9 Best Things to Do in Vancouver in Winter

Things to Do in Vancouver in December, January, and February

Snowy Vancouver, BC skyline

Tourism Vancouver / Clayton Perry

Winter in Vancouver, Canada, is a special time of year. While this northern city does get cold, it isn't as unbearably frigid as 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.

01 of 09

Hit the Slopes

Friends atop Mount Washington, Vancouver Island
Boomer Jerritt / Getty Images

When it comes to Vancouver winter activities, nothing is more popular than heading to the nearby mountains for a day of skiing or snowboarding. Vancouver is perfectly situated for alpine sports with a handful of top-notch ski and snowboard resorts nearby, 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

02 of 09

Explore a Winter Wonderland on Grouse Mountain

Lady Skier enjoy sunrise on Grouse Mountain
Lijuan Guo Photography / Getty Images

In December 2020, Grouse Mountain is open for skiing and snowboarding but the Peak of Christmas and holiday events were 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.

03 of 09

Get in the Holiday Spirit

Vancouver holiday lighting at Convention Centre
totororo / Getty Images

Many Christmas events are canceled in 2020. Confirm with event organizers before making plans.

Like many places, Christmas in Vancouver is about a lot more than just December 25, with festivities stretching from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. The city hosts 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.

04 of 09

Experience the Canadian Version of Black Friday

Nordstrom Pacific Centre in Vancouver

GoToVan / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The biggest shopping event of the year is also one of Vancouver's biggest winter events: December 26 is Boxing Day, 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.

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05 of 09

Attend a New Year's Eve Celebration

2017 New Year’s Eve Vancouver Fireworks

GoToVan / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

There's plenty to celebrate when you're staying in Vancouver for New Year's Eve. Celebrations truly offer 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.

06 of 09

Go Gourmet During Dine Out

Dine Out Vancouver: Plated & Paired at the Granville Island Public Market
Dine Out Vancouver / Tourism Vancouver

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 300 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 31 days, beginning February 5, 2021.​ Set menus from some of Vancouver's top restaurants make this an ideal way to try new restaurants as well as revisit old favorites. 

07 of 09

Embrace the Cold at a Winter Festival

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

Secret Lantern Society

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. 

08 of 09

Ring in the Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year Vancouver

Steven Noble / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

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09 of 09

Ice Skate in Downtown Vancouver

Robson Square ice rink, lit up at night.
Ian Cook / Getty Images

The Robson Square Ice Rink closed for the 2020-21 winter 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 downtown on Robson Street just across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, 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.