Winter in Vancouver, Canada, is a special time of year. While this northern city does get cold, it isn't unbearably so as with eastern Canadian cities like Montreal or Toronto, meaning events are easier to hold without worrying about extreme weather. In fact, the winter months are packed with festivities and celebrations, since 'tis the season for Christmas events, skiing and snowboarding, New Year's parties, multicultural festivals, and more.
Many events scheduled for winter 2020–2021 have been canceled or modified. Be sure to confirm the most up-to-date details with individual organizers before finalizing your plans.
When it comes to Vancouver winter activities, nothing is more popular than hitting the slopes. Vancouver is perfectly situated for skiers and snowboarders. There are a handful of top-notch ski and snowboard resorts, including some of the top venues in North America just a short distance away—the most famous of which is Whistler Blackcomb. Many of the same resorts are ideal for snowshoeing, too, with trails for every skill level from beginner to expert
The Robson Square Ice Rink is closed for the 2020 holiday season.
Since reopening for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the free outdoor ice skating at Robson Square has become one of Vancouver's most popular winter activities. Located on Robson Street (just across from the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Vancouver), the Robson Square Ice Rink is usually open from early December until the end of February. Skating is free and you can also rent skates, a helmet, and ice cleats for a small fee.
Winter Wonderland on Grouse Mountain
In December 2020, Grouse Mountain is open for skiing and snowboarding but the Peak of Christmas and holiday events are canceled.
Grouse Mountain, located just 20 minutes north of downtown Vancouver, is a mini epicenter for Vancouver winter activities. Not only can you ski, snowboard, and snowshoe on Grouse Mountain, you can enjoy a winter wonderland of events and activities, including outdoor ice skating, sleigh rides, and December's Peak of Christmas featuring Santa, light displays, and more.
Many Christmas events are canceled in 2020. Confirm with event organizers before making plans.
As you can imagine, Christmas in Vancouver does not just happen on December 25, but the holiday season is celebrated from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. There are free events and holiday attractions, such as visiting the massive tree in downtown Vancouver or the Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Go holiday shopping at one of the seasonal artisan markets, including the Vancouver Christmas Market. You and your children can meet Santa Claus and have a photo taken at various locations across the city, such as Granville Island or on the Stanley Park Christmas Train.
The biggest shopping event of the year is also one of Vancouver's biggest winter events: Boxing Day. Boxing Day, December 26, is a holiday in Canada best known for being the day when everything in Canada—fashion, electronics, home furnishings, and more—goes on sale. If you didn't get that special gift you were hoping for on Christmas Day, then Boxing Day is the perfect excuse to go out and get it yourself.
If you are planning to be in Vancouver for New Year's Eve, then you are heading to the right place. There is truly something for everyone, whether you want to dress up for the elegant Fairmont Waterfront Gala Ball or you prefer a more boisterous party like the annual club event at Science World. For family-friendly New Year's Eve events that the kids can join, too, try the all-ages circus event at the Vancouver Cabaret Theatre or heading up to Grouse Mountain for ice skating and fireworks.
Started in 2002 by Tourism Vancouver, Dine Out has become one of the most popular Vancouver winter events. A city-wide culinary event, Dine Out offers discount menus at more than 200 Vancouver restaurants—letting you "taste drive" new cuisine at discounted prices in addition to special events around town. The festival brings together hundreds of chefs, wineries, craft breweries, suppliers, and more for 17 days, beginning in mid-January and continuing through early February. Set menus range from $15 to $45 depending on the restaurant, making this an ideal way to try new restaurants as well as revisit old favorites.
Winter Calendar of Events and Festivals
Many events for winter 2020–2021 have been canceled or modified to take place virtually. Check individual event webpages to confirm details.
When it comes to Vancouver winter events, December, January, and February are chock full of art and cultural festivals, like the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival or the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival. Wrap up warm and head outside to make the most of Vancouver's great outdoors.
Chinese New Year Parade and Festival
One of the best Vancouver seasonal events is the annual Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver's historic Chinatown. The event is a cultural extravaganza that is one of the city's biggest and best annual parades. The Lunar New Year is not celebrated on the same day every year since it depends on the lunar calendar, but the Year of the Ox begins on February 12, 2021. The date for the Chinese New Year Parade has not been announced, but it will likely take place on the following Saturday or Sunday.