The Best Fall Activities in Vancouver

The Vancouver skyline with the North Shore mountains beyond, December 2009. Vancouver British Columbia Canada.

Ron Watts / Getty Images

Autumn is a beautiful time to visit British Columbia, a region that celebrates the season with festivals and outdoor adventures. If you're planning on a trip to the Vancouver area during the fall months, plenty is waiting for you in this lively and beautiful Canadian city, from gorgeous fall foliage to the excitement of Halloween, and the celebrated Vancouver International Film Festival. With mild weather from September to November and fewer tourists than you'll encounter during the busy summer season, Vancouver is an ideal shoulder-season destination.

In 2020, some of the following events may have been canceled or altered to take place virtually.

01 of 06

Go Leaf Peeping

Leaves on the ground looking at Vancouver skyline

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Although Vancouver's forests are dominated by evergreen trees, there are still plenty of incredible places to witness the changing colors of fall foliage in Vancouver. Two of the best places to see fall's stunning colors are VanDusen Botanical Garden and Stanley Park, which are perfect for casual strolls through the crunchy leaves. For a more dynamic view, you can also take a ferry to the Gulf Islands and see the full palette of the islands' colors from the water. Or, travel 13 miles (21 kilometers) north of Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay where you can catch another ferry to the Sunshine Coast.

02 of 06

Explore the Great Outdoors

Zipline in Vancouver

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Fall in Vancouver is one of the best times to embrace your adventurous spirit and head outdoors. September is a particularly ideal month with its relatively warm weather, but October and November still offer plenty of days that are comfortable for spending long periods outside, and Vancouver is beautiful all season long. Wherever you're adventuring out, prepare for rain accordingly with lots of layers and waterproof clothing.

Within 15 minutes of downtown, you can go kayaking on False Creek or zip-lining at Grout Mountain. Or, go for a hike at Lynn Canyon Park, or, if you're feeling ambitious, check out the Grouse Grind, a trail that has also been called "mother nature's stair master." If you'd rather stay seated, a scenic drive like the Sea to Sky Highway, which connects Vancouver and Whistler, is another good option.

03 of 06

Catch Screenings at Film Festivals

Sign for Vancouver International Film Festival.

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Fall is the season for movie-lovers and film aficionados in Vancouver. The biggest film festival is, of course, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), which grows more acclaimed every year. VIFF screens more than 300 films from more than 60 countries and attracts industry insiders and celebrities as well as movie-lovers from across British Columbia. Other film festivals in Vancouver include the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF), the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival (VJFF), and the Vancouver Irish Film Festival (VIRFF). In 2020, Vancouver's film festivals took place virtually with movies streaming online for audiences in British Columbia.

04 of 06

Celebrate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner in Vancouver

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Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October, which means the holiday is at the very heart of fall in Vancouver. While there aren't a lot of huge Thanksgiving events in the city, it's still a special time to get together with friends and family. To get in the spirit of the season, head out to a pumpkin patch just outside of the city at the University of British Columbia, Langley, or Abbotsford.

There's no official Black Friday the day after Canadian Thanksgiving, but many of the country's major retailers will offer extensive sales on the traditional Black Friday date in America, which is always the day after American Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of the month). On that day, you can go shopping at Metropolis at Metrotown, British Columbia's largest mall, or the Pacific Centre Mall in downtown Vancouver.

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05 of 06

Celebrate Halloween

The Haunted Mansion at Fright Nights at the PNE

PNE / Playland

In 2020, Halloween events like the Stanley Park Ghost Train were canceled but are expected to return in 2021.

The biggest event of the fall season in Vancouver has to be Halloween, celebrated on October 31, and tons of events and activities celebrate this spooky and fun holiday. Leading up to the big night throughout October, expect parties and haunted houses, attractions like Fright Nights at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), an amusement park that takes on a spooky theme in October, and the Stanley Park Ghost Train, a themed miniature train that takes families on rides through Stanley Park, among many other events. 

06 of 06

Attend Vancouver's Many Other Events and Festivals

Christmas market in Vancouver

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September, October, and November in Vancouver hold the promise of special events, festivals, and cultural happenings, and the changing foliage and seasonal treats only enhance the season's lineup. From musical events to pre-winter festivities, Vancouver is packed throughout the fall.

In 2020, some of the following events were canceled or postponed, while others, like concerts from the Vancouver Symphony, are being streamed live. Food events like the apple festival and Taste of Yaletown made it possible to place orders online.

  • Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival: This event celebrates the full moon, the fall harvest, and the local arts community. There's a fair with games, crafts, and vendors; a lantern walk with live music; a performance by young dancers; and fireworks.
  • Opening Night of the Vancouver Symphony: The season runs from September to June with opening day usually scheduled for late September
  • Taste of Yaletown: This week-long food festival sees local restaurants offering deals on their dishes.
  • UBC Apple Festival: Apples are grown across Vancouver—try more than 60 varieties at this annual weekend-long festival at the University of British Columbia.
  • The Vancouver Christmas Market: Typically opening at the end of November, this annual market has more than 80 vendors selling crafts, gifts, and snacks.