It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but when the kids are out of school, family is staying for a while (and wants to see Vancouver or do something fun) or you need a kick in your festive elf pants to be a bit more jolly, it’s time to look for something to do that celebrates the spirit of the season. Vancouver may have been coined as being “boring” by some in the past, but when it comes to the holiday season, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’ve done our own searching and checking things out over the years and have come up with a list of a dozen great things to do to keep everyone feeling the festive season’s magic. Some well-known, some lesser known, but there’s plenty to choose from on this list for those of any age, from any location or at any level of Grinchy-ness.
Ashton’s Top 12 Things to do in Vancouver during the Christmas season:
12 – Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt
Are you loving all the holiday cooking shows where amazing bakers have to come up with unbelievable creations out of cookies? One of our teams’ favourites is the gingerbread creations show. If you love it as much as we do, you have to make a trip to the Hyatt Regency Vancouver for Gingerbread Lane now in its 27th year.
This Guinness Book of World Records winning event (for the world’s tallest gingerbread man at the time of the award) is a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish BC and Yukon and welcomes more than 20,000 visitors annually to walk through the more than 30 gingerbread creations crafted by professional bakers, secondary schools and amateur culinary artists.
11 – Steveston Festival of Trees
Bedecked and bedazzled, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society and Steveston Merchants Association host this annual display of trees created by merchants and community groups in the area. All the trees are set up for viewing and visitor voting in the historic cannery. Bring a donation for the food bank to be eligible to vote and take your time admiring the creative creations on the trees.
10 – Glow Langley
Now in its second year and glowing beyond belief is the almost 95,000 square feet of activities based around Christmas lights, sculptures and more. This year’s event is dubbed “Glow Around the World” and features pathways to six different countries in lights. You’ll also find food, a bar and even shopping for those last-minute gifts.
9 – Skating at Robson Square
A Vancouver tradition that was re-born during the 2010 winter Olympics, ice skating is free at the Robson Square rink until the end of February. Don’t have skates? Rent them (and helmets too) for just $5. It’s cash only and the rink is open select hours from Christmas Eve to New Year’s day.
8 – Theatre and performances
There’s a huge range of live performances in and around Vancouver this holiday season from the traditional Nutcracker Ballet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to the Vancouver Playhouse’s comedy Mixed Nuts, there’s more than a few entertainment options to bring Christmas cheer!
7 – Vancouver Christmas Market
Now at a larger location near Canada Place and the Olympic Caldron, the Vancouver Christmas Market offers an authentic German Christmas experience complete with food, drink (yes, even mulled wine), shopping and entertainment suitable for the whole family. Vendors range from candy-makers to woodcrafters and everything else in between. It feels like a walk back in time yet offers modern twists and turns for everyone to enjoy.
6 – Holiday Heights at Bloedel Conservatory
It’s like Christmas in the tropics. Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park becomes an amazing display of free-flying tropical birds, magical lights, music and holiday plant displays. You can even take part in a festive scavenger hunt within the warmth and fascination of the conservatory.
5 – Bright Nights in Stanley Park
Perhaps one of the best known Christmas activities in Vancouver is the ever-growing and changing Stanley Park Bright Nights. Entry to the Train Plaza is by donation ($5 suggested per person) to take in the displays and live performances. Train tickets are available online for various times and days.
4– VanDusen Garden Festival of Lights
A popular Vancouver garden becomes a magical wonderland of lights, during the VanDusen Festival of Lights, thanks to the gardeners who change their focus from flora to bulbs and wires come November. They make almost all of the displays seen on site which takes a full year to completely plan. Light shows, a carousel and dazzling arrangements are all part of this amazing celebration of the season in lights.
3 – The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
Some say Santa’s true self is in the workshop at Grouse Mountain’s The Peak of Christmas. This full-blown holiday experience offers Santa’s workshop, a light walk that includes a light tunnel and lanterns, sliding zone (rent a snow carpet), gingerbread village, Santa’s reindeer (yes! They are real, live reindeer) and reindeer ranger talks. There are also numerous kids’ activities like craft stations, letters to Santa, skating on a pond (skate rentals available) and much more. There is even live entertainment to keep toes tapping and sing-alongs flowing to share the magic of the season.
2 – Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village
Take a trip back in time to old-fashioned fun and lights galore. Burnaby Village hosts Heritage Christmas with vintage-themed décor throughout the streets of the village. Make a stop at the bandstand in the centre of the village to create your own unique show by playing with the lights that change colours based on sound. There are also a number of entertainers on site along with kids’ crafts, Father Christmas and even a carousel.
1 – Lafarge Lake lights
Make the drive to Coquitlam to take in the Lower Mainland’s largest free outdoor light display. There are numerous zones – each with a unique theme – at Lafarge Lake at Town Centre Park. The lights start at dusk and flow around the entire 1.2 kilometer lake loop. There’s even a 90-foot caterpillar light display, fantasy forest, floating lotus flowers and so much more to ooh and aah about. Your leashed canine companions are welcome to take part in the family fun. Look for special activities like pop-up photo locations and a scavenger hunt too.
There’s plenty to do in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland this holiday season. Don’t let the kids make you crazy or pull your hair out wondering what to do with the relations staying for Christmas. Pick one of the many festive activities available and get that holiday jingle back in your step!