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

Vancouver, BC in the winter

Harry Traeger/Getty Images

Canada is so vast and geographically diverse that weather conditions can vary drastically depending which part of the country you're in. January looks a lot different in Vancouver than it does in Toronto or Montreal. 

Canada's West Coast metropolis is located in the province of British Columbia, which is located in the Pacific Northwest area. The weather is much like what you would expect from Portland or Seattle. Vancouver has a moderate, oceanside climate that is dry and warm in the summer and rainy between October and March.

Rain is a major part of the city's identity—you'll sometimes hear the locals endearingly referring to it as "Raincouver"—but Vancouverites embrace the wet weather, even though they're apt to complain about it often. So long as you pack your galoshes, visiting during the wet season can be a great time.

Gas Town, Vancouver
 Stanley Chen Xi, landscape and architecture photographer/Getty Images

Vancouver Weather in January

Vancouver has seen its share of winter weather over the years, but, for the most part, snowfall is abnormal. Rain, however, is the norm. November and December are Vancouver's rainiest months, but January continues to have significant precipitation (an average of 140 millimeters), especially when you compare it to Eastern Canada. Temperatures this time of year linger around 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.7 degrees Celsius), with highs of about 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) and lows of about 29 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.6 degrees Celsius).

Higher-elevation destinations in British Columbia, such as Squamish and Whistler, experience less rain and more snow. The North Shore Mountains (Cypress, Seymour, and Grouse) are also blanketed by a thin layer of snow during this time of year, so if you get tired of rainy Vancouver, you can head up there for a winter wonderland instead.

What to Pack

Warm and waterproof layers are essential to enduring and enjoying a January trip to Vancouver. The locals tend to dress comfortably, so you won't look out of place in gumboots. Casual clothes are acceptable even in fine dining establishments, so focus more on practicality than fashion when going out. Your suitcase shouldn't be without:

  • Thermal underwear, which makes a cozy and dry base layer
  • Sweaters and fleeces
  • A heavy winter coat
  • A waterproof jacket, too, if your winter coat doesn't do double duty
  • Waterproof boots
  • Hats, gloves, and scarves
  • An umbrella, which you can buy upon arrival
44th Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade
Andrew Chin /Getty Images

January Events in Vancouver

There may not be slopes in the middle of Vancouver, but the ski culture is still very much alive in the city. Check Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour or further afield at Whistler Blackcomb for pristine powder conditions. If snow sports aren't really your thing, there are museums, markets, theaters, rinks, and indoor play areas for people of all ages around the city. Travelers should be aware that New Year's Day is a national holiday, which means almost everything will be closed.

  • Dine Out Vancouver: Dine Out Vancouver, hosted by Tourism Vancouver, is a major, city-wide culinary event. Participating restaurants will offer special three-course dinner menus, allowing visitors to sample the best of local cuisine without breaking the bank. 
  • PuSh International Performing Arts Festival: Held from January to February, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival features contemporary work that is visionary, genre-bending, and original. 
  • TheatreSports' The Massacre: Vancouver's TheatreSports League is an internationally-renowned improv comedy company located at The Improv Centre on Granville Island. The comedy troupe puts on an annual festival called The Massacre to cure the January (and February) blues.
  • Chinese New Year Festival and Parade: Held on the first Sunday of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Vancouver's Chinatown, this festival is celebrated at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Travel Tips

  • Vancouver hotels are cheaper after New Year's and many of them offer combined Dine Out restaurant and accommodation packages around the time of the festival. This is the perfect time of year to hit up a new bar or sample some of the city's cuisine for a bargain price.
  • Vancouver streets can get majorly congested. Public transportation is much less stressful than trying to navigate the busy, one-way streets.