December in Vancouver: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Vancouver skyline with mountains

Harry Traeger/Getty Images

Visiting any North American city during the holiday season is sure to perk your spirit, and Vancouver, British Columbia—with a plethora of festivals, boat parades, and Christmas displays—is certainly no exception.

You can take a leisurely stroll through the spectacular lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden while sipping hot cocoa or grab the family and head to Canada Place for arts and crafts and a visit from Santa.

Of course, world-class shopping and mountain views are the icing on the cake of any stay in this mild-climate city, so don't let the chance of rain spoil your fun, as there's plenty to do—rain, snow, or shine.

Vancouver Weather in December

Vancouver's weather is much milder than many other Canadian cities. In December, temperatures hover above freezing and rain can be plentiful, especially during one of Vancouver's rainiest months. You can expect average December temperatures to be around 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit), with a potential high of 7 degrees Celcius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) and a low of 1 degree Celcius (34 degrees Fahrenheit). While a surprise snowstorm is rare around the holidays, a December snowfall can still catch you off guard if all you plan for is rain. Still, the amount of snowfall has been dwindling in lower B.C., making the chance for a white Christmas only 10 percent each year.


What to Pack

Be prepared for rain on any given December day in Vancouver, but don't let it keep you indoors during your trip. Instead, just put a warm sweater, hoodie, or insulated vest underneath a waterproof jacket and venture outside to one of the many rainy day attractions. Then, peel off your layers once you reach your destination.

Closed-toed waterproof shoes or boots will also help you navigate any adverse weather, as will gloves, a hat, and an umbrella. However, you should also make sure all accessories are either collapsible or can be easily stowed in a large, metro sling bag or backpack.

December Events in Vancouver

Similar to many worldwide cities, December is chock-full of holiday decorations and festivities to fill you with seasonal cheer. Whether it's a full-fledged family outing, complete with activities for the kids, or a romantic dinner topped off with a holiday ship parade, Vancouver's events provide entertainment for all ages. 

  • Christmas at Canada Place: Located outdoors on the West Promenade of Canada Place, this mid-December highlight includes giant gingerbread men, a 35-foot-high Christmas tree, animated Woodward’s window characters, carolers, and a visit from Santa Claus himself. Engage your kids in arts, crafts, and letter-writing to Santa or enter to win a luxurious trip for two.
  • Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park: Hop a train from late November through New Year's week in Stanley Park to experience an enchanted journey through the illuminated woods and past Santa's workshop. During the holiday season, Stanley Park is decorated with three million Christmas lights and all train ride proceeds benefit the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund. 
  • Winter Solstice Lantern Festival: Illuminate the darkest night of the year by taking part in Vancouver's traditional lantern festival. Held at various locations throughout the city (Yaletown, Granville Island, and Chinatown), this cultural event highlights the return of the sun with illuminated lanterns, drumming, music, and dancing.  
  • Vancouver Carol Ships Festival: This city tradition used to be a formal event, complete with a festival, but today, the event lives on in typical no-frills Canadian fashion. Processions of boats decked with holiday lights motor along various waterways throughout December. In North Vancouver, hit up Shipyard's Christmas Festival on December 1 and visit the artisans market before the ships set sail. On December 15, the Carol Ships Shoreline Celebration takes place in Deep Cove’s Panorama Park with a bonfire, activities for kids, and a boat procession.
  • Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden: This gorgeously landscaped garden is a jaw-dropping city highlight any time of the year, but especially when it's adorned in 55 acres of Christmas lights where you can stroll down Gingerbread Walk and Candy Cane Lane while enjoying hot chocolate and other snacks. A limited amount of tickets are sold each night throughout the holiday season, so make sure to buy them ahead of time. 

Travel Tips

  • Skiers can take a day or overnight trip to Whistler-Blackcomb to enjoy some of the world's best (and most extreme) skiing and snowboarding. Catching the resort on a powder day will surely be the highlight of your trip if you're a fan of winter sports.
  • December 25 (Christmas Day) is a statutory holiday and almost everything is closed. As a result, if you're cooking Christmas dinner in your condo, you should remember to hit the grocery store ahead of time.
  • In Canada, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, which is when everyone is meant to return unwanted gifts to the stores. On December 26 each year, you can peruse the area's best stores for some of the biggest sales of the year.
  • Travel in early December is less expensive than traveling during the last 10 days of the month (the height of the holiday season between Christmas and New Year's Eve). Airfare, accommodations, and even some attractions will be cheaper if you visit before the holidays.