Incredible holiday light displays, Vancouver’s own 50-foot Christmas Tree, free outdoor ice skating, sleigh rides on Grouse Mountain, and the ancient tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice are just a few of the amazing events happening this December. Use this Top 15 list to find the perfect way to celebrate Christmas and the winter holidays in Vancouver. (And yes, many of these events are free!)
Top 15 Christmas & Holiday Events in Vancouver 2011
1. Vancouver Christmas & Holiday Craft Markets – November 24 – December 24, 2011
Shop for unique holiday gifts at Vancouver’s winter craft markets, including the German-style outdoor Vancouver Christmas Market.
2. Christmas at the Vancouver Aquarium – November 24, 2011 – January 2, 2012
The Vancouver Aquarium’s winter exhibit, Luminescence, examines how sea creatures create light, while the Aquarium’s traditional holiday attractions include Scuba Claus and a Christmas Tree switched on by two electric eels!
3. The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain – November 26 – December 24, 2011
Grouse Mountain takes advantage of its natural winter bounties to become the ideal holiday spot, complete with outdoor ice-skating, sleigh rides, real reindeer, live choral music, Santa, and more.
4. Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum – November 26, 2011 – January 1, 2012 (closed December 24 & 25)
Enjoy a 1900’s-style Christmas at Burnaby’s adorable outdoor Village Museum, complete with festive decor, children’s theatre, and visits with Father Christmas.
5. Free Ice Skating at Robson Square – December 1, 2011 – February 29, 2012 – FREE
Skate for free in the heart of downtown Vancouver at Vancouver’s only outdoor ice rink. Skate rentals are $4; helmets and ice cleats are $2.
6. Christmas at Canada Place: Woodward’s Windows – December 1, 2011 – January 4, 2012 – FREE
Downtown Vancouver’s iconic Canada Place celebrates the holidays with the free-to-see Woodward’s Window Christmas displays.
7. Bright Nights in Stanley Park – December 2, 2011 – January 2, 2012 (closed December 25)
Kids and families will love riding Stanley Park’s Miniature Train through a winter wonderland of lights and holiday tableaux. Also includes live music and a visit to the “North Pole” featuring Santa and a parade of trees.
8. Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge – December 2, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Vancouver’s iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge and its eponymous Park transform for the season with over 250,000 sparkling holiday lights.
9. Carol Ships Parade of Lights – December 2 – 23, 2011
One of Vancouver’s most unique holiday attractions, the Carol Ships are brightly decorated boats that cruise Vancouver’s coastlines in a “Parade of Light.” Dine, dance and carol on board, or enjoy the beautiful Parade shoreside for free.
10. Christmas in Kerrisdale – Saturdays, December 3 – 31, 2011 – FREE
Vancouver’s charming Kerrisdale neighbourhood village celebrates the season with free horse-and-carriage rides, photos with Santa, and roving string quartets.
11. Rogers Santa Claus Parade – Sunday, December 4, 2011 – FREE
The 8th annual Santa Clause Parade is one of Vancouver’s top Christmas events, attracting over 300,000 spectators. The Parade through downtown Vancouver includes Santa, marching bands and festive floats. Parade route details here.
12. Vancouver Tree Lighting – December 9, 2011 – FREE
The 5th annual Vancouver Tree Lighting–a free party to light a 50-foot, Rockerfeller-style Christmas tree–has a new location for 2011: the Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The 2011 tree-lighting ceremony includes live performances by the Vancouver’s Children’s Choir and special guest appearances by the BC Lions, the Felines and Bro Jake from Rock 101.
13. Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden – December 9, 2011 – January 2, 2012 (closed December 25)
One of Vancouver’s most popular holiday attractions, the magical Festival of Light covers VanDusen Botanical Garden in twinkling holiday light displays that are definitely a sight to behold! Also includes Santa’s Workshop for kids.
14. Winter Solstice Lantern Festival– December 21, 2011 – FREE
Celebrate one of the world’s oldest traditions by welcoming back the light after the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. This free festival includes events in Chinatown, Yaletown, the Downtown East Side, Granville Island, and S.E. False Creek.
15. Holiday Theatre, Musicals & Music – Various Dates, December 2011
- Arts Club Theatre’s White Christmas: The Musical and Patron Saint of Stanley Park
- Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s A Traditional Christmas
- Ballet B.C. Presents Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
16. O Christmas Tree Light Up Ceremony – December 9, 2011 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm – FREE
This free, family-friendly event will celebrate this year’s holidays – and the strong community spirit of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood – with a Christmas tree light up, free hot chocolate and candy canes courtesy of the Mount Pleasant BIA, a magical visit from Santa, and awesome entertainment by Kids Sing Chorus and J.J. Sunshine. Go to the south-west corner of Kingsway and Broadway – across the street from Kingsgate Mall.
17. Tree Chipping for Charity at Kingsgate Mall – January 8, 2012 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – BY DONATION
This anticipated, family-friendly event will celebrate this year’s holidays – and the strong community spirit of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood – with tree chipping by donation, and free cookies and hot chocolate courtesy of the Mount Pleasant BIA. Bring your beloved Christmas tree to this Mount Pleasant BIA community event and have it chipped up and safely disposed of while helping the children at Mount Pleasant Elementary School.
Have a favourite Christmas event in Vancouver? Or want to add an event I’ve missed? Please share in the comments!