Over the Christmas season the Vancouver Aquarium features 4D holiday movies, special themed exhibits and a Scuba Claus Santa swimming with the fishes.
The aquarium hosts its annual Holiday Splash event during the Christmas season from November 12th, 2023, until January 7th, 2024. Other Christmas holiday events and attractions in the City of Vancouver include the Vancouver Christmas Market, Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden, PNE Winter Fair, Soar With Santa at FlyOver Canada, and Bright Nights at Stanley Park.
For general information about the attraction at other times of the year, see our article about the Vancouver Aquarium. For Christmas season details, continue reading below.
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.
Holiday Splash at the Aquarium
This year Holiday Splash at the Vancouver Aquarium runs from November 12th, 2023, until January 7th, 2024.
Some of the activities run daily for the entire season, while others only run up until December 24th.
Christmas isn’t a huge event at the Aquarium; rather, it’s just a few extra Christmas-y touches to an already interesting attraction. Traditional holiday activities include 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.
In 2022, Scuba Claus made his appearances at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm during Holiday Splash up until Christmas Eve. 2023 will likely be similar, but with exact details to be confirmed.
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: Photo opportunities with Santa were not available during the 2022/2023 season. In years that they do happen, they only take place up to and including Christmas Eve. After December 24th Santa’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 2022 just The Polar Express film showed. 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. The Polar Express is back again in 2023 too.
Apart from Scuba Claus (up until December 24th), the holiday films and a few Christmas trees, the rest of the Aquarium is pretty much as it is year-round. 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 charge, festive lights shine. In 2022 the jellyfish tank was 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
In 2022, daily hours until November 16th were from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. However, hours from December 17th to January 1st were from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Exceptions included Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve when the place was open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. On January 2nd the attraction opened at 10:00 am and closed at 5:00 pm. 2023 dates and times will likely be similar, but with exact details to be confirmed.
Admission costs in 2023 vary depending on when you book your tickets. General admission ranges from about $39 to $51 for adults. Tickets for children, students and seniors are available at discounted rates.
Note: Guests with disabilities or special needs can get free entry for their attendant when paying full price for themselves.
Membership Rates & Benefits
Annual membership rates for the Vancouver Aquarium as of the summer of 2023 were the following (excluding taxes):
- Families: $157.50 to $315 depending on number of adults and children
- Adults (ages 13 to 64): $78.75
- Seniors (ages 65+): $68.25
- Students (ages 18+ with valid student ID): $68.25
- Little Folks (ages 3 and under): free
Adult benefits of membership to the Vancouver Aquarium include free general admission, invitations to special events and discounts on food and gift shop purchases. Members can also bring guests inside for free on select days.
Tips & Advice
Below is a list of more tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your Christmas-time visit to the Aquarium.
Things to Know Before You Go
TIP #1: 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 #2: First thing in the morning is usually the least crowded time to be at the Aquarium.
TIP #3: 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.
Other Tips & Advice
TIP #1: If you think you might visit the Aquarium more than a couple of times in a 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 the 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.
TIP #4: Unless you have an annual membership and go all the time, expect to spend between about two and three hours at the venue.
TIP #5: 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 five-minute walk apart.
TIP #6: Maps of the facility are available in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and Spanish.
TIP #7: 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.
To learn more about the Christmas activities at the Aquarium, click Holiday Splash.
For more information about the attraction in general, see our article about the 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