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Christmas Fun in Vancouver

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Christmas fun is the name of the game in Vancouver. While a white Christmas in Vancouver can be a rare thing, the city certainly knows how to celebrate this festive season. There are so many fabulous holiday events around town, in the local mountains, and even on the water, you can be hard pressed to choose which ones to enjoy. I’m happy to help narrow the choices by recommending some of my family’s favorite holiday activities in our hometown of Vancouver. And if you’re craving the white stuff, it’s only a 30-minute drive up to the local mountains.

Bright Nights Christmas Train at Stanley Park - Christmas Fun

Bright Nights Christmas Train at Stanley Park (Photo by Andy Liang. Flickr, Creative Commons.)

Christmas Fun for All

Bright Nights and the Christmas Train at Stanley Park

Daily from November 30-January 2nd
Enjoy Christmas fun while you sip hot chocolate, munch on popcorn, and ride the Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park. This very popular holiday tradition features over two million twinkling lights, festive music, and animated displays offer Christmas fun that will have you ho ho ho’ing all the way. Proceeds from your visit will also benefit the BC FireFighters’ Burn Fund.

Vancouver Christmas Market

November 24th-December 24th – Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza
The third annual Vancouver Christmas Market brings the Christmas fun of traditional European markets to downtown. There are myriad craft vendors, musicians, and food purveyors of all manner of favorite seasonal delicacies, including spiced red wine, roasted chestnuts, and stollen (spiced Christmas cake – yum!). There is also a Kids Market, featuring the one-and-only downtown Christmas carousel.

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens (Photo by Claudia LaRoye) - Christmas Fun

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens (Photo by Claudia LaRoye)

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens

December 7th-January 1st – VanDusen Gardents
One of our favorite Christmas events is the annual Festival of Lights at Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver. It is a must-do holiday event for our family and for any visitors we have over for the holidays. The Festival includes Santa’s Living Room, Dancing Lights at Livingstone Lake, the Gingerbread Wood, and the Candy Cane Lane. Tip: Go on a weekday prior to the Christmas break, and purchase your tickets ahead of time.

Carol Ships Parade of Lights

December 1st-23rd, Coal Harbour
Nothing says “Christmas fun” like lights, and for over 50 years, the Carol Ships have featured the uniquely Vancouver tradition of celebrating the lights of the holiday season on the water, with decorated ships sailing in Coal Harbour and Burrard Inlet. The carol ship operators provide a festive meal, carol singing, and the opportunity to admire the seasonal lights both on the water and on shore.

Paper Jellyswarm lights at the Vancouver Aquarium's Luminescence: A Celebration of Aquatic Light (Photo by Neil Fisher) - Christmas Fun

Paper Jellyswarm lights at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Luminescence: A Celebration of Aquatic Light (Photo by Neil Fisher)

Luminescence: A Celebration of Aquatic Light

November 22nd- January 22nd – Vancouver Aquarium
It may not be exactly ‘Christmassy’ per se, but who can resist glowing aquatic sea life? This unique experience of discovery of the fluorescent and bioluminescent light organisms that live in our oceans will keep kids spellbound. Find out why jellies and corals glow in the dark. The celebration features the full immersion Jelly Swarm, a unique light installation of nearly one hundred jellies all aglow with colorful LED lights, that you can control, creating unique patterns of lights.

Amaluna – Cirque du Soleil

November 23rd-December 30th, Concord Pacific Place, Yaletown
The Cirque is in town for the holidays! Amaluna is the newest creation by the world-famous, Quebec-based circus company. The show features an original story about love, goddesses and Amazons, complete with the amazing acrobatics, costumes and sets for which the Cirque is justly famous.

The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain (Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain) - Christmas Fun

The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain (Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain)

The Peak of Christmas

November 24th-December 24th – Grouse Mountain
I absolutely love going to Grouse Mountain at Christmas time. If the weather elves have worked their magic, it’s a gorgeous winter wonderland of snow, ice and Christmas fun. Grouse hosts so many activities during the holiday season that it’s hard to name them all, but among the most popular are meeting real live reindeer Dancer and Vixen, skating around the outdoor rink, taking a mountaintop sleigh ride, and of course, enjoying some hot chocolate after a day or night of skiing. On a clear night, the view from the Altitudes Bistro onto the twinkling lights of Vancouver below is a stunning sight.

What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions? Share your comments!

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons. She started traveling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

  1. Mirrin Rose says

    Every where Christmas celebration is going and also count the holidays coming for a Christmas. Conducting Christmas games, vacation to favorite place, celebrating with family. I like your Christmas celebration post. I am celebrating my Christmas vacation in New York with my family.

    Merry Christmas to all

    Mirrin Rose

  2. Vancouver Christmas Market says

    Thanks Claudia for putting us down as one of the amazing things to do for Christmas in Vancouver. I definitely agree that there is so much that’s happening in and around Vancouver at this time and it never seems like the weather dampens the spirits of the locals that love Christmas. Have a fantastic holiday season Claudia, and I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

  3. It is such a festive and fun time of year. In some ways I wish we could extend the Christmas season just a bit to allow for visiting all of the many wonderful events around Vancouver, and elsewhere! Thanks for the comments.

  4. Vancouver sounds lovely during the holidays – I would love to see the Carol Ships Parade of Lights – such a unique light display!

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