Vancouver is one of Canada’s most vibrant cities and gained recognition as an excellent destination in all seasons. In winter, the city is known for its spectacular outdoor adventures and fun indoor experiences, giving you plenty of options for an exciting trip. Here’s what to do in Vancouver in winter to take advantage of your time in this great city.

Stroll the Festival of Lights

Located at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, the Festival of Lights is a stunning event that features over 1 million lights throughout the garden landscape. In addition to illuminated strolls through the garden, you can also give the kids rides on the historic carousel, see the dancing lights show on Livingstone Lake, or visit Santa’s Lodge to take pictures with Saint Nick. Santa’s Lodge also has choirs, bands, and singers that perform throughout the event. For more adult entertainment, you can visit the Fireside Lounge heated tent to relax by the fire or visit the Candle Grotto to make a holiday wish.

Ice skate at the Robson Square Ice Rink

Nothing is more exciting in winter than ice skating. Throughout the Christmas season, the Robson Square Ice Rink opens for ice skating for all ages. It’s free if you have your own skates, but you can rent skates and a helmet. Ice skating is a great way to enjoy the crisp, winter air and bond with the family doing an old-fashioned activity. The Robson Square Ice Rink works with the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation as well, so you can make a donation at the skate rental booth during your trip to benefit the children in the community and the province.

Ice rink at Robson Street, Vancouver, Canada

Robson Street

See the landscape with a snow limo

If you like the winter scenery and snow-covered landscape, but not the work involved in trekking up the mountain, the snow-limo tour at Grouse Mountain is an excellent alternative. During this tour, a chauffeur takes you on a tour of the local ski areas in a sled-like ride to see the snow-capped peaks and trees. The ride is leisurely and appropriate for all ages, as long as you bring warm clothes. Both the Sun Peaks Resort and the Big White Ski Resort offer snow-limo rides and a few different tour options, including the extravagant romantic getaway ride.

Visit the Canyon Lights

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver to begin with, but it’s even more magical in winter during the Canyon Lights. During the holiday season, the entire park is filled with twinkling lights and the world’s tallest living Christmas tree. You can explore the whole park transformed into a winter wonderland, including the Cliffwalk, suspension bridge, and the rainforest and canyon. The Treetops Adventure, a popular park attraction all year, decorates its 7 suspension bridges and ancient Douglas firs as well, so you can stand on viewing platforms and gaze down into the park.

Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Ride the Stanley Park Train

A ride on the Stanley Park Train is a great way to experience the beauty of the Vancouver landscape in winter without the cold. The train is a model replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway #374, which is known for transporting the first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the 19th century. In addition to various train tours throughout the day, such as matinee rides and twilight evening rides, the train also has themed seasonal events like the Bright Nights Train. During this enchanting ride, you can see animated holiday displays, Christmas lights, and live performers along the train route for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Visit the Greater Vancouver Zoo

The historic Greater Vancouver Zoo is one of the best attractions in Vancouver and one of the places the city is known for. The world-class education and conservation zoo is home to many donated and rescued animals, such as the American alligator, the American flamingo, the Ankole cattle, the American elk, the common eland, addax, the bald eagle, the Burmese python, and herds of African animals like zebras, giraffes, and hippopotamus. During your visit, you can attend keeper talks, behind-the-scenes tours, and other educational experiences. Kids can also enjoy a zoo sleepover and rides on a historic train.

Attend the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival is another event Vancouver is known for. The exciting holiday-themed event features evening musical performances and fire performances at the Yaletown Roundhouse and Granville Island. Unlike other winter events, the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival isn’t focused on Christmas, but instead, the shortest day of the year and old-world traditions. The event is family friendly and offers an array of festivities, such as lantern making, a procession, music performances, and a candlelit labyrinth. The lantern workshops are a highlight, during which you can learn to create your own lanterns in different styles, such as star, pin-prick, nature, and globe styles.

Enjoy winter sports

Vancouver is known for its many ski resorts and winter sports venues, so there’s no better way to enjoy a winter trip than with some fun outdoors. You can visit mountains like Grouse, Seymour, or Cypress to try out snowboarding or skiing on immaculate slopes. For something a little different, hit the trails of the parks with snowshoes or cross-country skis to experience the landscape and get some exercise in. If you prefer the help of a guide, you can book an outdoor trail tour for snowshoeing. Vancouver also offers opportunities for snow tubing, which is perfect for all ages.

People looking at Grouse Mountain from the observatory

Grouse Mountain

Celebrate the holidays at the Vancouver Christmas Market

The Vancouver Christmas Market is one of the best events in the city. Vancouver is known as a city with excellent Christmas markets and beloved holiday traditions, and you can experience all the joy of Christmas with a visit to the authentic German-inspired market. Throughout the market, you’ll see numerous stalls filled with German foods and delicacies, sweet treats, and traditional handicrafts for sale. You can also see live performances, photos with Santa, and the event the market is known for, the walk-in Christmas tree. This spectacular event involves a towering tree constructed of thousands of Christmas lights that you can walk inside for a truly magical experience.

Tour Maplewood Farm

The beloved and historic Maplewood Farm is one of Vancouver’s best family attractions. During winter, you can tour the farm to see its many adorable animals, such as sheep, donkeys, rabbits, pigs, and cows. The farm has many hands-on animal experiences as well, such as bunny feedings, chicken and duck feedings, a milking demonstration, and rounding up the animals at the end of the day. Children can take part in ‘behind-the-scenes’ experiences as well, which involve the daily tasks of a farmer like animal grooming, egg collection and cleaning, feeding set up, and other farming responsibilities.

Plan your winter vacation with Expedia

Vancouver has no shortage of things to do and see, especially during the festive winter season. If you’re planning a trip, check out Vancouver vacations on Expedia to get ready for your experience!