The Aurora Winter Festival is Vancouver’s newest Christmas-themed attraction with holiday lights, market vendors and amusement rides in December 2018.
This article contains the following information:
What to Expect | Dates & Times | Admission Prices | Amusement Rides | Tubing Park | Food Gardens | Market Vendors | Ice Skating | Entertainment | Santa’s Workshop | Mystical Worlds | Tips & Advice | Other Information
Aurora Winter Festival 2018
A new North Pole-inspired Christmas festival has arrived in Vancouver. The attraction includes market vendors, a tubing slide, outdoor skating rink, food trucks, live entertainment, visits with Santa Claus and various family-friendly activities.
The Aurora Winter Festival runs from November 23rd until December 30th, 2018. It takes place at Concord Pacific Place which is located near the eastern tip of False Creek not far from Science World.
What to Expect
The Aurora Winter Festival is a magical place and great for young families.
To get an idea of what it might look like, take the present-day Vancouver Christmas Market and Enchant Christmas Festival (an attraction from a couple of years ago), and combine them together. Then add a tubing hill like you might find up at one of the local ski hills, but a smaller version, plus the ice rink at Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas. Combine everything together in one spot, divide by two, place it in Concord Pacific Place, and that’s what you’ll see at the Aurora Winter Festival in 2018.
At the event there is a tubing park, a Food Gardens area with food stalls, a Main Street with market vendors and a Frozen River to go ice skating on. There is also an Entertainment Tent where live music and other performances take place, Santa’s Workshop where kids can visit Santa Claus and have their photos taken, and a Mystical Worlds area with a small maze, illuminations and other things to see. There are also a small number of amusement rides including a Ferris wheel.
Festival Dates and Times
The Aurora Winter Festival runs from November 23rd until December 30th in 2018. It’s open most days during that time except for Mondays, the first Tuesday and both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In other words, the attraction is open on November 23-25 and 28-30 as well as on December 1-2, 4-9, 11-16, 18-23 and 26-30.
The hours of operation are daily from 4 pm until 10 pm.
VANCOUVER CHRISTMAS MARKET
Be sure to also check out Vancouver’s original German-themed winter holiday market at Jack Poole Plaza. Admission there is between just $5 and $12 for folk ages 7+, or $1 more for an annual pass. Click Vancouver Christmas Market for details.
Festival Admission Prices
Admission to the Aurora Winter Festival includes access to the entire venue. Prices for 2018 are the following (all plus GST and online service charges):
- Adults (ages 13-64): $19.99
- Seniors (ages 65+): $14.99
- Children (ages 4-12): $14.99
- Families (up to 5 members): $59.99
- Tots & Infants (ages 3 and under): Free
Access to the entire venue is included with the price of admission, but some things do cost extra. Food, drinks and market vendor merchandise all require more money, obviously. There are also additional costs for the Tubing Park slides and amusement rides. Skating on the Frozen River is free, but you have to bring your own skates or rent them there.
Tokens for the rides cost $4 each (including taxes), or three for $10 or eight for $20.
In case you were interested, and for reference, the above general admission rates are comparable to those of the (similar but unrelated) Enchant Christmas Festival from a couple of years ago. Admission to the Enchant event in 2016 was about $23 after taxes and online fees for adults (ages 16+) when purchased online, and $18 for both seniors and children. Family passes at Enchant cost $60 for a family of 2 adults and up to 3 children, so also pretty much the same as the Aurora Festival.
VANDUSEN FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
For amazing holiday lights and festive cheer be sure to also check out the illuminations at VanDusen Botanical Gardens. They are amazing and tickets there cost between just $11.00 and $18.50 online, or free for children ages 3 and under. Click VanDusen Garden at Christmas for details.
Things to See and Do
The venue at the Aurora Winter Festival is divided up into a number of zones. There are the Amusement Rides, Tubing Park, Food Gardens, Main Street, Frozen River, Entertainment Tent, Santa’s Workshop and Mystical Worlds areas. Each zone features different activities and attractions. Between them all, there is something for everyone.
Amusement rides at the Aurora Winter Festival include a 60-foot-high Ferris wheel offering fabulous views for visitors of all ages. There is also a Choo-Choo Train and Berry-Go-Round for little kids. All three rides cost extra and tickets can be purchased at the venue. Again, tokens for rides cost $4 each or 3 for $10 or 8 for $20.
Tubing Park Sliding Area
The Tubing Park consists of a 20-foot-high and 180-foot-long tubing slide structure consisting of four or so tracks. Tubes to sit in are provided, but, the same as the amusement rides, trips down the slides cost extra.
TIP: Free tubing nights take place on November 23, 28 and 29 as well as on December 4, 5 and 6. Expect there to be huge lineups those evenings, but at least you won’t have to pay extra for the sliding!
The Food Gardens is an area featuring a dozen or more of Vancouver’s most popular food truck vendors. Menu items for sale include everything from Mexican to Japanese, Chinese and Italian, plus traditional North American comfort foods and both vegetarian and vegan options.
In the Food Gardens area expect to see Cravings Kettle Corn, Dim Sum Express, Fat Duck, Green Coast Coffee, Japanese Teriyaki Express, Los Tacos Hermanos, Meat & Bread, Old Country Pierogi, Reel Mac and Cheese, Tin Lizzy, Wood Fired Pizza and The Rolling Cashew, plus other local food truck vendors.
Main Street Market Vendors
Main Street at the Aurora Winter Festival consists of a couple of rows of huts with market vendors selling everything from jewellery to boutique clothing, honey, fancy soaps, Christmas pyjamas, art, and both Czech and Italian pastries. There is also a face-painting and temporary tattoos station.
Expect the Main Street market vendor area to be similar (but not quite the same) to what you’ll find at the Vancouver Christmas Market which takes place at the other end of downtown Vancouver.
Frozen River Ice Skating
The Frozen River is where visitors to the Aurora Winter Festival can go ice skating. It’s located in a corner of the venue. Unlike most other skating facilities in Vancouver, it’s not a traditional rectangular or oval rink. Nor is it covered. Instead, the Frozen River is an outdoor frozen-river-like area of ice with light displays to admire and skate around.
Ice skating on the Frozen River is free with admission. You need to rent skates, however, or bring your own equipment.
TIP: Another great place for skating in Vancouver is at Robson Square. Ice skating there is free, rentals are available, and hours of operation are from 9 am to 9 pm most weekdays and from 9 am until 11 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, from December 13 to 24, there are free concerts right by the rink!
The Entertainment Tent at the Aurora Winter Festival is a heated indoor facility where people can buy refreshments and enjoy live music and other performances. Animated Christmas movies also show silently at times on a large screen.
The live entertainment takes place at various times and items for sale include hot cocoa, mulled wine and miscellaneous munchies. There are also lots of picnic tables to sit at.
Santa’s Workshop is an indoor domed facility where visitors can find Mr. Claus and various members of his entourage. It’s also where kids can do art projects at craft stations and write letters to Santa.
In Santa’s Workshop, at scheduled times, Santa also entertains audiences with Christmas-y stories.
At busy times you need to get a token and book your time, both for the story-time sessions with Santa and for photo opportunities with the big guy in red (although at the Aurora Winter Festival he’s usually dressed in gold instead).
Mystical Worlds is an area at the Aurora Winter Festival that features special light displays and other pretty things to see. Mystical Worlds attractions include the Arctic Retreat, Disco Den, Luminous Gardens and Whimsical Forest. It’s an area that will especially appeal to young families and little children.
In the Mystical Worlds area the Disco Den is where you’ll likely find Yin the Yeti and the DJ Ice Elf. Also inside the Disco Den are large animal sculptures, a yeti cave, LED lights and a disco dance floor for dancing.
Also part of the Mystical Worlds, the Arctic Retreat is a fairly simple maze with snow and ice-like walls, real ice sculptures and other things to find and admire.
The Luminous Gardens section of the Mystical Worlds is where you’ll find a small palace, ice throne, unicorn and garden-like displays. The Whimsical Forest, meanwhile, is another small area with a fox character statue, gingerbread hut and gnome village.
Tips & Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your experience at the Aurora Winter Festival.
TIP #1: Take public transit if you can. The Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station is just a short walk away.
TIP #2: If you want to go for a spin on the Frozen River, to avoid having to pay extra to rent equipment, don’t forget to take your skates (and helmets if you have kids). Also remember though that you’ll then have to carry the stuff around with you for the rest of the evening.
TIP #3: Don’t forget your camera! There is a lot to take photos of, including Santa and all the Christmas illuminations.
TIP #4: If you’re on a tight budget but still want to see amazing Christmas decorations, be sure to also check out Bright Nights at Stanley Park. Admission there is by donation, proceeds benefit a great cause, and the venue features over 3 million lights.
TIP #5: If you like Christmas shopping and markets, be sure to also check out the Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza by the Vancouver Convention Centre. The market there features vendors selling a wide range of beautiful, very high-quality and (in some cases) tasty artisan products. There is also a carousel, scavenger hunt and crafts for kids, live music and adult beverages to enjoy.
For further details about the attraction see the Aurora Winter Festival website.
For information about other activities taking place in Vancouver at around the same time, check out the following:
- Vancouver’s November Calendar
- Vancouver’s December Calendar
- Top Things to do at Christmas
- Vancouver’s Best Christmas Activities
- Lower Mainland Festivals & Events