Over the Christmas season the Vancouver Aquarium features 4D holiday movies, special themed exhibits and a Scuba Claus Santa swimming with the fishes.
Thanks to the coronavirus and its economic consequences, as of fall 2020 the aquarium is closed until further notice. As a result, special Christmas activities did not take place at the attraction in 2020. Details for future years, including when (and if) the attraction opens again are to be confirmed.
Christmas at the Vancouver Aquarium
Most years, from late November until early January, the Vancouver Aquarium adopts a Christmas theme. Holiday decorations are put up in its entrance foyer, there are photo opportunities with Santa Claus and movies like The Polar Express show in the venue’s 4D theatre.
For general information about the attraction at other times of the year, click Vancouver Aquarium. For Christmas season details, continue reading below.
Soak up the Season
Soak up the Season at the Vancouver Aquarium took place from late November until early January in 2019. Some of the activities ran daily for the entire season, while others only up until December 24th. The event won’t likely be happening in 2020 and 2021 details are to be confirmed.
Christmas isn’t a huge event at the Aquarium; rather, it’s just a few extra Christmas-y touches to an already interesting attraction.
In 2019 the Soak up the Season event ran from November 21st, 2019, until January 5th, 2020.
Holiday Traditions’ activities included Scuba Santa, 4D Christmas movies and exhibits with Christmas-themed decorations.
A Christmas favourite at the Vancouver Aquarium is Scuba Claus.
In the lead-up to Christmas, Santa Claus makes an appearance at the Vancouver Aquarium in a giant fish tank. Crowds gather at set times, Santa’s flippered feet first appear, and then a fully-equipped underwater-diving St. Nicholas swims around with the fish and poses for photos. The entire event only lasts for a few minutes, but it’s very popular and a treat for children.
Scuba Claus makes his appearance once or twice a day between late November and Christmas Eve.
TIP: Arrive at the Scuba Claus viewing area early to get a good spot to see from. It’s a popular event and fills up quickly. The best area for young kids is on the floor right at the front. Other good places include up the stairs or along the balcony at the top. In total, the show lasts for just a few minutes.
Photos with Santa
Photos of Scuba Claus in the fish tank are hard to take because it’s dark and the glass reflects flashes. A dry Santa is available for photos some years at specific times at the entrance to the Aquarium, however, and a wet Scuba Claus can be seen for about a minute upstairs after he gets out of the water.
Note: Scuba Claus and other photo opportunities with Santa only take place up to and including Christmas Eve most years. After December 24th he’s no longer around (as he’s either too busy delivering presents or recuperating from all his hard work).
Christmas 4D Movies
A fabulous attraction at the Vancouver Aquarium is the facility’s 4D theatre. Fish and other ocean-related shows run throughout the day year-round in other seasons, but from late November until early January the films are Christmas-y.
In previous years featured films at the 4D theatre have included the classic 2004 animation the Polar Express featuring the voice of Tom Hanks, and a new adaptation of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
In 2019 just The Polar Express film was showing. It’s a Christmas classic. It’s also definitely a kids’ movie and follows the story of a boy who goes on an adventure to the North Pole on a train.
Apart from Santa Claus (up until December 24th), the holiday films and a few Christmas trees, the rest of the Aquarium is pretty much as it is all year. There are a few exceptions, however. In some years the electric eel display is set up so that when the eel lets out an electric change a festive light shines, and a tank with jellyfish is made to look like a snow globe.
Other Aquarium Attractions
In addition to the various special Christmas features, visitors can enjoy all the Aquarium’s regular attractions. There are dolphin training sessions, sea otter shows and sea lions to see, all of which are outside. Indoors, where it’s warm and dry, there are numerous tanks with fish as well as educational talks about sharks and other marine life.
Aquarium Hours and Admission
Regular hours of operation for the attraction in winter are from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm seven days a week.
Exceptions include Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day when the place is open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, and on Christmas Day when it’s open from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm.
The following regular admission rates (excluding taxes) applied during the Christmas season in 2019. (Note: Prices and hours of operation were subject to change.)
- Adults: $38
- Seniors (ages 65+): $30
- Youth (ages 13 to 18): $30
- Students (ages 18+ with valid student ID): $30
- Children (ages 4 to 12): $21
- Little Folk (ages 3 and under): free
TIP: Show your Compass Card or DayPass transit ticket and save $2. Bike to the Aquarium and show your bike helmet and save the same.
Note: Guests with disabilities or special needs can get 50% off general admission, or free entry for their attendant when paying full price for themselves.
Membership Rates & Benefits
Annual membership rates for the Vancouver Aquarium are the following (excluding taxes):
- Families: $215
- Adults: $86
- Seniors (ages 65+): $57
- Youth (ages 13 to 18): $57
- Students (ages 18+ with valid student ID): $57
- Children (ages 4 to 12): $43
- Little Folk (ages 3 and under): free
Two year memberships are also available for slightly less than double the regular annual membership price.
Adult benefits of membership to the Vancouver Aquarium include free general admission, invitations to special events and 20% discounts on food, gift shop purchases and up to two additional guests per visit. Aquarium members also get a 20% discount on admission to a number of other local attractions including Science World, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Vancouver Zoo and Vancouver Art Gallery.
Note: Child members may qualify for some but not all of the above benefits.
Tips and Advice
Below is a list of more tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Christmas-time visit to the Aquarium.
TIP #1: If you think you might visit the Aquarium more than a couple of times over the course of the year, consider getting an annual membership. Young children never tire of the place, and it’s one of Vancouver’s best places to be on a rainy day (or at least the indoor part of it is).
TIP #2: If you purchase your annual membership in December you’ll be able to enjoy the Christmas-time features both this year and next.
TIP #3: Combine your trip to the Vancouver Aquarium with a visit to Bright Nights at Stanley Park where admission is by donation. The world-famous Christmas attraction and miniature train are just a short walk away. Bright Nights is best seen in the dark as its main feature is all the Christmas lights. Matinee train rides up until about 2:30 pm though cost only $6 per person. After that the railway prices increase to between $8 and $12.
TIP #4: It’s pay parking at the Vancouver Aquarium, but normally free in the parking lots by the Bright Nights attraction during the Christmas season. The two places are only about a 5-minute walk apart.
TIP #5: The Aquarium is a good place to enjoy Christmas-themed activities indoors on rainy days. Half of the venue is inside, but the other half though is outside. If the forecast calls for precipitation, don’t forget an umbrella.
TIP #6: First thing in the morning is usually the least crowded time to be at the Aquarium.
TIP #7: Check the daily schedule and plan your visit around it. The Aquarium isn’t inexpensive, but if you take in a movie and see a couple of the marine life shows you’ll get your money’s worth. Some shows take place just once or twice a day, so make sure you don’t miss whatever strikes you as most appealing.
TIP #8: Maps of the facility are available in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and Spanish.
TIP #9: Unless you have an annual membership and go all the time, expect to spend between about 2 and 3 hours at the venue.
TIP #10: If you paid for a day ticket and then realize you’ll want to come again, if it’s on the same day, you can apply the cost of your general admission ticket to the cost of an annual membership. If you are bringing out-of-town guests with you, however, be sure to get the annual membership right at the start so that your friends can get their 20% discounts.
For more information about the attraction in general, click Vancouver Aquarium.
For ideas on other things to do throughout Metro Vancouver, check out any of the following:
- Best Christmas Activities
- Vancouver’s (December) Calendar of Events
- Vancouver’s Top 24 Attractions
- Metro Vancouver’s Top 100 Places