Winter in Vancouver brings wetter weather and some dark, moody days, but with its milder Pacific west coast climate, it’s rarely too cold to get out and explore the city. Vancouver has an abundance of outdoor sights and activities including its ski hills beckoning from the North Shore mountains and large public parks and gardens that stay lush and leafy-green all year round.

    Some of the best Vancouver attractions are open only in the winter, including the ice-skating rink at Robson Square and festive light displays like the Bright Nights festival in Stanley Park. If it’s too rainy for a stroll in the park then Vancouver has its fabulous downtown public library and numerous cafés, shops and galleries where you can stay warm and comfy while soaking up the city’s wintertime vibes.


    Robson Square Ice Rink

    Outdoor skating in the heart of downtown

    Robson Square Ice Rink is a fun spot for families and friends to go for some outdoor skating sessions during the winter months of December through February. Found in downtown Vancouver, the roof-covered ice rink offers visitors another activity to enjoy at the sprawling landmark public square that’s best known for already containing the Vancouver Art Gallery, a shopping centre, and several plazas, gardens, and walkways.

    Entry to the ice rink is free and there's a café with skate rental and storage lockers available on site, as well as an outdoor patio with heaters.

    Location: 800 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 3B7, Canada

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 604-646-3554


    photo by Shaund (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Grouse Mountain

    Skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing on the North Shore

    Grouse Mountain is a scenic ski resort up in the hills of North Vancouver, found just a 15-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Grouse Mountain offers skiers and snowboarders 33 runs to explore including 15 night runs, while snowshoers have some 9 km of trails to trek through. There’s also outdoor skating on the pond, or you could rent a sled and zoom down the slopes of the Sliding Zone.

    Sleigh rides operate daily through the winter, available for no extra charge. Be sure to take a stroll through Grouse Mountain’s Light Walk – a magical tunnel of light that’s lit up only during the winter months.

    Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4K9, Canada

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +1 604-980-9311


    Stanley Park

    Winter bike rides and Christmas light displays

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Adventure
    • Photo

    Stanley Park offers Vancouver visitors the ultimate green space to explore in the wintertime. It’s set over 400 hectares on the downtown peninsula, with lush rainforest, beaches, walking and biking trails, and a seawall that circles the park around its coastline. Vancouver’s mild winter climate – for Canada – means that you can enjoy outdoor sights in the park like the totem poles of Brockton Point and Lost Lagoon year-round, so long as you dress for the chillier weather.

    From late November to early January, Stanley Park is host to the annual Bright Nights festivities, a spectacular display of millions of lights that you can enjoy by simply strolling around or by booking a ticket for a ride on the Miniature Train.

    Location: Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4, Canada

    Open: Daily 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 604-681-6728


    Capilano Suspension Bridge

    Festive winter light display

    Capilano Suspension Bridge is a popular North Vancouver attraction year-round, and during the winter months of November to January, its rainforest setting looks even more enchanting when the Canyon Lights display is switched on. The bridge stays open till 9 pm during these months, allowing visitors to walk across the 140-metre-long bridge under the night sky surrounded by a multi-coloured light display.

    Enjoy more festive lights along the Cliffwalk, a series of cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms jutting out from a granite cliff. They are partly illuminated by the “Arc de Lumina” light tunnel in winter.

    Location: 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1, Canada

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 9 pm (during the Canyon Lights time)

    Phone: +1 604-985-7474


    Burnaby Village Museum

    Enjoy old-time holiday fun at the heritage Christmas festival

    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    Burnaby Village Museum is the place to discover what life in greater Vancouver was like a century ago with its 1920s village setting complete with a General Store, restored tram, old schoolhouse, farmhouse and gardens. A highlight for kids is the vintage carousel ride. It’s an especially magical place in the winter from late November to early January, when the village puts on some festive entertainment and light displays that families especially will enjoy.

    Staff wearing period costumes are on hand to tell you the history of the area and demonstrate some old-timey crafts and trades, such as blacksmithing. Burnaby Village Museum is found about 15 km east of downtown Vancouver in the city of Burnaby. There’s no fee for entry.

    Location: 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC V5G 3T6, Canada

    Phone: +1 604-297-4565


    photo by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Rogers Arena

    Come to cheer for the Canucks during a live ice hockey game

    Visitors to Vancouver in search of live winter sports action will want to book a seat at Rogers Arena to see the Vancouver Canucks home team play some top-level ice hockey. Watch the Canucks in thrilling skate-and-stick battles against their rival NHL teams in a season that usually runs from October through April.

    Aside from professional ice hockey games, Rogers Arena is host to several rock concerts, comedy shows, mixed martial arts matches and other events throughout the year. To celebrate after the game, head over to the Shark Club for beers and snacks, just a short walk away, or stroll 10 minutes further to hit the bars and restaurants of Yaletown or Gastown.

    Location: 800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver, BC V6B 6G1, Canada

    Phone: +1 604-899-7400


    photo by Hucul002 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

    Downtown gathering spot for book lovers

    • Families
    • History
    • Single

    The Vancouver Public Library Central Branch is a haven for Vancouver locals who like nothing more than spending a rainy winter day curled up in a cosy corner with a good book. Even non-residents who don’t wield a library card can find plenty to enjoy here, starting with the library’s grand coliseum-style architecture covering nearly 35,000 sqm.

    Aside from lounging in one of the reading rooms, visitors could grab a coffee or browse for gifts in the shops and cafés in and around Library Square. The library’s rooftop garden offers fresh air and city views, while the exhibition space on level 8 is host to roving art installations and interactive displays of local interest.

    Location: 350 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6B 6B1, Canada

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm, Friday from 9.30 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 604-331-3603


    photo by GoToVan (CC BY 2.0) modified


    VanDusen Botanical Garden

    Festival of lights is a winter family favourite

    • Couples
    • Budget
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    VanDusen Botanical Garden is a peaceful oasis found about 7 km south of downtown Vancouver. Its colourful gardens are spread over 22.25 hectares and include more than 7,500 plant species waiting to be discovered. Fans of all things floral will want to check VanDusen’s bloom calendar to see what’s expected to blossom during their winter visit. Guided tours are available every Sunday at 1 pm during the winter months, from Canadian Thanksgiving (early to mid-October) to 31 March.

    Those visiting the VanDusen garden from late November to early January are treated to its winter light festival, when some 6 hectares are lit up with more than a million lights and there’s music, food and a festive atmosphere to enjoy.

    Location: 5251 Oak St, Vancouver, BC V6M 4H1, Canada

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +1 604-257-8463


    Granville Island

    Vibrant spot for foodies and arts lovers

    Granville Island is a colourful, artsy neighbourhood set just a quick mini-tugboat ride across False Creek from downtown Vancouver. With its funky collection of shops, breweries, theatres and art studios set in converted industrial buildings, Granville Island is an appealing place to visit in winter as much as summer.

    Granville Island’s large indoor Public Market is a fun place to browse for fresh baked goods, fruit, vegetables, and a range of local arts and crafts. Pick up a snack to take away, or sit down for a meal from one of the tasty vendors in the food court. Families could explore the Kids Market, set in an easy-to-spot bright yellow building with toy shops, games, kids clothing, play areas, an arcade, and kid-friendly cafés.


    Cypress Mountain

    Vancouver’s largest ski resort

    • Adventure
    • Photo

    Cypress Mountain sits in the North Shore mountain range in West Vancouver, just 30 minutes by car from downtown Vancouver, offering some action-packed winter adventures. It hosts 53 ski runs and 19 km of cross-country ski trails. If you’ve had enough of skiing and snowboarding, you could try out the Snowtubing Park for some thrilling slides downhill.

    For those ready to strap on some snowshoes, there are snowshoeing tours available, or you could check out the Lights to the Lodge Snowshoeing experience, involving a 1-km snowshoe trek along an LED-lit trail through old-growth forest to Hollyburn Lodge. Stop for a meal or hot chocolate at the lodge before trekking back to the base area on a longer trail with more light displays.

    Location: 6000 Cypress Bowl Rd, West Vancouver, BC V7V 3N9, Canada

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 604-926-5612

    Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer

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