Christmas can be an expensive time of year for the best of us, and we all want to dive into the holiday spirit while still being able to afford gifts for our loved ones.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of free things to do in Vancouver this Christmas. Here are 21 things that won’t cost you an arm and a leg – or anything at all – and are guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.
Check out some Christmas lights
- What: The Christmas Tree Lights at Jack Poole plaza has become an annual holiday tradition for Vancouver families. The lighting ceremony took place on December 4, where four beautiful trees were be lit up with festive lights (one that’s over 50 feet tall). So go to Jack Poole Plaza and check them out – they’re up until the start of January.
- Where: Jack Poole Plaza – 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
- What: A longstanding annual tradition at St. Paul’s Hospital has returned: Over 100,000 light bulbs, spanning a length of more than 10 kilometres, are up for the Christmas-time Lights of Hope charity campaign supporting the hospital’s initiatives.
- Where: St. Paul’s Hospital – 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver
- When: Display is up throughout November and December.
- What: More than 50,000 Christmas lights + Family Night with Santa, hot chocolate, face painting and more, supporting North Vancouver Firefighters.
- Where: Park & Tilford Gardens, North Vancouver
- When: Friday, November 27 to December 31
- What: A beloved West Vancouver tradition returns with the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
- Where: Dundarave Park – 25th Street and Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver
- When: Every Saturday from November 28 until January 2; noon to 6 p.m.
- What: Located in Hastings-Sunrise, Trinity Street is a residential neighbourhood that goes completely overboard – in a good way – at Christmas time. Take a wander down the street to check out all the houses’ many light displays, and maybe get a few ideas for your own.
- Where: Trinity Street – Hastings-Sunrise, Vancouver
- When: Throughout December
- What: A home up in the high hills of North Vancouver has been lighting up with over 100,000 lights each Christmas for a few years, all in a good cause. The homeowners welcome visitors but encourage a donation to the Harvest Project in return.
- Where: 4967 Chalet Place, North Vancouver
- When: Throughout December
Festivals & Parades
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What: The Social Yoga, Vancouver’s only mobile yoga studio, is planting a meditation space in front of lululemon on Robson Street on December 12 to allow frazzled holiday shoppers a reprieve from the madness.
- Where: In front of lululemon – 970 Robson Street, Vancouver
- When: Saturday, December 12; all day.
- 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
- 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
- What: Showcasing 1,200 children’s books, this free event aims to celebrate cultural diversity through folktales. Bring your little bookworms to explore new stories from 120 different countries.
- Where: Roundhouse Community Centre – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver
- When: December 8 to December 16, 2015; Various times
Have a Christmas movie marathon
- Whether you’re dreaming of a White Christmas or need a reminder that It’s a Wonderful Life, watching a Christmas movie will surely put you in the holiday spirit.
Visit a Farmers’ Market
- What: Now in its 9th year, this weekly market offers visitors locally-grown fruit and vege, meat, and seafood from local ranchers and fishermen, artisan cheese and bread, herbs and seasonal nursery items, baked goods, prepared foods and artisanal craft.
- Where: Nat Bailey Stadium – 4601 Ontario Street
- When: Saturdays, November 7 to April 23, 2016 (excluding December 26); 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- What: The farmers’ market, which will be operating for the entire winter season, will feature a diverse selection of local produce, including fish, poultry, meat, dairy and nursery items.
- Where: Hastings Skatepark – Renfrew Street
- When: Sundays, November 8 to May 1, 2016 (excluding December 27); 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- What: Open year-long, the Public Market at Granville Island is a favourite destination for locals and tourists alike. There are several produce vendors, along with local food and craft artisans, prepared foods, and much more to see and do.
- Where: 1661 Duranleau Street – Granville Island
- When: Daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- 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.