38 Things To Do In Vancouver In Winter (Local’s Guide)

Looking for things to do in Vancouver in winter?

Being born and raised in Vancouver, I can tell you that Vancouver is one of the best places to visit during the winter.

While the city doesn’t have heavy snowfall as often as other locations around Canada, one of the best reasons to visit Vancouver is the mild weather and quieter tourist scene.

But don’t let that fool you. There are still many things to do in Vancouver in winter, such as ice skating at Robson Square Ice Rink or participating in the Hot Chocolate Festival.

In this guide, I’ll discuss outdoor activities, holiday events, Christmas markets, and other things you can do while visiting Vancouver in winter β€”as well as a couple of tips for what to wear and general information.

Outdoor Winter Activities In Vancouver

Let’s start with all the outdoor winter activities in Vancouver or nearby. For outdoor winter activities at any of the locations below, you must purchase Season Passes.

While you can do almost all the winter sports on nearly every mountain in Vancouver, some mountains cater to certain sports more than others.

A view from the top of a snowy mountain in Vancouver during the winter. There are clouds covering the city below.

πŸ’‘ Fun Fact: The mountain order when you look at Vancouver goes Cypress (left), Grouse (middle with “The Cut”), and Seymour (right).

1. Skiing

Skiing is one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter, whether you’re a seasoned skier or a beginner.

Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are the two most popular ski destinations, offering various slopes catering to all skill levels. Cypress focuses more on cross-country skiing, while Grouse has more downhill skiing.

Whether you’re an experienced skier or a beginner skier looking to learn, these mountains provide well-groomed trails, excellent instructors, and state-of-the-art facilities to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Cypress’s cross-country ski trails were fun and easy to do when we had our elementary school field trips.

Seymour Mountain isn’t as popular as Grouse or Cypress. Still, they offer skiing lessons and other activities on the mountain that the other two don’t have.

A women skiing on a flat surface on snowy mountain with snow covered trees in the background.

2. Snowshoeing

Now, this is where Seymour starts to shine with winter activities. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and set off on a tranquil journey through snow covered forests, picturesque ridges, and scenic viewpoints offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape.

One of the advantages of snowshoeing at Seymour Mountain is its accessibility and convenience. The mountain offers equipment rentals, ensuring you have the necessary gear to embark on your expedition.

Additionally, the trailheads are easily accessible from the parking lot, allowing you to get started on your snowshoeing adventure quickly.

There are options available for all skill levels, from beginners to experienced hikers and guided tours such as a Chocolate Fondue, Baby & Me, Twilight Tour and more.

A person walking in the snow with snowshoes on a sunny day. Snowshoeing is one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter.

3. Tubing

Another fun winter outdoor activity that Seymour offers is tubing and tobogganing. It’s an excellent and fun thing to do if you visiting with children during the winter.

4. Tobbaganing 

Tobogganing in Vancouver during the winter is a popular pastime both locals and visitors enjoy. You can try tobogganing at places like Queen Elizabeth Park or local parks with hills. For example, China Creek North Park has a huge hill

5. Snowboarding

Vancouver is the place to be for all snowboarding enthusiasts or anyone wanting to learn how to snowboard.

Grouse Mountain offers a variety of runs to cater to all abilities, from gentle slopes for beginners to challenging terrain parks for freestyle enthusiasts. Usually, you can find more snowboarders here during the winter.

Whistler Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain are other locations many snowboarders like visiting during winter. They’re more challenging than at Grouse and have more backcountry options.

Four people snowboarding down a mountain in Whistler. Snowboarding and other winter activities are popular in Vancouver

6. Ice Skating

Going ice skating is one of the cheapest and easiest non-touristy things to do in Vancouver. Many community centres around Vancouver have designated time slots for open skating for the public.

If you don’tt know how to skate, don’t panic; there are helmets and items to hang on to that they use to teach beginner skaters or young children. Trust me; it will be easier than holding on to somebody.

Some local rinks around Vancouver that may have open skating available:

  • Britannia Community Centre
  • Kitsilano Community Centre
  • Killarney Community Centre
  • Trout Lake Community Centre

If you’re looking for a tourist rink to go skating at, Robson Square has a small rink below the middle of Downtown Vancouver.

A person standing during the night in front of Robson Square Ice Rink, a popular tourist ice rink to go ice skating in Vancouver during winter.

7. Snowmobiling

Whistler’s snowmobiling experiences cater to riders of all levels, from beginners to experienced thrill-seekers. Many different guided tours, such as private, duel riders, or family, allow you to explore the expansive backcountry.

The tours are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides who ensure your safety and maximize your enjoyment.

8. Head To Whistler

Whistler is worth visiting and is situated just a couple of hours’ drive north of Vancouver and offers world-renowned ski in ski out hotels and resorts for those seeking a more extensive skiing adventure.

Consistently ranked among the top ski destinations globally, Whistler Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain offer an expansive terrain of skiable slopes, catering to all abilities.

There are many things to do in Whistler for non-skiers, too, so if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, there are other options.

In addition, the Vancouver to Whistler drive, better known as the Sea To Sky Highway, is rated as one of the best scenic highways in Canada.

A picture taken from the overpass bridge of people walking in the Village. Whistler is an excellent destination to travel to in the winter from Vancouver.

9. Winter Hiking

Winter hiking in Vancouver, BC, offers a chance to experience nature’s beauty covered in blankets of snow. Notable destinations like Whyte LakeQuarry Rock, and Buntzen Lake provide memorable winter treks.

Whyte Lake, found in West Vancouver, features an easy trail through a lush forest to a small, quiet lake.

Quarry Rock, situated in North Vancouver’s Deep Cove, offers a relatively short and accessible hike to stunning views of Indian Arm on top of a massive rock.

Meanwhile, Buntzen Lake in Anmore (between Port Moody and Coquitlam) has a 10-kilometre loop hike that is beautiful during the winter.

When heading out for winter hikes, preparations are important. Dress warmly in layers, wear suitable footwear, and carry essentials like water, snacks, and navigational aids. Keep an eye on changing weather conditions and trail status.

10. Fat Biking

Fat biking in winter refers to riding fat bikes, which are bicycles with oversized, wide tires specifically designed for cycling in snowy and icy conditions.

These wide tires provide excellent traction and stability on soft and slippery surfaces, making them well-suited for winter riding.

It’s suitable for riders of various skill levels, so if you can ride a bike, you can fat bike.

Fat biking in winter provides a unique and adventurous way to experience the outdoors during the colder months, allowing cyclists to explore winter wonderlands and enjoy the beauty of snow covered areas.

The best place to fat bike is in Squamish. You can also try local mountain biking locations (Seymour), as people may be fat biking there.

A picture of bikes with bigger tires, know as Fat biking. Fat biking is a way for those who love to bike but want to coninute throughout winter.

Holiday Events In Vancouver

These are some of the holiday events that happen in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland.

11. Festival Lights At VanDusen Garden

In Vancouver, the Festival of Lights in VanDusen Garden is an enchanting winter event that illuminates the garden grounds with displays of lights.

Held annually during the holiday season, the Festival of Lights transforms the garden into a beautiful wonderland.

12. Santa Claus Parades

The Santa Claus Parades are a beloved holiday tradition that brings happiness and excitement to the city. People of all ages gather along the parade route to see colourful floats, hear festive music, and wave to Santa Claus himself.

New Westminster and Surrey are the two locations that will have Santa Claus Parades in mid-December. This fantastic, family-friendly event brings joy to many children and families.

13. Christmas Glow

The Christmas Glow event in Langley (outside of Vancouver, ower mainland) features stunning light displays, interactive installations, a Christmas market, and entertainment for all ages.

You can explore the dazzling lights, shop for unique gifts, enjoy tasty treats, and participate in fun activities.

14. Heritage Christmas At Burnaby Village Museum

Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum is a unique event that takes you back to experience the holiday season in a historical setting.

The village is beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths, and carolers sing festive songs. 

Children can meet Father Christmas and participate in fun activities like riding the carousel.

15. Bright Nights In Stanley Park

Bright Nights In Stanley Park was one of the winter events my family used to do every year when we were younger. It’s a holiday tradition to which that section of Stanley Park comes alive with an enchanting display of lights illuminating the trees and pathways.

In addition to the captivating lights, Bright Nights offers a range of activities to make your visit even more memorable.

Bright Nights is also about giving back to the community. The event is a yearly fundraiser for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, with proceeds supporting burn survivors and their families.

They have recently fixed the best attraction in the park, the Train Ride. The 15-minute ride takes you through beautifully decorated Christmas lights and displays. There’s also music as well. It was magical when I used to go as a kid.

16. Canyon Lights (Capilano)

Experience the enchantment of Canyon Lights, a captivating winter event that transforms the majestic Capilano Suspension Bridge Park into a magical lit-up wonderland.

A suspension bridge with Christmas lights on the side railings. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the best places to experience winter under hundreds of lights in the forest.

Wander along the Treetops Adventure, a series of suspension bridges that take you high above the forest floor, offering panoramic views of the illuminated surroundings.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Cliffwalk, a suspended walkway that clings to the granite cliffs of the canyon. 

Canyon Lights also features live music performances, holiday-themed activities, and interactive light displays that engage and entertain visitors of all ages.

You can warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or indulge in delicious treats at one of the cozy dining options available within the park.

Canyon Lights also supports the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.

17. Lights At Lafarge

A free outdoor winter event is held at Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam. You can stroll along the illuminated promenade, marvel at stunning light displays, and enjoy live music and entertainment.

18. Gingerbread Lane

Gingerbread Lane is an event held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Vancouver. An annual gingerbread house-making competition raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

There are some impressive displays that you can check out when the houses are open to the public. There are four categories: professional, corporate, mature, and secondary (my old high school has won a handful of times).

19. The Peak Of Christmas

Experience the magic of Christmas on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, where twinkling lights, snowy landscapes, and real reindeer create an enchanting atmosphere.

Blue Grouse Lake shines with stunning light displays, including a majestic lit deer. At the same time, an 8,000-square-foot Ice Skating Pond surrounded by snow-covered trees offers a serene skating experience.

Lower Mainland Christmas Markets

These are some Christmas markets that happen in or around Vancouver. Some markets open in November, and there may be an admission (partial uses for donations) to some locations.

At the time I am writing this blog post, some markets have not announced opening dates. But I will list them down below.

Decorated area for Christmas at a Christmas Market, with Christmas trees decorated in ornaments and lights, and light up presents. And traditional German wooden stalls in the background. There are many holiday events in Vancouver during the winter.

20. Vancouver Christmas Market (Jack Poole Plaza)

One of Vancouver’s most popular Christmas markets is the Vancouver Christmas Market in Jack Poole Plaza.

As you enter the German-themed market, you’ll be greeted by a charming village adorned with sparkling lights, wooden stalls, and seasonal delights wafting through the air.

The Vancouver Christmas Market offers a unique shopping experience, with vendors showcasing an array of handcrafted gifts, artisanal goods, and delightful holiday treats. There’s also a carousel ride inside the plaza.

21. Cloverdale Christmas Craft Fair

While the Cloverdale Christmas Craft Fair is further out from Vancouver, the one-day craft fair happens in early November and hosts hundreds of artisans. While it may only be a one-day event, it’s an excellent spot for early Christmas shopping.

22. Christmas Gifts Expo

The annual three-day Christmas Gift Expo is located in Chilliwack. It hosts over 250 vendors, such as local small businesses, artisans, and home-based businesses.

If you want to bring non-perishable items to Food Back, you can donate them at this market.

23. Circle Craft

For over 45 years, Circle Craft has showcased the work of talented artisans across the region, making it a must-visit destination. In Vancouver’s premier artisan market, you’ll find a wide range of beautifully crafted items, from jewelry and pottery to textiles and woodwork.

Meet the artisans, learn about their craft, and explore the unique creations they have to offer.

The Circle Craft sign in a circle with an arrow through it that says "Artisans - Operative" on top and below "Established 1972." Circle Craft is a popular holiday craft fair that happens every year in Vancouver.

Other locations that may open during the winter but have no set date:

  • New Westminster Holiday Market
  • Grandville Island Holiday Lights
  • Coquitlam Night Market
  • Shipyards Christmas Market (North Vancouver)

Other Things To Do In Vancouver During Winter

While there are many holiday things to do in Vancouver, non-holiday things happen during winter.

24. Hockey

Watching hockey isn’t only a Vancouver thing but a Canadian thing. With a passionate fanbase, the Vancouver Canucks is the city’s professional hockey team, and watching their games at Rogers Arena is an exciting experience.

Not only are there the Canucks to watch, but you can also watch other affiliated hockey games, such as the Vancouver Giants or the AHL Abbotsford Canucks. I have been a Canucks fan my entire life and it’s always a treat watching a game.

Hockey arena home of the Canucks with an ice rink as the main focus with hockey players skating for warm up. The lights make it look like the arena is blue. Watching a Canucks game during the winter in Vancouver is one of my favourite things to do.

25. Taking Pictures With Santa

Many locations around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, especially in shopping malls, have pictures with Santa during the holiday season.

26. Polar Bear Swim

English Bay Beach is home to the annual Polar Bear Swim. It’s a long-standing New Year’s Day tradition.

Participants, swimmers and spectators gather to watch people plunge into the chilly Pacific waters, often wearing fun costumes, fostering a sense of community and adventure as they welcome the new year.

27. Concerts & Productions

While concerts and productions happen year-round, local Christmas productions happen around the holiday season, for example, The Nutcracker by Goh Ballet at the Queen Elizabeth Theater.

28. Cirque Du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is a world-renowned entertainment company that has captivated audiences around the globe with its awe-inspiring performances.

Founded in a small town in Quebec, Canada, in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has revolutionized the world of circus arts, blending acrobatics, dance, music, and storytelling into breathtaking theatrical productions.

29. St Paul’s Hosptial Lights Of Hope

Lights of Hope is an annual fundraiser by St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC, known for illuminating the hospital’s front of the building with thousands of lights and lit star displays.

The community donations raise funds to support medical equipment, research, and patient care, enhancing the hospital’s capacity to deliver essential healthcare services to the local community.

Lights of Hope, outside of the St. Paul's Hospital on Helmcken St. Colourful and bright starts decorate a section of a wall with sponsors for the patients and residents by being the gift of hope.

30. Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year celebrations in Vancouver, BC, are vibrant and culturally rich events that typically take place in late January or February.

The city’s Asian communities celebrate the New Year with a parade in Chinatown, traditional lion and dragon dances, martial arts performances, and an array of delicious Asian cuisine offerings.

These celebrations mark the beginning of a new lunar calendar, showcase Vancouver’s multicultural spirit and provide an opportunity for locals and visitors to experience the traditions and festivities of Asian cultures.

Two traditional Asian lion heads on top of each other with people inside. Most of the lions features on the face is red with fuzzy texture and colourful painting for the face. Lunar New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Vancouver during winter as the city has a large Asian population.

31. Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival

The Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival started in 2011 as the world’s first city-wide initiative using hot chocolate to support local businesses.

The festival returns every mid-January to mid-February, supporting local charities such as Fresh To Families and Growing Chefs, including their “Marshmallow Dreams” project for low-income families.

The festival has grown, featuring the best chocolatiers, pastry shops, bakeries, cafes, and ice cream makers throughout the region, all collaborating to reinvent the classic hot chocolate experience.

White mug with hot chocolate and marshmallows inside with a cinnomon stick on top. Merry Christmas with a simple tree with a red star painted design on the front. With a festive background. The Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is a belove tradition.

32. Vancouver Aquarium

Visiting the Vancouver Aquarium during the holidays is a special treat for everyone. Kids and marine enthusiasts can watch Scuba Claus, where Santa dives to meet marine animals and creatures while waving to you.

The Jelly Snow Globe is also a unique jellyfish display, creating a magical underwater winter scene. Don’t forget to explore all the other exhibits on display at the Vancouver Aquarium.

33. Local Brewery Hopping

Brewery hopping in Vancouver, BC, offers a great way to explore the city’s thriving craft beer scene. Visitors can hop between local breweries, sampling a variety of brews in a cozy and casual atmosphere.

Local breweries provide a delightful opportunity to savour the diverse range of craft beers the region offers while enjoying the warmth inside during those cold winter days.

34. H.R Macmillan Space Centre

The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver is a science museum and astronomy center. Located near Downtown Vancouver, it offers interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, and educational programs about space and astronomy.

With its dome-shaped planetarium theatre, the center provides immersive stargazing experiences and informative presentations about the universe, making it an excellent place for anyone interested in space and astronomy.

35. Dine Out Vancouver Festival

One of Vancouver’s most popular non-tourist activities is participating in the Dine Out Festival. During the months of January and February, participating restaurants from all over the city offer set menus for you to try, cooking experiences, pop-up dinners, and more.

36. Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival is a special event celebrating the year’s longest night. People come together to create and carry lanterns, illuminating the darkness and symbolizing the return of light.

The festival includes lantern processions, live performances, and winter-themed activities. Some participating neighbourhoods are Yaletown, Granville Island and Strathcona.

37. Contact Winter Music Festival

The Contact Winter Music Festival is an annual electronic dance music (EDM) event in Vancouver, BC, usually around late December. It features internationally recognized DJs and EDM artists across multiple stages, offering various electronic music styles.

38. New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Last but not least, of course, New Year’s Eve celebrations. The city and the lLower Mainland will celebrate the new year with events, parties, and televised countdowns hosted by local news stations.

How To Get Around Vancouver

Getting around Vancouver is relatively easy. Public transit is the best way to get around Vancouver without a car.

The city has extensive bus routes that take you almost everywhere. The SkyTrain is the most efficient way to get you to high-traffic locations. And the SeaBus is a fun way of travelling across the water.

What To Wear In Vancouver Winters

Here are some things to wear during Vancouver winters. You also will want to have an essential item for Vancouver.

πŸ§₯ Raincoat/Jacket

One of the most essential things you need for a Vancouver winter is a raincoat or rain jacket. I recommend wearing a long jacket because it will keep more of yourself dry.

🧣 Layers

I did mention that Vancouver has mild weather, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cold. While temperatures don’t usually hit below zero in the city, wearing a couple of layers to keep warm from windchill is a good idea.

β˜” Umbrella

You’ll 100% need an umbrella in Vancouver, especially in winter, because Vancouver experiences a lot of rain. Hotels will most likely have some available for you to use.

πŸ₯Ύ Rain boots

Don’t forget to pack your rain boots for Vancouver. You’ll need them to avoid your feet getting wet in puddles.

Where To Stay In Vancouver

Here are some options if you’re travelling to Vancouver and trying to figure out where to stay for the first time.

πŸ’Ž Best Luxury Hotel — Rosewood Hotel Georgia

βœ… Excellent Location
βœ… Highly Rated Customer Service

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver is a historic luxury hotel known for its timeless elegance and central location.

βš–οΈ Best Mid-Range Hotel — Hotel Blu

βœ… Free WIFI
βœ… Complimentary Bike Rentals

Hotel Blu in Vancouver offers modern accommodations in a convenient downtown location.

🎯 Best Budget-Friendly Hotel — Best Western Plus Sands

βœ… Excellent Location
βœ… 24-Hour Front Desk

The Best Western Plus Sands in Vancouver is a comfortable hotel with a great beachside location in English Bay.

Vancouver Weather — FAQs

Vancouver has different weather compared to the rest of Canada during winter. While Vancouver is worth visiting year-round, here are some frequently asked questions.

Is Vancouver Worth Visiting In Winter?

Yes! Vancouver is worth visiting in winter. For the most part, Vancouver experiences mild winters, with temperatures above 0.

Is Vancouver Worth Visiting In January?

Yes, Vancouver is worth visiting in January. Many outdoor winter activities are still open for the season. It’s also considered one of Vancouver’s low tourist months, so prices for accommodations and flights will be different compared to high tourist months. 

What Is The Coldest Month In Vancouver?

The weather is the weather, and Mother Nature does her thing. However, records show that January is the coldest month of the year. But it can fluctuate between January and December.

Does It Snow Bad In Vancouver?

Vancouver isn’t usually known to have snow during the winter, for the majority of winter in Vancouver usually rains (again, Mother Nature has her plans). However, if anything, we get slush, but the rain washes it away a week or two later.

However, there have been times growing up, and recently, in the past years, it has “snowed bad” in Vancouver. Of course, it snows in other parts of British Columbia, but Vancouver specifically, no, not often.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things to do in Vancouver in the winter, including many activities and attractions. From skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing on the nearby mountains to exploring the festive markets and attending fun-filled events, enjoy your winter in Vancouver.

Have a good day πŸ™‚