Vancouver’s Granville Island is a great place to do Christmas shopping. You’ll find unique gifts, great restaurants and beautiful winter holiday illuminations.
In 2020 the entertainment district is decorated with Christmas lights and holiday decorations between November 12th, 2020, and January 3rd, 2021. Admission is free, and so is the parking!
To learn about what the neighbourhood looks like during the last seven or so weeks of the year, read our article below or visit the Granville Island website. Also below you’ll find a video showcasing the place at night during the Christmas season in 2020.
As per government orders related to health authority efforts to contain COVID-19, British Columbians are advised not to travel for non-essential reasons. If you live within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region you are welcome to walk around and explore the holiday lights and shops at Granville Island. If you live outside the Vancouver Coastal Health Region, however, and you want to enjoy the free light displays, you can still do so drive-thru-style from the comfort and safety of your car!
To learn more see Granville Island’s website about their Holiday Lights Drive-Thru. To learn about the district’s policies related to public safety and the coronavirus, see the Granville Island Safety Plan.
Holiday Lights at Granville Island in November and December
Granville Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver throughout the year. It’s busiest in the summer, late spring and early fall, but equally interesting at other times of the year too. During the last seven or so weeks of the year when days are getting shorter, the place is lit up at night with festive lights which makes the neighbourhood look extra magical.
What to Expect During the Holiday Season
If you visit Granville Island between mid-November and the beginning of January you can expect to see beautiful lights and illuminations at night. During the day you’ll find all sorts of wonderful gift ideas in the shops. And in the evening you can admire the illuminations, eat dinner at a restaurant and take in a show (or at least you can in years when theatres aren’t closed because of COVID-19).
Over the Christmas season there are light displays at different places on the island. In 2020, in the middle of the Granville Island courtyard outside the Public Market by the waterfront, there is a giant star that makes for some wonderful evening photos. On the other side of the Granville Island Public Market, there are trees, buildings and other structures covered in lights to admire.
At the southeast end of the island, not far from the Granville Island Hotel and Dockside Restaurant, the landmark industrial crane is lit up and looking beautiful. Outside the Performance Works Theatre the trees are full of giant sparkling musical note-shaped decorations.
Closer to the middle of the island, Railspur Alley is all lit up and looking extra pretty, as are a number of the other streets in the area.
While the lights are a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, there are other activities to make your time in the neighbourhood extra special. The place is home to a variety of unique specialty stores that are open until 6:00 pm most days this time of year. The Public Market is definitely worth a visit, as are the boutiques in the Net Loft and other shops around the site. There are also plenty of one-of-a-kind places to grab a bite to eat on the island.
For full details about the area during the Christmas season see the Granville Island website.
Christmas Lights Video
To give you even more of an idea of what to expect at night at Granville Island during the Christmas season, check out the following video. It was filmed in November of 2020. The video begins with scenes of the historic industrial crane, the Granville Island Hotel and tree decorations near the Performance Works theatre venue.
Other scenes in the video include lights along Johnson Avenue and Railspur Alley, the star light sculpture by the waterfront, the Arts Club Theatre‘s Granville Island Stage, and all the many lights in front of the Granville Island Public Market.
The following video was taken in the late evening in the middle of November. It was late, after the market and other stores had all closed. It was also raining off and on when we did the filming, which explains why there are so few people in the scenes. As you’ll see in the video though, the place looks quite magical. There aren’t lights everywhere, but, where they are, they are beautiful. Earlier in the evening, and later in the holiday season, the place can get lively and busy (but still comfortably so).
Hours and Admission
Admission to Granville Island is always free, and parking during the Christmas season in 2020 is free too! The holiday lights and decorations are up from November 12th, 2020, until January 3rd, 2021.
The Public Market has special holiday hours. It is closed on December 25th and the 26th, as well as on January 1st. The market is open daily though from December 1st until the 23rd between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the market is open but closes one hour earlier.
Operating hours of stores inside the Net Loft building vary, but for most of December the place is open between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. The same as the Public Market, stores in the Net Loft are closed on December 25th and 26th, and then again on January 1st. The Kids Market is open during similar hours and dates.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your visit to the neighbourhood during the Christmas holiday season.
TIP #1: If you are looking for unique Christmas gift ideas and want to support small local businesses and BC-based artists and artisans, there is no better place to shop than Granville Island.
TIP #2: If you go between around 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm, you can see all the Christmas lights but also shop while the market and all the stores are still open. And if you stay even later, you can enjoy dinner while you’re there.
TIP #3: The False Creek Seawall goes right by Granville Island. If you go earlier in the day, and want to go for a walk while enjoying world-class views of the city, the seawall is a great place to do that. It’s also a great activity to combine with a visit to Granville Island for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat.
TIP #4: Granville Island is one of Vancouver’s top tourist attractions. If you go you’ll see why. And if you have friends or family visiting from out of town, be sure to introduce them to the place. They’ll love it!
TIP #5: The Granville Island Hotel is a boutique hotel that gets really good reviews. It’s a great place to stay if you want a mini vacation and to base yourself close to some of Vancouver’s most interesting shops, theatres and restaurants.
TIP #6: Don’t forget that parking is free at Granville Island in 2020. It normally costs a couple of dollars per hour up until 6:00 pm, but not this year thanks to the pandemic.
TIP #7: In addition to driving, public transit and either walking or cycling along the seawall, another way to get to Granville Island is by boat with False Creek Ferries or the Aquabus. The boats are a fun way to get around and they make regular stops at the Granville Island waterfront up until about 7:00 pm.
TIP #8: While COVID-19 remains a problem, don’t forget to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, maintain appropriate physical distancing and socialize just with people from within your bubble.
TIP #9: If you go to Granville Island at night, be sure to explore the whole neighbourhood. The majority of the illuminations are concentrated outside the Public Market and around Triangle Square, but there are Christmas lights in other areas too.
Granville Island and COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic is impacting shops, restaurants and tourist attractions throughout Metro Vancouver and the entire world. Granville Island is no exception. The popular neighbourhood is taking lots of extra precautions though to keep visitors safe.
When we visited in mid-November 2020 we were impressed with the measures being taken to protect the public. There were hand-sanitizing stations everywhere, almost everyone was wearing a mask, and stores were admitting a limited number of customers at any one time.
As of mid-November 2020, masks were not mandatory at Granville Island. They were, however, highly recommended. When we went, almost everyone was wearing one, which was great to see. Since our visit, as of December, everyone in BC has to wear a mask in indoor public places. People are also reminded to shop and dine out only with people from within their immediate “bubbles”.
To encourage people to come to the area, parking throughout Granville Island is free until at least the end of 2020!
To learn more about the district, read our Granville Island page.
For more information regarding the Christmas lights on the island, see the Granville Island website.
Other articles that may be of interest include the following:
- Shopping on Granville Island
- Vancouver’s Best Christmas Activities
- Christmas Craft Fairs in the Lower Mainland
- Lower Mainland Events in December
- Free Events in December