Metro Vancouver’s Undercover Christmas Activities

The Steveston Festival of Trees at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. Photo: Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society.

Like poinsettias and candy canes, rain is a regular feature of the Vancouver holiday season. Add in the possibility of wintry weather that can make you feel like a chilled-to-the-bone snowman, and it’s clear that we all need a handy go-to list of indoor festive attractions.

Here at the Vancouver Christmas Guide, we maintain a comprehensive rundown of local covered activities for those days when outdoor pursuits are best avoided. Read on for our 2021 suggestions­­, and be sure to check ahead for the Covid safety measures required by each venue.

Indoor wonderlands

Explore a mini-forest of artfully decorated foliage at the free-entry Festival of Trees Vancouver, running at downtown’s historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver from November 26 onwards. Consider adding a special side-attraction to your visit by booking a sumptuous festive afternoon tea––jaunty gingerbread men included.

Add a festive afternoon tea to your Fairmont Hotel Vancouver visit. PHOTO CREDIT: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

There are also plenty of twinkling trees to check out at the brilliant Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site in Richmond. After you’ve perused the Steveston Festival of Trees here, explore the site’s fascinating museum exhibits. And if you’re in Surrey, the Cloverdale Christmas Tree Festival is also running again this year––inside at the city’s browse-worthy Museum of Surrey.

The Steveston Festival of Trees at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. PHOTO CREDIT: Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society.

Home for the holidays

Back in Vancouver, the West End’s charming Roedde House historic mansion will be adorned with yesteryear Christmas decorations for the festive period. And an even more legendary home will be showcased at downtown’s FlyOver Canada. Located inside Canada Place, the simulator ride’s holiday edition takes you on a big-screen glide over the country––complete with mischievous elves and a breathtaking visit to the North Pole residence of the great man himself.

Keep your eyes peeled for Santa and his elves at FlyOver Canada. PHOTO CREDIT: FlyOver Canada.

Still chilly outside? Also indoors at Canada Place, the walk-through Imagine Picasso projection-based art exhibition runs until January 8. The kaleidoscopic colours alone here will warm you faster than a steaming mug of mulled wine. And if you’re feeling extra artsy, stay inside and check out another Canada Place

Imagine Picasso is on until January 8 at Canada Place. PHOTO CREDIT: John Lee.

immersive art extravaganza: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition showcases 34 Vatican ceiling frescos in breathtaking close-up.

A short drive or transit bus hop away, Stanley Park’s Vancouver Aquarium also offers shelter from inclement holiday-season weather. Included with admission, a special 4D version of The Polar Express movie is being screened here this year. And you might even spot Scuba Claus himself, swimming underwater in one of the site’s large tanks.

Scuba Claus will be appearing at the Vancouver Aquarium again this year. PHOTO CREDIT: Vancouver Aquarium.

Undercover shopping

Don’t fancy trudging the streets like a walking icicle hunting for last-minute Christmas gifts? Luckily, there are lots of ways to warm-up while you shop local during the holidays. The ever-friendly Eastside Flea is back after an extended hiatus with three enticing weekend-long markets running in December. It’s a great place to find clever pressies for all the coolsters on your list.

This year, we’re also looking forward to the quirky Weirdos Holiday Market at Venables Hall, just off Commercial Drive, as well as Krampus Markt, a weekend-long bacchanalia of artisan vendors preceded by a Friday-night opening party­­––keep your eyes peeled for the naughty horn-headed demon of Yule here.

But if you want to snag unique gifts while also eyeing amazing holiday decorations, head to the region’s largest Christmas store. Located in Surrey, Potter’s is a busy garden centre during the year. But in November and December, it transforms into a huge walk-through wonderland of brilliantly-curated festive items. Bring your gift list and give yourself plenty of perusing time here.

A cute gingerbread house at the Christmas Store at Potter’s. PHOTO CREDIT: Christmas Store at Potter’s

Yuletide movies

Classic Christmas movies are an annual tradition for many of us. But if squinting at Scrooged on your phone proves underwhelming, consider catching your favourite festive flicks on the big screen this year. Kitsilano’s beautifully restored art deco Hollywood Theatre is offering a tempting run of holiday hits in December, including White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and the filmed-in-Vancouver Elf.

And if you fancy adding a live orchestral soundtrack to your viewing, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra will be accompanying two beloved family flicks––Home Alone and charming British animation The Snowman––at downtown’s heritage Orpheum Theatre.

Need more? Book tickets for the amazing Canadian film Messiah/Complex at the city’s Cinematheque. This soul-stirring filmed version of Handel’s Messiah combines four choirs, six languages and 12 soloists from every province alongside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Night out

There’s also a shimmering line-up of live holiday productions and concerts to take your coat off for in and around Vancouver. Peruse the shows section of our site for more than two-dozen options––then book your tickets ASAP.

This year, we’re especially looking forward to the traditional Metro Theatre pantomime as well as a couple of intriguing alternatives: Lamondance’s A Winter’s Twist is a unique festive take on the classic Romeo and Juliet story, while A WONDERHEADS Christmas Carol deploys oversized masks and puppets to offer a whimsical take on the beloved Dickens Yuletide yarn.

Don’t miss A WONDERHEADS Christmas Carol live onstage. PHOTO CREDIT: Kate-Braidwood.

But if you need to fuel-up to sidestep the cold, there are two great options to consider. The Westin Bayshore’s Winterlust outdoor heated domes are back to offer cozy private dining for locals who love to treat themselves. And if you’re keen to toast the full-on return of Christmas in 2021, why not book a spot at Tinseltown? This fully decorated pop-up holiday bar feels like the kind of place Santa would kick-back in after a very busy night of pressie-delivering. Cheers!

Tinseltown is Vancouver’s very own pop-up Christmas bar. PHOTO CREDIT: Hidden Media Network.

For more information on Metro Vancouver’s festive attractions, shows and events visit the Vancouver Christmas Guide. Created by Lonely Planet travel writer John Lee, it’s the best online guide to the area’s 2021 holiday happenings. The annual site was co-created with Max the cat, who writes its gift reviews and often appears on its @MyVanChristmas Twitter feed.

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