50 things to do in Vancouver this winter

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THINGS-TO-DO-THIS-WINTER

With the biting cold comes a flurry of fun activities to do during the winter season. Here are 50 fun things to do in Vancouver this winter.

For more things happening around town, check out our events calendar.

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Christmas in Vancouver

Image: Christmas at Canada Place

Image: Christmas at Canada Place

Vancouver Christmas Market

  • What: The Vancouver Christmas Market is the perfect atmosphere to mix and mingle with friends and family. Discover terrific food, drink, entertainment, and a wonderful array of Christmas gifts.
  • Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza – 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, November 21 to Thursday, December 24; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
  • Cost: Free to $8

Bright Nights at Stanley Park

  • What: During the holiday season, the Bright Nights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza sparkle with three million twinkling lights. Buy tickets to ride the Bright Nights Train and experience the lights, breathtaking displays, and live performers along the train route. Or view the displays at the Train Plaza by donation ($4.00 suggested).
  • Where: Pipeline Road, Stanley Park, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, November 26 to Saturday, January 2, 2016
  • Cost: Free to $11

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!), go on a Snowy Owl Prowl, decorate gingerbread cookies and make your own Christmas card in the Winter Pavilion, and sing-along with the holiday band.
  • Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge – 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
  • When: Friday, November 27 to Tuesday, January 5; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Cost: $12 to $37.95 for single tickets, $79 for family packs

FlyOver Canada Christmas

  • What: FlyOver Canada will transform into a magical winter wonderland this Christmas season. Guests will have fun helping Santa Claus search for his missing elves during an exhilarating flight across Canada and on to the North Pole.
  • Where: FlyOver Canada – 201- 999 Canada Place
  • When: Friday, November 27 to Tuesday, January 5; 4 to 9 p.m.
  • Cost: $25 to $40

Dundarave Festival of Lights

  • 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.

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

Vancouver Trolley’s Karaoke Christmas Tour

  • What: Festively decorated Trolleys equipped with karaoke machines for your seasonal singing enjoyment will depart from Canada Place at 6:30pm every evening from December 1st through 30th, 2015 (except for Christmas Day). Upon pickup, guests will sing their way past the city lights of downtown before arriving at Bright Nights at Stanley Park.
  • Where: Departing from Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Tuesday, December 1 to Wednesday, December 30 (except Christmas day); 6:30 p.m. departures
  • Cost: $25 to $40

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden

  • What: Experience the Festival of Lights, a magical winter wonderland with over one million lights decorating VanDusen Garden open from December 1 to 31. This year we’ve expanded the show and added 5 new acres to Vancouver’s premier holiday event!
  • Where: VanDusen Garden – 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver
  • When: Tuesday, December 1 to Thursday, December 31 (Closed Christmas Day); 4:30 to 9 p.m. (December 1 to 18 and 24 to 31), 4:30 to 10 p.m. (December 18 to 23)
  • Cost: Free to $8

Christmas in Kerrisdale

  • What: Brass bands, Santa, horse and carriage rides and free ice skating are all part of this cherished event taking place in Vancouver’s Westside. Each weekend in December, residents and visitors can head down to Kerrisdale Village on West 41st Avenue between Larch St. and Maple St. to take part in the free festive activities.
  • 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.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Jack Poole Plaza

  • What: Enjoy an evening of select local food vendors, family friendly activities and live entertainment in support of Kids Help Phone. Afterward, the iconic 50-foot Christmas tree will remain on site until the first week of January 2015.
  • Where: Jack Poole Plaza – Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 5; 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Rogers Santa Claus Parade

  • What: The Parade is one of the largest food and fund raising events for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society. Since 2004, the Parade has collected $141,800 and more than 75,400 lbs. of food for hungry families in the Lower Mainland. On Parade day, we encourage spectators to bring a monetary or non-perishable food donation for the Food Bank. For each dollar donated, the food Bank can purchase three dollars’ worth of food.
  • Where: Downtown Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, December 6; Parade starts at 1 p.m.

Christmas at Canada Place

  • What: Join us this holiday season for the 28th annual Christmas at Canada Place, presented by Port Metro Vancouver. It’s all taking place outdoors along The Canadian Trail (Canada Place west promenade). Come down to this year’s Christmas at Canada Place.
  • Where: The Woodward’s Windows and Canada Place
  • When: Saturday, December 12 to Wednesday, December 30; noon to 6 p.m.

Vancouver Carol Ships

  • What: You’ll listen to holiday classics as you dine on a feast fit for a seafaring king! Entertainment aboard the Abitibi and the Queen of Diamonds includes a pianist and caroller leading passengers in song. Join in if you like, or simply sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season unfolding around you as we take part in this annual celebration which promises to be even more popular this year. Reserved seating at linen dressed tables in fully heated salons.
  • Where: Plaza of Nations Marina – 750 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver
  • When: Running until December 27. Various times. Click here for more.

Scuba Claus

  • What: That’s right, Scuba Claus is coming to town. From now until December 24 Scuba Claus will dive daily at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Arctic exhibit, sharing the tank with beluga whales Aurora and Qila, and visit the Strait of Georgia Exhibit as well.
  • Where: Vancouver Aquarium – 845 Avison Way, Vancouver
  • When: Runs until January 3. Click here for more.

Get a Christmas tree

Image: Christmas tree sales / Shutterstock

Image: Christmas tree sales / Shutterstock

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.

Go on a walking tour of the light displays around town:

  • St. Paul’s Hospital
  • Harbour Centre
  • Jack Poole Plaza
  • Robson Square
  • Sheraton Wall Centre
  • Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival in East Vancouver
  • Dudarave Festival of Lights in West Vancouver

Stay active (even if it’s cold out)

Image: Robson Square

Image: Robson Square

Robson Square Ice Rink

  • What: The Government of British Columbia’s Robson Square Ice Rink, located in downtown Vancouver, is opening on the afternoon of December 1, 2015 and will be open all through the Christmas Holidays, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Skating is free with your own skates, otherwise rentals are available. The rink also features a concession stand with snacks and warm drinks.
  • Where: Robson Square – 800 Robson Square, Vancouver
  • When: Opens Tuesday, December 1
  • Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Click here for holiday hours.

Annual Polar Bear Swim

  • What: The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world. Its initial swim was in 1920 when a small number of hardy swimmers took the plunge into English Bay on New Year’s Day. Led by their founder, Peter Pantages, the swim has grown from around 10 swimmers in that year to the new record of 2,550 official entries set in 2014.
  • Where: English Bay, Vancouver
  • When: January 1, 2016; Registration is from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Hit the local ski hills or head up to Whistler

Go on a guided snowshoe tour at:

  • Grouse Mountain
  • Mount Seymour
  • Cypress Mountain
  • Whistler

Go for a run:

Concerts and Parties

canada-place-fireworks-1-984x500

Image: New Years Eve Vancouver

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

  • What: The Ugly Christmas Sweater movement is about basking in the hideous warmth of an ugly sweater, having fun, doing good, and creating smiles. Working with The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, we raise money to fulfill a favourite wish for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Last year, partiers helped us raise $60,000 and create hope and happy memories for six children and their families.
  • Where: Commodore Ballroom – 868 Granville Street, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 18; Doors open at 8 p.m.
  • Cost: Starting at $30

Contact Music Festival

  • What: Contact 2015 is headlined by Above $ Beyond on December 26 and Hardwell on December 27, along with 16 other incredible artists touching on genres across the spectrum of cutting edge electronic dance music.
  • Where: BC Place Stadium – 777 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 26 and Sunday, December 27; doors open at 5 p.m.
  • Cost: $99 – $250

Book your New Year’s Eve night out 

We’ve compiled a complete guide to all the big events happening this New Year’s Eve. Check it out by clicking here.

Check Vancity Buzz Concert Listings

There are always tonnes of great shows to catch in Vancouver. Keep an eye on them by checking out our concert listings.

Food and Drinks

Holiday macaron at Thierry (Photo courtesy Thierry)

Holiday macaron at Thierry (Photo courtesy Thierry)

Holiday Market

  • What: Our annual showcase of seasonal food and fine craft takes place once a year in December at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Over 60 vendors who regularly sell at our summer markets bring out their holiday best at our only indoor venue. New this year: Alcohol sales by artisan producers.  Check out the Market Map to see if your favourite vendor will be there.
  • Where: Croatian Cultural Centre – 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dine Out Vancouver

  • What: Canada’s largest food and drink festival dishes up unlimited ways to enjoy the flavours of the city. Choose from a 17-day calendar of culinary events and experiences, hundreds of restaurants throughout the city and dozens of hotel options to create delicious dining experiences.
  • Where: Various participating restaurants.
  • When: Friday, January 15 to Sunday, January 31

Gluten Free Expo

  • What: Discover, sample, and save on hundred’s of Gluten Free Products while learning from leading experts. This years Expo is even bigger and better than ever! New products, Pizzas, Pastas, Perogies, Sausages, and more ready and waiting for you. So, don’t forget to get your tickets!
  • Where: Canada Place – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, January 16 to Sunday, January 17; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Street Food City

  • What: Celebrating its fifth anniversary, Street Food City is your opportunity to sample from a collection of Vancouver’s Street Food carts all in one convenient location.
  • Where: North Plaza, Vancouver Art Gallery
  • When: Saturday, January 16 to Sunday, January 24; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
  • Cost: Free to enter

Hot Chocolate Festival

  • What: The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is back for its fifth year, and this time, even more chocolate makers have come together to spike their hot chocolate drinks with the wildest, most delicious flavours you can imagine.
  • Where: TBA
  • When: Saturday, January 16 to Sunday, February 14

Taste BC

  • What: Taste BC is one event that you will not want to miss. This memorable tasting promises to inspire a sense of local pride, and most importantly, raise proceeds to benefit BC Children’s Hospital’s Oak Tree Clinic.
  • Where: Pan Pacific Hotel – #300 – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, January 28; 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Tickets are $49.99 at Liberty Wine Merchants

Vancouver International Wine Festival

  • What: VanWineFest attracts some of the biggest industry names from around the world and is firmly established as the continent’s premier wine event and among the biggest, best and oldest wine events in the world. It features wine tastings and pairings, gourmet dinners and luncheons, educational seminars and culinary competitions.
  • Where: Vancouver Convention Centre – 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, February 20 to Sunday, February 28
  • Cost: Tickets start at $75

Winter Farmers’ Markets

Farmers Market (esclphotograf/Pixabay)

Farmers Market (esclphotograf/Pixabay)

Nat Bailey Stadium

  • What: Each week you can look forward to finding locally grown vegetables and fruit, 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, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, November 7 to Saturday, April 23 (Every Saturday); 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hastings Park

  • What: After a successful trial season last year, we’re excited to return to Hastings Park for a full winter season! We were welcomed and supported by the local community with dedicated Vancouver Farmers Markets shoppers from all over the Lower Mainland. Located within a thriving community close to the highway and the Second Narrows Bridge, the Hastings Park Farmers Market is a perfect place to stop and shop.
  • Where: Hastings Skate Park – Renfrew Street, Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, November 8th to Sunday, May 1st (Closed Dec. 27); 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Festivals, theatres and other things to do

The Social Yoga

The Social Yoga

Pop-up Meditation Studio

  • 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: Outside of lululemon on Robson Street – 970 Robson Street, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12; all day

Goh Ballet presents The Nutcracker

  • What: Experience Clara’s dream come to life as she embarks on a magical journey through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets where she is greeted by the enchanting Sugar Plum Fairy. An unforgettable adventure awaits as her gallant Nutcracker battles the evil Mouse King and his army of mischievous mice. This heart-warming production is sure to delight audiences of all ages with more than 200 glittering costumes, dramatic sets and valuable lessons – all danced to Tchaikovsky’s memorable score performed live by members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra.
  • Where: The Centre in Vancouver – 777 Homer Street, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 17 to Tuesday, December 22; various times. Check the schedule for more details.
  • Cost: $28 to $92

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

  • What: The dance of the sun and earth has inspired celebrations of the human spirit, expressed through art and music, throughout the ages. Honouring many cultural traditions, the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival illuminates the longest night of the year with lanterns, fire, singing, drumming, music and dancing! Come celebrate this warm and festive community event with a glowing constellation of lanterns shining in four Vancouver neighbourhoods.
  • Where: Yaletown, Granville Island, and Chinatown
  • When: Monday, December 21; 6 to 10 p.m.

Cirque du Soleil presents KOOZA

  • What: Since its premiere in April of 2007, KOOZA has performed over 2,700 shows in 47 cities, in 12 countries, on three different continents. Over four million spectators have enjoyed this critically acclaimed show.
  • Where: Concord Pacific Place – 88 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver
  • When: Runs until December 27

No Pants Skytrain Ride 2016

  • What: The No Pants Skytrain Ride is an annual global event started by Improv Everywhere in New York in 2002. The mission is simple: you ride the Skytrain with no pants.
  • Where: TBA
  • When: Sunday, January 10; 2:30 p.m.

PuSh Festival

  • What: The PuSh Festival expands the horizons of Vancouver artists and audiences with work that is visionary, genre-bending, multi-disciplined, startling and original. The Festival showcases acclaimed international, Canadian and local artists and mixes them together with an alchemy that inspires audiences, rejuvenates artists, stimulates the industry and forges productive relationships around the globe.
  • Where: Various Locations. Check the website for more information.
  • When: Tuesday, January 19 to Sunday, February 7

Lunar Fest

  • What: Built as a festival that celebrates one of the oldest traditions for many Asian cultures – Lunar New Year, LunarFest aims to collaborate with many Asian communities and outreaches to other Canadians. Since the inception, LunarFest is also built on an important artistic element for many cultures – the lanterns. Through collaborations with professional artists and school children in Canada and around the world, LunarFest has already presented Lantern Forest for 2009-2010, Lantern Aquarium for 2011-2012, Lantern Jungle in 2013 and Lantern Palaces in 2014.
  • Where: Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, February 12 to Sunday, February 14

Hugs and Fishes Dinner and Sleepover

  • What: Create unique memories with your special valentine here at the Vancouver Aquarium with a one of a kind experience! To start the evening, wine and dine your valentine in our Tropical gallery with a three course plated dinner by our culinary team.
  • Where: Vancouver Aquarium – 845 Avison Way, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, February 13

Chinese New Year Parade & Festival

  • What: The Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade will return for its 43rd year on Sunday, February 14th, 2016. The parade will begin at 11 am. We look forward to seeing you there.
  • Where: Chinatown, Vancouver. Click here for the parade route.
  • When: Sunday, February 14; 11 a.m.

Valentine’s Day Burlesque at the Rio Theatre

  • What: It takes two to tango this Valentines Day at the Rio Theatre! Back after last year’s sold out show, the highly anticipated Burlesque Duos will feature never seen before Burlesque duets featuring eight of Vancouver’s top teasers.
  • Where: Rio Theatre – 1660 East Broadway, Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, February 14; doors open at 8 p.m.

Talking Stick Festival

  • What: All areas of the performing arts are represented at the Talking Stick Festival from theatre, dance, drumming, and music to spoken word, visual arts and multimedia performance, celebrating Aboriginal culture and showcasing the new evolving contemporary work of today’s artists. Below is a list of Festival highlight performances not to be missed! Buy your tickets now!
  • Where: Various Locations. Click here for more information.
  • When: Tuesday, February 16 to Monday, February 29

Winterruption Festival on Granville Island

  • What: Art is at the heart of Winterruption, and this year, it’s bigger than ever – literally!  Marvel at Giants, the largest outdoor mural ever created by Brazilian artists OSGEMEOS on Ocean Concrete’s six gigantic silos.
  • Where: Granville Island, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, February 19 to Monday, February 22

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

  • What: The 12th Anniversary St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the festival’s largest and most popular free event, drawing people from all cultures, backgrounds, ages and all walks of life. This colorful (very green) display of fabulous sight and sound takes to the streets on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 11:00 AM.
  • Where: Downtown Vancouver
  • When: Sunday, March 13; 11 a.m.

Craft Fairs

Christmas crafts via Shutterstock

Christmas crafts via Shutterstock

Make it! The Handmade Revolution

  • What: Make It is a shopping event that gives enlightened shoppers the opportunity to buy unique, ethically made goods from top artisans from all over Canada. With food carts, a licensed bar and funky music the vibe at the show is very upbeat and fun! Make It is about appreciating creativity, connecting entrepreneurs, and giving conscious shoppers an alternative to the mall.
  • Where: The PNE Forum, 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • When: Thursday, December 3 to Sunday, December 6; 11am – 9pm (Thurs & Fri), 10am – 7pm (Sat), 10am – 5pm (Sun)
  • Cost: $7

Vancouver Winter Wonderland

  • What: Vancouver Winter Wonderland is a 10-day holiday extravaganza filled with activities, attractions, and arts and crafts, complete with photo opportunities featuring Santa and his reindeers.
  • Where: PNE Forum, Corner of Hastings and Renfrew Streets, Vancouver
  • When: Friday, December 11 to Sunday, December 20
  • Cost: $5

Got Craft? Holiday Edition

  • What: Got Craft? aims to bring together a community that fosters handmade and D.I.Y. culture. Over the past 7 years in Vancouver (BC), we are excited to have partnered with the MUSEUM OF VANCOUVER,VANCOUVER PREMIERE OF HANDMADE NATION and SIGN PAINTERS, SWAP-O-RAMA-RAMA, KNIT CITY, and VANCOUVER MINI MAKER FAIRE. Our goal is to curate a boutique event to showcase some of our favourite handmade artists and provide Vancouver the opportunity to shop and meet makers in person.
  • Where: The Pipe Shop Building – 115 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver
  • When: Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cost: $5 at the door, $3 online

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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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