Other than skiing.
You know, I know, we all know the skiing is amazing in Vancouver. But if you’re on the hunt for other things to do, I’ve got you covered with a bunch of things that I love doing here at home. Here are my top picks of the best winter activities and events in Vancouver that you need to check out.
Build an Igloo
Yes, I know this is ‘on-mountain’, but I thought it was too good to leave out (seriously, who doesn’t want to build an igloo?). Grouse Mountain, one of the three major ski hills closest to Vancouver (Cypress Mountain and Seymour Mountain are the other two, in case you were wondering), offers snowshoe tours with a snow cave experience where you can snowshoe your way to pre-built igloo’s for some quick inspo before getting down and dirty to build your own. I recommend grabbing a few friends or your family together to do this! Cypress and Seymour also offer snowshoe tours but without the igloo (they’re still fun though!). All three mountains are one to two hours drive from Vancouver.
Zip-lining (yes, available during winter depending on weather conditions), sledding, skating and sleigh rides are also available at Grouse, so you might as well check them out if you’re already there! Or for the less-adventurous members of the pack, head up to The Eye of the Wind and see a 360-degree view of Grouse Mountain. This is the world’s first and only view pod located at the top of a massive wind turbine. It’s a pretty sweet view!
Snowshoe tour & Snow Cave experience
Go on a Brewery Tour
Here’s one for the big kids, including myself. Vancouver Brewery Tours takes you on a three-hour craft beer adventure to taste some of Vancouver’s finest beers at three different breweries. Don’t worry about having a designated driver because you’ll be driven in a 14-seater van to different unique breweries around Vancouver with a behind-the-scenes tour at each. The tour includes 1 beer flight per stop (my fave thing about this tour), VIP access and entrance fees, transport between the breweries and a few other bonuses. If you’re not one to drink on an empty stomach, check out their Craft Beer & Food Tour.
When: Wednesday - Sunday (times vary)
Cost: Per person - $63 USD ($92 AUD) (+5% Canadian GST)
Ice skate at Robson Square
Robson Square isn’t only famous for shopping, but also for its skating rink. It’s located in downtown Vancouver (super convenient), where you can enjoy an open-air skating rink built with a dome-like roof and no walls. The dome lights at night making it look extra nice! Skating is free if you have your own skates, but chances are your luggage is packed with more important things. Not to worry, you can borrow mine (jokes), or you can hire skates and helmets at the ice rink.
When & Cost: See Robson Square for opening hours and rental fees.
Get Lost in the Lights
Now, you’ve probably been through a hedge maze but have you ever been through a light maze? No? Then check out the world’s largest outdoor light maze at the Enchant Christmas Maze and Market! This is my fave light display in Vancouver with three acres and millions of sparkling lights including a light tunnel! Try find your way out of this one. There’s also lots of food stalls, an ice skating pond, and live entertainment.
Another one of Vancouver’s stunning light displays that you have to see is Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge (an attraction on its own without the lights). The bridge is 137 m long and 70 m high with twinkling lights draped across it. There are also lights along the TreeTop Adventure, Cliffwalk and the rainforest. So if you love a bit of nature like myself or if you need a great backdrop for your insta pics, then you have to come here!
Other places I’d recommend: Annual Trinity Street Light Festival (get amongst the locals), Bright Lights at Stanley Park and Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Gardens
Enchant Christmas Maze and Market
When: Dates TBC
Cost: Adults- TBC
Discounts for seniors, children, military, and families
When: Late November - Late January
Cost: Adults - TBC
Discounts for seniors, students, and children (includes all park attractions)
Embrace the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival
For a different kind of light display, visit the Secret Lantern Society’s Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, located across four neighbourhoods (Yaletown, Chinatown, Granville Island and Strathcona) in Vancouver. Join in with us locals at this free community event (donations welcome) with lanterns, fire performances, music, and dancing.
When: Date TBC (the darkest night of the year)
Dive into everything Christmas
Vancouver Christmas Market is another good one to check out, it’s on from late November - late December in Downtown Vancouver. The Christmas Market offers up amazing food and drinks stalls, Christmas gift vendors (for all that last minute shopping), live entertainment and activities for the kiddies. It’s like being in a winter wonderland with Vancouver’s first walk-in Christmas tree, carousel and lights display.
Free horse-drawn carriage rides. Christmas complete. Christmas in Kerrisdale is on throughout December and offers free horse-drawn carriage rides every Saturday. Kerrisdale is a beautiful part of West Vancouver filled with shops, boutiques, and tantalising restaurants. Around Christmas, you can enjoy live music and a visit (of course) from Santa.
Now, this next one truly feels like being in the North Pole. For a unique high-altitude experience, I’d suggest heading up to the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain. Grouse offers up a ton of Christmas activities including Santa’s Workshop, Breakfast with Santa, skating under the stars, a Light Walk, Reindeer Habitat, Gingerbread Village and more!
See Vancouver’s Goh Ballet
For something a bit fancier (and something inside), Vancouver’s Goh Ballet puts on a spectacular performance of The Nutcracker. Stay warm and watch this iconic performance in the week leading up to Christmas Day. They’re family-friendly, so I’d bring the kids along!
When: December 20 - 22, 2019
Fly Over Canada
Want to fly across Canada in 8 minutes? Fly Over Canada is a simulation ride in which visitors hang suspended over a spherical screen experiencing amazing views of Canada. I know it’s not a real flight but the ride simulates the feeling of wind, scent, and flight making it feel realistic. During the Christmas season you can fly over Christmas markets, light displays and more!
Cost: Adults - $25 USD ($37 AUD) at the gate or $21 USD ($31 AUD) online
Discounts for students, seniors, and kids
End the year with a bang!
Ring in the New Year with Spirit Cruises and see the fireworks from the best seats in the house. You can choose from a cocktail and canapé cruise with plenty of room to dance the night away or go for the traditional dinner cruise with a gourmet buffet cooked to perfection!
Vancouver’s Science World also knows how to throw a good party at their large venue. There’s room for over 1,000 guests, plus multiple DJs and five bars! Event details are released closer to the date so keep your eyes out.
You can also see the New Year’s Eve fireworks downtown near Canada Place. This is a free and family-friendly event with 9:00pm fireworks (plus mini countdown) for the little ones and midnight fireworks to call in the new year. It does get pretty busy though, with some venues around offering tickets to escape the crowds. But if you don’t mind the crowds, I’d say this place is pretty good for getting up and close to the fireworks for free.
When: December 31, 2019
Swim like a polar bear
You know those crazy things you do when you travel? Well, this is one of them. We like to start the ‘new year, new me’ thing by jumping into icy cold water with 2000 other brave souls. The Polar Bear Swim is a Vancouver tradition, so if you want to really fit in with the locals then you have to come swim with us! Come in a costume (if you want) and take the plunge into the icy Pacific waters at English Bay! Adventurous swimmers can also participate in a 91 m swim race.
When: January 1, 2020