When considering things to do in Vancouver in winter, you’ll be stunned by Vancouver’s amazing natural beauty and multi-cultural flavor. From the beautiful mountain vistas to the pristine sand beaches in the centre of the city, Vancouver is the home of Instagram worthy photos.
Some say the winter is the rainy season in Vancouver but they’re only partly right. Sure, you may need an umbrella some days but there are plenty of beautiful clear, crisp and sunny days to enjoy too. Not only is there a lot to do in Vancouver during Christmas, but there are many great things to do in Vancouver in winter.
Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a short 4-day visit to Vancouver!
Vancouver, BC in winter is an amazingly romantic destination. With the backdrop of the mountains and the ocean, there’s no better place to walk hand-in-hand with your sweetheart! (Check out this list of romantic destinations around the world!)
Vancouverites enjoy the outdoors and everything this beautiful city has to offer. With Vancouver winter weather quite moderate, the winter is the perfect time to visit Vancouver and experience what the insiders know!
While you’re visiting Vancouver in winter, consider a side-trip to Revelstoke, one Canada’s best winter playgrounds. Check out Tamara’s post about all the great things to do in Revelstoke in the winter.
The Big List of All the Great Things to do in Vancouver in Winter
Table of Contents
Ice Skating at Robson Square – An Awesome Vancouver Winter Activity
Robson Square in downtown Vancouver opens up for skating in December every year. This is a classic Vancouver winter tradition to celebrate the winter season in style. If you’re asking yourself why you should visit Vancouver, imagine skating hand-in-hand with your sweetheart to the sound of beautiful seasonal music! Best of all, skating is free if you bring your own skates, but if you need to rent skates, its just $5. With the average Vancouver winter temperature above freezing, you shouldn’t feel the cold too much while skating.
Hours are generally 9am to 9pm with extended hours on weekends. Ice skating outdoors in the heart of a beautiful city is a great reason to visit Vancouver in winter!
Mayuri has a great post about what to wear when you visit Canada in the winter – check it out!
What to in Vancouver in Winter – Snowshoeing on the Local Mountains
With the three local mountains so close to downtown, snowshoeing is a natural for a great winter outdoor activity and a top reason to visit Vancouver in winter! Winter hikes in Vancouver while snowshoeing can be fun for the whole family and it’s easy to learn – no experience required!
If you’re looking to experience Vancouver winter wonderland, the local mountains are the right place.
The most popular places to snowshoe in Vancouver are the local mountains – Cypress, Grouse and Seymour. Cyrpress Snowshoe rental is always available for a nominal fee and snowshoe trails abound. Cypress offers guided snowshoe tours and has 11 kilometres of self-guided snowshoe trails that run through sub-alpine meadows and snowy mountain forests. Talk about a winter wonderland!
I recommend the chocolate fondue tour at Cypress. If you love Vancouver winter activities and you love chocolate, this tour is definitely for you! I did this tour with my friends, and I have to say that chocolate fondue and great drinks at the end of a snowshoeing adventure is the best! It’s a great reason for visiting Vancouver.
Take a Bobsleigh Ride (or Skeleton)
One of the great legacies from the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Olympic Winter Games is the sliding track in Whistler. Now anyone can try it when try one of the winter getaways from Vancouver! Take advantage of the great sea-to-sky roadtrip to make your way to Whistler.
Public Bobsleigh and Skeleton rides are are exciting things to do in during winter, and are available seasonally from December 2019 through to the end of March 2020.
After completing a safety orientation, you hop into a 4-person bobsleigh steered by a trained pilot and take an adrenaline-fueled ride on the world’s fastest track. You and your team will coast through 10 twists and turns at speeds of 125+ kilometres per hour and feel the acceleration of up to 4G forces as you reach the track’s final and famous Thunderbird Corner!
If launching yourself head-first down the fastest sliding track in the world is more your thing, the Whistler Sliding Centre is the only place in Canada where the public can experience the rush of skeleton. Participants take off from the Maple Leaf starting point, passing through six corners and clocking speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour! You’ll need to go through an orientation session before you take off (I would hope so!).
No prior experience is required to try either bobsleigh or skeleton, although participants must be over 16 years of age, and be prepared for a fairly strenuous ride. What a great thing to do in British Columbia in winter!
Winter Activities in Vancouver – Flyover Canada
Why travel to Vancouver? This must-do attraction in Vancouver Canada in winter!
FlyOver Canada uses state-of-the-art technology to give you an actual feeling of flight. You hang suspended, with your feet dangling, in front of a 20 metre spherical screen while you fly over Canada on an absolutely exhilerating journey!
There are are some really amazing special effects while you’re flying including wind, mist and different scents that relate to the area that you’re seeing. You can actually feel the rush of wind on your face and feel like you’re soaring through the air. It’s almost as good as a Vancouver winter getaway.
There’s special seasonal themes during the holiday season as well. You might just encounter a small red-coated bearded man while you’re flying over Canada :-).
The ride lasts approximately 25 minutes. It’s appropriate for kids, as long as they’re at least 40″ tall. The oldest rider at FlyOver Canada was apparently 104 years old so it’s good for the whole family!
FlyOver Canada is open daily from 9:30 am to 10pm, with rides every 15-20 minutes. Prices are lower if purchased in advance online.
FlyOver Canada is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver at Canada Place.
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Is there a more British tradition than afternoon tea?
You simply must try an afternoon tea while you’re visiting Canada. I know, I know, Canada isn’t England but there are a lot of Anglophiles in Vancouver who love all things British, one of which is afternoon tea.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver does a really lovely afternoon tea, which they are deservedly famous for. They’ve been doing it for 80 years! It’s one of the great winter attractions in Vancouver.
Afternoon tea is served at Notch8 Restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver with sittings daily at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Reservations are strongly recommended, as this is a very popular event.
The menu is traditional with classic English scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, finger sandwiches and sweets. It’s absolutely delicious. Service is excellent.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver also a great place to stay in Vancouver, especially during a long weekend in Vancouver.
Visit the UBC Museum of Anthropology
The Museum of Anthropology is an often-overlooked Vancouver treasure! A visit to Vancouver in winter is not complete without a visit to this beautiful museum. Take a walk through the history of Canada and you’ll find a stunning display of Northwest Coast First Nations art and artifacts – one of the finest collections in the world. Temporary featured exhibits and guided tours are also available.
The museum building itself is worth seeing, designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. Inspired by post-and-beam architecture of the Northwest Coast First Nations people, it is made primarily of concrete and takes advantage of second world war gun emplacements.
Visiting the Museum of Anthropology is one of my favourite things to do in Vancouver BC in winter. My favourite object in the museum is the famous yellow cedar sculpture, The Raven and the First Men by Bill Reid. The sculpture is situated in its own gallery within the museum and can be viewed in 360 degrees. It’s simply stunning.
Pro tip: Always check in the drawers beneath the exhibits to see more hidden treasures!
Vancouver During Winter – The Bloedel Conservatory
Located in beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park in central Vancouver, the Bloedel Conservatory transports you to a tropical paradise! If you luck into a rainy winter day and Vancouver winter temperatures feel too damp during your visit, there’s no better place to visit. The conservatory features 200 free-flying exotic birds and 500 exotic plants and flowers in a temperature controlled environment.
The Bloedel Conservatory is a domed lush paradise in the heart of Vancouver. It is designated as a heritage building due to its unique structure and inherent value to the city.
On our last visit, we were lucky enough to see rare corpse flower in bloom! The aptly named corpse flower is known for its rare and unpredictable flower that smells of rotting meat! The bloom only lasted for 48 hours but the stench was putrid. Apparently, the scent is meant to attract carrion beetles, flesh flies and other insects drawn to rotting meat.
Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch the corpse flower in bloom too!
There’s also a great seasonal event at Bloedel – the Bloedel Conservatory Christmas event known as Christmas at Bloedel Conservatory. You’ll see gnomes, winter holiday illuminations and slightly reduced admission fee. Good deal!
Vancouver in Winter – Dine Out Vancouver
This popular event runs from January 17 to February 2, 2020 offering delicious and varied dining experiences at some of Vancouver’s best and most popular restaurants! If you’re asking, “should I visit Vancouver”, the answer is definitely yes during Dine Out Vancouver!
Restaurants feature set menus at varying price points between $15 and $45 and provide unique culinary experiences to please your palate. If you visit Vancouver in winter, scheduling your trip around Dine Out Vancouver is a great idea!
I’ve enjoyed Dine-Out for years and used it as an opportunity to try new restaurants and re-visit my old favourites. I’ve always found my experiences to provide exceptional value, and the restaurants go all-out to ensure patrons have a great time!
If there’s a great Vancouver restaurant on your radar that you’ve been dying to try, Dine Out Vancouver is a great time to check them out!
Winter Activities Vancouver – Brewery Tour
Craft beer is huge in Vancouver and going on a craft beer brewery tour in a really fun way to see a different part of Vancouver. It’s one of the great things to do in Canada in winter. These tours offer a behind the scenes glimpse into Vancouver’s highly rated breweries. You’ll be able to sample a variety of fine craft beer while you let a professional drive you around in comfort.
What I love about these tours is that you don’t have to wait in line like you would if you just walked into the brewery. There’s something really special about drinking a fresh, locally brewed beer made by people who really love beer. The guides on these tours are super-knowledgeable and enthusiastic about craft beer, and always have lots of insider information to share. Highly recommended!
Vancouver Canucks Game
The Vancouver Canucks are Vancouver’s professional hockey team, and much beloved by Vancouverites.
Attending a Canucks game is an amazing experience, especially during a Vancouver winter vacation! Even if you’re not a die-hard hockey fan going to a game is a really fun and entertaining experience. I’ve been to A LOT of Canucks games in good times and bad and I always have a great time at the game. Hockey is definitely a bonus if you’re visiting Canada in the winter.
How to Get Tickets
Getting tickets to a game can be easy or very difficult, depending on how the Canucks are doing that season ;-).
The official tickets are sold via Ticketmaster. Season ticket holders are also able to re-sell their tickets this way, and the mark-up can be non-existent (or less than face value) if the Canucks aren’t doing well. However, if the Canucks are having a good season, ticket prices shoot up quite a lot.
A good option for buying tickets is StubHub. It’s safe and the price is usually on par with Ticketmaster or slightly less. Stubhub ensures that all tickets sold are legitimate so you won’t get ripped off.
Expect to pay as low as $69 for mid-week games against lower-tier teams. Prices go up quite a bit for premium teams and/or when the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing.
Where to Sit
There really aren’t any bad seats at Rogers Arena. Even the upper bowl seats offer a pretty good viewing experience. You’ll also get a really great overall view of the game from the upper bowl. Of course, upper bowl tickets are also quite a bit less.
The lower bowl seats offer a better overall viewing experience of up close game play. You’ll hear the players yell at each other and hear their skates on the ice. It’s pretty exciting!
There are several sections in the upper bowl where you are not permitted to drink alcohol.
What to Eat at Rogers Arena
There’s a HUGE variety of food and drink options at Rogers Arena. It’s a great opportunity to try some new-to-you options.
There’s the usual hotdogs, pop and popcorn you expect at a sports event, but there’s also some really unique choices. Most options have multiple locations so if you’re looking for something specific, you might have to wander a bit to find it.
I like Steamers for hog dogs, Crisp for chicken and hand-cut fries and of course the Triple-O’s for Whitespot favourites. There’s Chop for asian noodle stir-fry and even Sante, for some good-for-you food! A really great option is Vij’s (section 318) for authentic and excellent Indian cuisine.
Getting to Rogers Arena
I always recommend using public transit to get to a game. Stadium Station (on the Expo line) is a very short distance from the arena and is an easy option. If you don’t have a transit pass, buy a return ticket from the staff selling them at the station on your way through. This will save you a lot of time on the way home!
Parking is very expensive ($20-$30) around the arena, and can be hard to find, and fill up fast.
If you’re staying downtown, Rogers Arena is within easy walking distance or an inexpensive taxi ride from almost anywhere downtown.
What to See at Rogers Arena
There’s a great 2010 Olympic tribute in the Arena that is super interesting to see.
You can also see the various silent auction items that are available, which usually include signed jerseys, photographs and sticks.
There are several merchandise stores in the Arena selling Canucks and NHL merchandise. There’s some great vintage Canucks gear, and you can also get cute baby clothes and kids clothes.
The Game Experience
The doors to Rogers Arena open at 6pm on game day and you can watch the pre-game skate from 6:30pm to 6:50pm.
Anthems are sung at 7:05pm (be prepared to participate!), and the puck drops at 7:08pm. Games are usually finished around 9:45pm, unless there’s overtime.
Canucks fans can be subdued if the team isn’t doing well, or crazy loud if it is. Look around for Fin, the Canucks mascot. He’s dressed as a killer whale and will be banging a drum.
What to Wear to a Canucks Game
A lot of fans wear their Canucks jerseys to the game. Visitors often wear other team’s jerseys too; don’t worry about being heckled by die-hard Canucks fans although you might expect some friendly teasing if your team isn’t doing well.
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the best visitor activities in Vancouver. That doesn’t change in winter as the Park becomes a winter wonderland from November to the end of January when it’s all lit up for its Winter Lights Festival. It’s one of the great reasons to visit Vancouver.
From November 22, 2019 to January 26, 2020 see hundreds of thousands of lights all over the park including on the suspension bridge itself, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk and all of the other great things there.
The 30-ton ancient Douglas Fir trees are transformed as they are lit, making them the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world!
There are all sorts of fun activities for adults and kids at Canyon Lights. It’s not just a great seasonal activity but a really thing to do after the festive season is over.
Hours are 11am to 9pm, except Christmas Day. I recommend going after 4pm as that’s when you’ll get to see the magic of the lights.
It’s busiest at Canyon Lights between December 20 and January 5, so if you’re able to go before or after those dates, that would be better. That would be the best time to visit Vancouver too!
Make sure to dress warmly!
It’s a great idea to book a tour to see the Canyon Lights. You’ll avoid the line-ups at the entrance and won’t have to worry about parking (which is very limited!).
Ride A Snowcat at Whistler
This is a truly an amazing Canadian experience and something you won’t soon forget! It’s a great day trip from Vancouver in winter.
A Snowcat is an enclosed-cab truck-sized fully tracked vehicle designed to move on snow. They’re also known as trail groomers or piste machines.
You’ll ride in an Snowcat up Whistler Mountain in this fully-heated machine. It will climb 6000 feet up Whistler Mountain in about an hour to the cozy and quaint log cabin on Crystal Ridge. You’ll see the beautiful Whistler alpine along the way along with beautiful panoramic views of the Coast Mountain range.
At the top you’ll be escorted to the Crystal Hut where you’ll have a delicious fondue dinner. We had cheese fondue with baguettes and pickles, (with Gruyere and Emmental) and chicken, beef and assorted vegetables with dipping sauces. To top it off there was a delicious freshly-baked pie for dessert cooked in a wood-fired oven. It was just heavenly! A great wine was included too.
Riding a Snowcat is a great reason to choose Whistler for weekend trips from Vancouver in winter.
We really loved our Snowcat experience. It truly is something you can only do in Canada :-). It really answers the question, why visit Vancouver :-).
Celebrate Chinese (Lunar) New Year
Chinese New Year is on January 25, 2020 and is a big winter festival in Vancouver! 2020 marks the year of the Rat. The Rat is the first in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. People born in the year of the Rat are believed to be industrious and thrifty, and have diligent and positive characteristics.
Vancouver has a large and varied Chinese population and one of the oldest Chinatowns in North America.
If you’re looking for reasons to go to Vancouver, this event is definitely a good one. There’s a Chinese New Year parade held annually in Chinatown. It attracts thousands of people eager to see the floats, dancing lions and colourful dancers.
Vancouver has some of the best Chinese restaurants and they go all out to celebrate Chinese New Year too.
The Chinese New Year is a great time to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, a serene cultural heritage site in the middle of Vancouver. Visiting Vancouver in January is a great decision.
There’s a great walking tour around Vancouver’s Chinatown with an off-duty chef, who will take you to taste some delicious Asian treats like barbecued crispy duck. You’ll learn all about the cultural history of Vancouver’s Chinatown area and relax in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden. Seeing this garden will have you convinced that Vancouver is one of the places to visit in Canada in winter.
Vancouver Winter Attractions – Tobogganing at Mount Seymour
I don’t know about you but one of my most treasured childhood memories is tobogganing with my friends down the local hills. Whether you called it sledding or tobogganing, if you lived where it snows in winter time Vancouver, you probably enjoyed it too!
In Vancouver the best tobogganing in the winter is found at Mount Seymour, one of Vancouver’s local mountains. If you’re thinking about visiting Vancouver in the winter, don’t miss this!
Local families and tobogganing enthusiasts LOVE tobogganing at Mount Seymour. There’s a designated multi-laned area for sliding so it’s safe for everyone. There are no age restrictions so you can bring your baby and your granny :-).
The price is reasonable at $10-$15 for adults (less expensive on weekdays), and $40-60 for a family of 5. Kids 3 and under are free.
You can bring your own sled or rent a sliding mat while you’re there. Vancouver winter time is the best while sliding and tobogganing.
There’s also great snow tubing at Mount Seymour!
They have specially designed tubes as well as a custom tube tow, so you don’t have to walk back up the mountain. The trails are groomed and easy to slide down.
You have to be at least 48″ tall to to use the Tube park, so this is not for little ones. Prices are $20-22 per person for 2 hours.
The Tube is located next to the the Enquist Lodge where you can go in to warm up and have a hot chocolate or snack.
Snow Tubing is also available at Cypress Mountain, where there are 6 chutes about 100 metres long. There’s a snow tube pull here too so you don’t have to trudge back up the hill.
Bill Reid Gallery
This gallery is one of the great places to visit in Vancouver in winter. This small, intimate museum pays homage to indigenous artist Bill Reid and his jewelry, graphic arts, sculpture, and carving. Other indigenous artists are also featured.
This gallery is in the heart of downtown Vancouver and is an easy walk from almost anywhere downtown. This is the only public gallery in Canada dedicated to contemporary indigenous art of the Northwest Coast. If you’re looking for a reason for visiting Canada in winter, this might be it.
Highlights of the gallery include Bill Reid’s bronze masterpiece, Mythis Messengers, Reid’s gold and silver jewelery and a full scale totem pole carved by James Hart of Haida Gwaii.
There’s also a great gift shop at the gallery that patrons rave about.
What’s your favourite Vancouver winter activity?
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