A Christmas tradition is the annual Carol Ships Parade of Lights which takes place over a number of December evenings in different parts of Metro Vancouver.
Many Metro Vancouver Christmas events have already been cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the tradition of Carol Ships Parade of Lights lives on this year (or at least that’s the hope)! Boats covered in festive lights can likely be seen on Friday and Saturday evenings between December 4th and 19th. Continue reading below for more details.
Vancouver Carol Ships at Christmas
The Carol Ships Parade of Lights used to be a formal festival with its own website and series of organized events. The event’s official website hasn’t been functioning for the last couple of years, however, so it appears the formality of the festival has likewise sort of disappeared.
That being said, the tradition of boats getting decked out in holiday lights and parading around Vancouver’s waterways will likely still happen this year.
Pre-2017, when the Carol Ships Parade of Lights was a more formal event, processions took place on as many as 16 evenings between the beginning of December and around mid-month. Most of the processions were fairly small and informal, but still nice to see.
As of late November in 2020, the hope is that boats can be seen between 7 pm and 9 pm on the following evenings (although dates and locations are subject to change):
- Friday, December 4th, 2020 – in Port Moody and Dollarton.
- Saturday, December 5th, 2020 – in Deep Cove.
- Friday, December 11th, 2020 – at Rocky Point Pier and Ioco in Port Moody.
- Saturday, December 12th, 2020 – in Belcarra Bay near Belcarra Regional Park.
- Friday, December 18th, 2020 – in Bedwell Bay and Farrer Cove.
- Saturday, December 19th, 2020 – at Brighton Beach in North Vancouver.
In 2019, main processions of boats and their lights were the following:
- Saturday, November 30, 2019 – Shipyards Christmas Festival: free Christmas-y activities at the Shipyards in North Vancouver between 4:00 and 7:00 pm. Featured at the event was an artisan market, the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree and live entertainment. Carol ships from the Burrard Yacht Club were also scheduled to make a brief appearance at the event and sail by.
- Saturday, November 30, 2019 – Holiday Cheer at the Pier: a community event at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody with a miniature train, live entertainment and snacks in the evening. After the carol ships left the Shipyards’ event in North Vancouver they headed over here for an appearance at this event too. Some years though, due to weather, tides and other factors, they don’t always make it. Even without the carol ships though, Holiday Cheer at the Pier is a fun little community event.
- Saturday, December 14, 2019 – Carol Ships Shoreline Celebration: a free community event at Deep Cove’s Panorama Park in North Vancouver that features a bonfire, music, craft activities for kids, and boats with Christmas lights motoring around out on the water between 7:30 and 9 pm.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Carol Ships Parade of Lights experience.
TIP #1: Take binoculars if you have them as the boats can be a fair ways off shore.
TIP #2: Most of the boats participating in the event are commercial tour boats, so if you make reservations you can experience the procession on board. The Carol Ships Parade of Lights can be nice for people to see from shore, but often even more enjoyable for the folks out on the water.
TIP #3: With the above-mentioned events, the main activities are on land. The boats with their lights to see are pretty, and a nice element of the festivals onshore, but seeing them isn’t really a huge event in itself.
TIP #4: If the weather is poor there will be fewer boats to see (so don’t get your hopes up too high). Also, the boats aren’t always the most reliable. Sometimes they arrive on time according to schedule, and sometimes they don’t.
Other articles you might be interested in include the following:
- Vancouver Harbour Cruises
- Vancouver Christmas Concerts
- December Calendar of Events
- Festivals & Events
- Best Christmas Activities
- Top Things to do at Christmas in Vancouver