There are many places in Metro Vancouver to see sparkling Christmas lights, admire seasonal decorations and enjoy the festive winter holiday season.
There are gardens with amazing illumination displays, gingerbread house competitions, Christmas musical performances, holiday markets to explore, popular attractions all lit up and a whole lot more.
Top Holiday Season Activities
Below are what, in our opinion, are the top dozen places in Metro Vancouver to see Christmas lights, holiday decorations and get into the festive spirit.
(Note: As what is a “best place” for one person is different from a “best place” for someone else, our list is not in order or any form of ranking, although we do list some of our favourite free venues first.)
1. VanDusen Festival of Lights
Interested in seeing amazing light displays in Vancouver’s finest botanical garden? This is a must see! Prices range from about $11 to $23 or so per person.
At the event there are hundreds of thousands of sparkling Christmas lights, carousel rides, visits with Santa and other fun stuff! It’s truly one of our favourite places for getting into a festive Christmas spirit!
Click VanDusen Festival of Lights for more information.
In 2018 the Festival of Lights runs from December 1st to January 6th.
2. Christmas at FlyOver Canada
FlyOver Canada is an exceptional multi-dimensional movie theatre attraction at Canada Place where you get to “fly over” Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and then up to the Arctic. During the Christmas season the attraction adopts a wonderful winter holiday theme.
In the Christmas version of the experience guests are entertained by elves and get to follow Santa on his travels across the country.
Click FlyOver Canada at Christmas for details.
FlyOver Canada hosts its Christmas shows this season from November 22nd until January 6th.
3. Glow Christmas in Langley
Glow Christmas is an indoor attraction with over half a million lights and numerous family-friendly things to see and do. There is an artisan market at the event as well as Christmas light displays, activities for children and live music.
Celebrating its second year, Glow Christmas runs from November 22, 2018, until January 19, 2019. It’s open Monday thru Saturday between November 22 and January 5, plus six additional days in January.
For more information click Glow Christmas.
4. Vancouver Christmas Market
The Vancouver Christmas Market is Vancouver’s original German-themed outdoor holiday market. It’s home to dozens of artisan vendors and food stalls selling a wide range of festive products. Located at Jack Poole Plaza beside the Convention Centre, it also features a carousel ride and live entertainment.
The market is interesting and of high quality, there’s a nice festive atmosphere to it, and the event is about as authentic a German Christmas market as you can get in a place like Vancouver.
Regular admission ranges from around $5-$10. If you are looking for an outdoor market with interesting knick-knacks to see while enjoying mulled wine or cider with friends, then this can be a great place to be.
Click Vancouver Christmas Market for more information.
Open daily between November 21 and December 24 in 2018.
5. Bright Nights at Stanley Park
Vancouver’s Stanley Park hosts the most amazing presentation of Christmas lights and festive themed displays in the Lower Mainland, with over three million sparkling lights viewed by gazillions of people each year. Admission is by donation, with funds going to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
The classic night train costs about $9-$12 and requires waiting in line due to its popularity, but it’s fun for the kids. Bright Nights offers exceptional value and is our top choice for Christmas lights for young children.
Click Bright Nights at Stanley Park for more information.
Bright Nights is open from November 27, 2018, until January 6, 2019
6. Lights at Lafarge in Coquitlam
The decorations are beautiful, the walk around the lake is most pleasant, the scenery is wonderful and the attraction is completely free! The venue is also conveniently located near the Lafarge Lake-Douglas SkyTrain Station. If you live in the area or have never been, we highly recommend it.
For more information, click Lights at Lafarge.
In 2018 the attraction starts up on November 24th and it runs until January 20th, 2019.
7. Heritage Christmas in Burnaby
Burnaby Village’s Heritage Christmas is the best holiday festive deal in Metro Vancouver – not only is it a great place to get into the Christmas mood, but it’s also free! It doesn’t have the best or largest displays of Christmas lights and decorations, but for the price they charge it’s still impressive, plus you get interesting pieces of history thrown in to boot!
Click Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village for more information.
This year Heritage Christmas takes place from November 24th until January 4th.
8. Canyon Lights at Capilano
Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver are not inexpensive, but they are amazing. Their Christmas lights win top prize for being tastefully displayed, and the bridges and unique walkways make this a one-of-a-kind Christmas experience.
Click Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge for more information.
In 2018, Canyon Lights is open from November 22, 2018, until January 27, 2019.
9. Aurora Winter Festival
Vancouver’s newest Christmas attraction is the Aurora Winter Festival which celebrates its inaugural year in 2018. We haven’t seen it yet, so admittedly can’t guarantee it should be in our list of top 10 favourite places at Christmas. From the sounds of it though, we’re pretty sure it’ll deserve to be here.
The Aurora Winter Festival promises to be a massive event with a wide variety of things to see and do. It’ll have a Christmas-themed vendor market, an outdoor skating rink, tubing slides, beautiful displays and live entertainment. It’ll also of course offer photo opportunities with Santa, plus amazing background settings for taking selfies!
The location of the festival is another one of its strengths. It’ll be located at Concord Pacific Place, so close to downtown and the Main Street – Science World SkyTrain Station.
Click Aurora Winter Festival for further details about Vancouver’s newest major Christmas attraction.
Open most evenings (but not all) between November 23rd and December 30th.
10. Peak of Christmas at Grouse
Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver offers some of the best Christmas-time activities in the Lower Mainland. There are Christmas movies in the theatre, sleigh rides, Santa to visit and gingerbread houses (most years) all on display and included with admission. There is also ice skating, trails for snowshoeing, fine dining and of course the great ski slopes with their amazing views of Vancouver below.
At a cost of about $90 or so for a family, the Peak of Christmas isn’t cheap. Admission is included with a ski ticket or advance reservations for dinner at the Observatory Restaurant, however, which makes all the attractions suddenly become a pretty good deal.
Click Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain for more information.
The Peak of Christmas runs from November 23, 2018, until January 6, 2019.
11. Holiday Heights at Bloedel
Holiday Heights at Bloedel is a very popular indoor attraction at the Bloedel Conservatory at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park. The glass-domed building gets decorated with Christmas lights and decorations in the last couple of weeks or so of December.
During the rest of the year the Bloedel Conservatory is a great indoor venue to see tropical plants and birds. During the winter holiday season you’ll find Christmas characters hidden around the place and beautiful illuminations at night.
For more information click Holiday Heights at Bloedel.
Open between 10 am and 9 pm every day between December 14th and January 6th (except for Christmas Day).
12. Holiday Hi-Light Festival
If you plan to be in North Vancouver and want to see some good free Christmas lights, then check out the displays at Park and Tilford mall. Admission is by donation.
The Holiday Hi-Light Festival illuminations aren’t as impressive as the lights at Stanley Park, or at more expensive places like VanDusen Garden or Capilano Suspension Bridge, but, considering they’re free, they are actually quite impressive and well worth checking out, especially during Family Nights which take place on Friday evenings in December.
Click Park and Tilford Holiday Hi-Light Festival for more information.
Open nightly from November 30 until December 31.
For more ideas on things to do during the Christmas season, check out Vancouver’s Best Places’ December Calendar.
Other Christmas Activities
In addition to the above top 12 things to do at Christmas, below are other great holiday traditions. Again, recognizing that what’s a “best place” for one person is different for other people, one could argue that some of the following should actually be in our list of the very top ten places (and they might be right). For that reason, we include these extras here.
Christmas Craft Fairs
November and December are the months for Christmas crafts fairs, and there are lots of them in Metro Vancouver. For a list of craft fairs click Lower Mainland Christmas Craft Fairs.
Christmas Plays & Theatre
The Christmas season is a great time to see a holiday show.
For a sample of a variety of theatre options from last year, click Vancouver December Theatre.
The Christmas season is a great time of year for music and the performing arts. There are choirs and orchestras performing throughout the Lower Mainland.
Some of our favourite music any time of the year is offered by the following groups:
- Vancouver Bach Choir
- Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
- Vancouver Chamber Choir
- Chor Leoni Men’s Choir (an exceptional group made up of largely professional singers).
- Vancouver Oratorio Choir (a 90 or so member choir of Christian vocalists and musicians).
- Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir (an excellent male voice choir).
- VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir (they do great performances throughout the year, including an especially festive one for Christmas each December).
Click Christmas Concerts 2017 for a sample list of performances and dates in the Lower Mainland from last year.
Christmas at Canada Place
If you plan to be in downtown Vancouver between mid-December and the end of the month, then check out The Canadian Trail along Canada Place‘s West Promenade. It’s just a few blocks from Waterfront Station, next door to the new Vancouver Convention Centre building, and only a few blocks from Gastown and the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre.
Christmas at Canada Place takes place from late November until the end of December.
Hyatt Gingerbread Lane
For the best display of gingerbread houses in Vancouver, check out Gingerbread Lane downtown at the Hyatt Regency on Burrard Street near Georgia. The hotel’s foyer becomes home to dozens of beautiful and delicious-looking gingerbread creations. It’s not necessarily a destination of its own, but if you are in the area it’s worth a visit.
For more information, click Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt Regency.
The gingerbread houses are on display from November 30th until December 28th in 2018.
Other Christmas Activities
- Christmas plays and theatre throughout town – see Vancouver’s Shows and Entertainment Calendar for details.
- Robson Square Ice Skating – free ice skating from the beginning of December until February from 9 am to 9 pm daily, and until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturday nights.
- Christmas at the Cannery – the historic site at Steveston Village in Richmond is decorated with Christmas trees from area businesses all month, making December a good time to visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.
- Dundarave Festival of Lights – decorated Christmas trees in West Vancouver throughout December in the Forest of Miracles, and free concerts on the three or so Saturdays leading up to Christmas. It’s not a big event, but good to combine with a walk along the seawall on a sunny day in the late afternoon.
- Yule Duel: Caroling for a Cause – A friendly competition between choirs from across Metro Vancouver for a night of holiday entertainment benefiting a Downtown Eastside hospice. It takes place in Gastown on the sidewalks of Water Street on an evening in early December.
- A Fort Langley Christmas – Christmas-themed decorations and activities at the historic fort in the Fraser Valley (December 21-23 and 27-30, 2018).