much more.
  • Where: Vandusen Gardens – 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver
  • When: Tuesday, December 1 – Thursday, December 31; click here for hours.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Jack Poole Plaza

  • What: The Christmas Tree Lighting at Jack Poole plaza has become an annual holiday tradition for Vancouver families. Back for its ninth year, the Christmas tree lighting will take place on December 4, where four beautiful trees will be lit up with festive lights (one that’s over 50 feet tall).
  • Where: Jack Poole Plaza – 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 4; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Food & Drink

Mercato Italian Christmas Market

  • What: The MERCATO Italian Market gets into the Christmas mood with a themed market selling delicious Italian goods, homemade products, fruits and vegetables and delicious food.
  • Where: Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre – 3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 20; 4 to 8 p.m.

Christmas Markets & Craft Fairs

Steveston Christmas Craft Fair

  • What: More than 165 artisan booths will fill Steveston Community Centre on Saturday, November 28 for a Christmas shopping extravaganza featuring one-of-a-kind handmade items. The market will be entry-by-donation and support the Steveston Park Playground Improvement Fund.
  • Where: Steveston Community Centre, Ned Shed Building – 4111 Moncton Street, Richmond
  • When: Saturday, November 28; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dunbar Holiday Craft Fair

  • What: The 33rd annual Dunbar Holiday Craft Fair will showcase over 140 curated vendors, along with some light refreshments (maybe a food truck or two!) and a coveted prize draw you won’t want to miss. Stock up on one-of-a-kind goodies for the giving season.
  • Where: Dunbar Community Centre – 4747 Dunbar Street, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, November 28; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Emily Carr University Student Art Sale

  • What: An original piece of art makes a very memorable Christmas gift all art lovers will enjoy. Pick out any one of the unique pieces created by students at Emily Carr University during their annual Student Art Sale.
  • Where: Emily Carr University of Art + Design – 1399 Johnston Street, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 27 to Sunday, November 29; noon to 5 p.m.

Portobello West

  • What: The final show of the 2015 season will showcase some of Vancouver’s finest hand-made and locally produced goods, including jewellery, arts, accessories, snacks and apparel.
  • Where: Creekside Community Recreation Centre – 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, November 28 to Sunday, November 29; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vancouver Christmas Market

  • What: Back once again on Queen Elizabeth Plaza, this bustling temporary alpine village will once again boast unique eats, handcrafted goods, and lots of fun for kids young and young-at-heart alike. The Vancouver Christmas Market will run from November 21 to December 24, and will have over 50 vendors selling gift-able treats from holiday ornaments to handmade toys.
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Plaza, 650 Hamilton Street
  • When: November 21 to December 24, 2015, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on December 24)

Makeshift Spaces Christmas Craft Fair

  • What: Personalize your Christmas shopping with three weekends of Handmade Crafts from local artisans in December at Makeshift Spaces.
  • Where: Makeshift Spaces – 89 Smithe Street, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 4; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Got Craft? Holiday Edition

  • What: Vancouver’s largest indie craft fair returns for a holiday edition on December 12 and 13. Gathering a range of vendors focusing on handmade and handcrafted originals, Got Craft? features over 75 unique and local artisan designs, craft workshops, edible treats, entertainment, and more.
  • Where: The Pipe Shop Building at the Shipyards, 115 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 10 a.m. to 5p.m.

Make It!

  • What: 250 of Canada’s best designers and producers showcase their work for the Make It! Vancouver fair at the PNE Forum.
  • Where: PNE Forum – 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 3 to Sunday, December 6

Vancouver Farmers’ Holiday Market

  • What: The Vancouver Farmers’ Market gets in the Christmas spirit once a year at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Seasonal vegetables and other goodies will be available to purchase, along with other artisanal items and VFM gift cards and merchandise.
  • Where: Croatian Cultural Centre – 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Festivals & Parades

CandyTown

  • What: Mainland Street in Yaletown will be decked out to the max with winter wonderland fare, complete with lights and seasonal lamp posts and of course, lots of Christmas decorations. Costumed characters will wander the street as well, giving kids and families the opportunity for that Christmas-card photo-op. Best of all, these activities are all completely free.
  • Where: Mainland Street, Yaletown
  • When: Saturday, November 21; noon to 7 p.m.

Rogers Santa Claus Parade

  • What: Every year, hundreds of floats, marching bands, and performers take to the streets in celebration of the holiday season. Organizations, businesses, and communities across Vancouver are represented, with a visit from the big man himself, Saint Nicholas. It will feature 3,500 participants and an estimated 300,000 spectators in downtown Vancouver.
  • Where: East down Georgia Street, starting at Broughton Street, then south on Howe Street to Davie Street
  • When: Sunday, December 6; 1 p.m.

Christmas at Canada Place

  • What: Christmas at Canada Place returns for its 28th year with exhibits and activities for the family along the Canadian Trail, the West Promenade of Canada Place. Christmas crafts, the Avenue of Christmas Trees, Rudolph’s Theatre and the historic Woodward’s Windows are all part of this free event.
  • Where: Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12 to December 30, closed December 24 & 25; noon to 6 p.m.

Vancouver Winter Wonderland Christmas Festival

  • What: Vancouver Winter Wonderland Festival will be the largest indoor Christmas festival in Canada with 100 vendors, food and drinks, a three-storey walk-through snow globe and more inside the 35,000 sq. ft. PNE Forum. Guests will pay $5 to enter.
  • Where: PNE Forum – 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: December 11 to 20, 2015

Christmas in Kerrisdale

  • What: Brass bands, Santa Claus and his merry elves, horse and carriage rides and free ice skating are all part of the annual Christmas in Kerrisdale celebration.
  • Where: Kerrisdale Village – West 41st Avenue between Larch St and Maple St.
  • When: Saturdays and Sundays, December 5, 12, 19, 23; noon to 4 p.m.

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

  • What: Celebrate the beginning of Winter’s end at the 22nd Annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. Taking place every year on the longest night, the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival brings communities together with a self-guided lantern tour, spread out over a series of blocks in various neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
  • Where: Various locations around Vancouver
  • When: Monday, December 21; 6 to 10 p.m.

The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain

  • What: Grouse Mountain becomes a holiday mecca during December for the Peak of Christmas, featuring Santa and his elves, live reindeer, sleigh rides, ice skating on the outdoor rink, all in the outdoor alpine beauty.
  • Where: Grouse Mountain – 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 27 to January 4, 2016

Spirit of Christmas at Sea to Sky Gondola

  • What: High up in the alpine range lies the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish, offering unparalleled views of snow-capped mountains. The Christmas festivities include snowshoeing, tubing, a forest walk, warm and cozy storytime and a brunch with Santa himself. There will also be a Christmas Market at the mountain base and local choirs singing holiday carols, including a special holiday concert.
  • Where: Sea to Sky Gondola – off Highway 99 just before Squamish
  • When: Friday, December 4 to January 3, 2016

Concerts & Shows

A Christmas Story

  • What: The Arts Club’s production of A Christmas Story brings the classic film to life, along with a musical soundtrack. If you’re not already familiar with the plot, it’s about a young boy named Ralphie in the 1940s who sets his eye on the Official Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun as his must-have Christmas gift. Problem is, “it’ll shoot your eye out!”
  • Where: Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage – 2750 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: Now until December 27; evening and matinee productions

It’s a Wonderful Life

  • What: The Arts Club has been putting on It’s a Wonderful Life for so many years it has now become an annual Christmas tradition. “George Bailey performs countless good deeds for friends and townsfolk in Bedford Falls, yet all that seems to count for naught when he faces financial adversity. At George’s most woeful moment, his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, swoops in to remind him that faith, hope, and family make life truly wonderful.” – The Arts Club
  • Where: Granville Island Stage – 1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver
  • When: Now until December 26; evening and matinee productions

Yule Duel

  • What: On December 3, Water Street will transform into a series of outdoor stages, hosting more than 20 choirs in Vancouver’s first street-carolling competition – Yule Duel. The event is inspired by Figgy Pudding, a renowned annual carolling competition and charitable fundraiser in Seattle. Yule Duel aims to raise $20,000 for May’s Place, a hospice in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
  • Where: Water Street, Gastown, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 3; 6 to 9 p.m.

Vancouver Men’s Chorus: Making Spirits Bright

  • What: The Vancouver Men’s Chorus sings all the Christmas classics, set in the beautiful halls of St. Paul’s Anglican Church. They say it will be a “feast for the senses”.
  • Where: St. Paul’s Anglican Church – 1130 Jervis Street, Vancouver
  • When: December 4, 5, 10 and 11; 8 p.m., December 6 and 12; matinees at 3 p.m.

Vancouver Chamber Choir Christmas Concerts

  • What: The Vancouver Chamber Choir is putting on three fabulous Christmas concerts this season, beginning on December 4 with Christmas in the Orpheum, a collection of renaissance, baroque & carols. Next is A Dylan Thomas Christmas, followed by the ever-popular A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Where: The Orpheum – 601 Smithe Street, Vancouver & Shaughnessy Heights United Church – 1550 West 33rd Ave, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 4, December 18, and December 19; 8 p.m.

Christmas with the Bach Choir

  • What: The Vancouver Bach Choir knows a thing or two about how to nail a Christmas carol. More than 400 singers will fill the stage to sing all the beloved Christmas classics during this afternoon concert, featuring the Children’s Chorus and Youth Choir.
  • Where: The Orpheum – 601 Smithe Street, Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, December 6; 2 p.m.

A Traditional Christmas from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

  • What: The VSO plays its annual Traditional Christmas concert in neighbourhoods around Metro Vancouver, including the North Shore, Burnaby, Surrey, Delta, and Vancouver this holiday season. Experience the delight of Christmas music straight from the city’s most talented musicians.
  • Where: Various locations
  • When: Thursday, December 10 to Sunday, December 20; Nightly

Bah! Humbug!

  • What: “An Eastside musical set on Coast Salish Territories” – that’s what SFU Woodward’s Bah! Humbug! production is described as. Starring Jim Byrnes as Ebenezer Scrooge, the play will weave current issues of the Downtown Eastside into Charles Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol. “A modern-day, sushi-loving Ebenezer Scrooge owns a pawn shop on Vancouver’s Hastings Street, where he is timing Bob Cratchit’s late arrival to work on his iPhone.”
  • Where: Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts – 149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 10 to 12 and Tuesday, December 15 to 19; 7:30 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays

The Nutcracker (Goh Ballet)

  • What: The Goh Ballet presents their annual production of The Nutcracker for the seventh year in a row. The prestigious ballet is sure to entertain all ages, as the classicly whimsical tale has endured decades as a classic Christmas tradition.
  • Where: The Centre in Vancouver – 777 Homer Street, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 17 to Tuesday, December 22; 7:30 p.m., matinees also available

Ballet BC presents Alberta Ballet in The Nutcracker

  • What: Ballet BC’s annual production of The Nutcracker, this time starring the Alberta Ballet, is a city-wide favourite and consistently ranks as one of the most quintessential Christmas traditions. Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music accompanies the classic story of Clara, live toy soldiers, dancing mice and more.
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre – 649 Cambie Street, Vancouver
  • When: Tuesday, December 29 to 31; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

19+ Parties

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

  • What: They say it’s the “biggest, wildest, sweateriest bash of the season”, and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party is now an annual tradition in Vancouver. Live music, a DJ, a sing-along and costume prizes for ugliest sweater, best moustache and more. Oh yeah, there will also be milk and cookies… all in the name of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
  • Where: The Commodore Ballroom – 868 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 18; 8 p.m.

Meet Santa

Santa Land at Metropolis at Metrotown

  • What: Santa Claus will be arriving at Metropolis at Metrotown straight from the North Pole, moving into SantaLand on Friday, November 20th and staying until Christmas Eve. As always, children are encouraged to drop off their letters to Santa at Santa’s mailbox. Just make sure to include a return address and Santa might write back!New this year: Interact with our giant light curtain by choosing your favourite snowflake pattern!
  • Where: Metropolis at Metrotown – 4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
  • When: Santa arrives November 20 unti December 24. Click here for hours.
  • Cost: By Donation (minimum $2 per photo)

Santa at Oakridge Mall

  • What: Santa Claus has arrived at Oakridge Mall, and even includes a special pet day. Give Santa your list, and if you’ve been good, you’ll get everything you’ve wished for.
  • Where: Oakridge Mall – 650 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: Santa arrives November 14 until December 24. Click here for hours.

Park Royal Mall Santa

  • What: A jingle of bells and a clatter of hooves means Santa is coming to Park Royal. Join them November 21 to usher Santa into Park Royal South.
  • Where: Park Royal South – 2002 Park Royal South, West Vancouver
  • When: Santa arrives November 21 until December 24. Click here for hours.

Lansdowne Mall Santa

  • What: Charlotte Diamond welcomes Santa to Lansdowne Centre with a special free holiday concert in their Holiday Court.
  • Where: Lansdowne Mall – 5300 No. 3 Road, Richmond
  • When: November 21 for the performance – Santa is around until December 24.

Get a Christmas tree

Vancouver Christmas Tree Lot

  • Location: St. Stephen’s United Church at 54th and Granville Street, Vancouver
  • Open Dates: November 27 – December 22
  • Hours: 7 days a week 10 a.m. to 9 p.m

Coquitlam Christmas Tree Lot

  • Location: Eagle Ridge United Church at 2813 Glen Drive, Coquitlam
  • Open Dates: November 27 – December 22
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Burnaby Christmas Tree Lot

  • Location: All Saints Anglican Church at Royal Oak and Rumble, Burnaby
  • Open Dates: November 27 – December 22
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

North Vancouver Christmas Tree Lot

  • Location: Lonsdale Quay – East Plaza 123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
  • Open Dates: November 27 – December 22
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Miscellaneous

Heritage Christmas

  • What: The Heritage Christmas event is full to the brim with traditional holiday trappings, with brilliant strings of lights lining every building, branch, and bough. Carollers, musicians, dancers, and more will entertain the crowds, and children and adults alike can take part in crafts, baking, theatre performances, and a visit with Santa himself. As always, the famous Burnaby Village Carousel will be offering rides on their authentic 18th Century merry-go-round.
  • Where: Burnaby Village Museum – 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby
  • When: November 21 to January 1; various times

Karaoke Christmas Trolley Tour

  • What: Head out to VanDusen Garden’s Festival of Lights and Bright Nights at Stanley Park aboard the historical Vancouver Trolley Company’s fleet, all while singing Christmas carols along the way. Trolleys will be decked out with karaoke machines, but unfortunately no liquid courage to get the vocal chords ready.
  • Where: Trips depart from Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: December 1 to December 30, 2015

Ice Skating at Robson Square

  • What: The rink at Robson Square is operated seasonally by the provincial government when the temperatures begin to dip, running from morning into the late evening hours. Skaters can skate for free if they bring their own skates while those without skates can rent a pair on-site. There is also a concession stand serving snacks and warm drinks.
  • Where: 800 Robson Street, Vancouver (Robson & Howe)
  • When: December 1, 2015 until February 28, 2016; times vary

Holidays at the Aquarium

  • What: Scuba Claus is back in town for another underwater adventure at the Vancouver Aquarium. Scuba Claus will be making special trips to deliver gifts to the most deserving creatures in the sea while entertaining guests on the other side of the glass. Once that’s done, families can catch a showing of the Polar Express in 4-D.
  • Where: Vancouver Aquarium – 845 Avison Way, Vancouver
  • When: Throughout December

Christmas at Hycroft 

  • What: The University Women’s Club of Vancouver at Hycroft presents Christmas at Hycroft, a 40 year long tradition from Thursday, November 19 to Sunday, November 22. The stunning Edwardian mansion will be filled with fun holiday themed splendour, including a variety of unique boutiques, crafters, local artisans, and treats.
  • Where: Hycroft Manor – 1489 McRae Avenue, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, November 19, to Sunday, November 22. Thursday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Cost: $15 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Gingerbread Lane At Hyatt Regency Vancouver

  • What: The sweetest lane in the city celebrates its 25th annual return to the lobby of Hyatt Regency Vancouver from December 4 through December 27. Executive Chef Jeff Szombaty and the engineering team are hard at work constructing this year’s stunning gingerbread house, built to serve as the centrepiece for more than 30 gingerbread creations designed by secondary schools, professionals and amateur culinary artists.
  • Where: Hyatt Regency – 655 Burrard Street, Vancouver
  • When: December 4 – December 27

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
@jillslattery

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