Top activities in Vancouver in January include skiing and other snow sports, winter festivals, dining out and being outdoors when it’s not raining.
Because of COVID-19, what is usually a “best activity” in the month of January won’t necessarily be the same in 2021. That’s because some of the most popular annual events and activities have been cancelled.
Below we list top activities in typical years. In some cases they will still be possible and fun to do in 2021. In other cases though, people will have to wait until the future to do them.
BE SAFE AND BE RESPONSIBLE!
Whatever you do in January of 2021, be sure to wear a mask and to keep your distance from other people. Also, stay close to home and stick to your bubble (e.g., people from within your immediate household). There is a vaccine now, but it’ll take months before the pandemic is over!
The information provided below includes recommended activities in January both this year and in typical years (so it includes activities that have been cancelled for 2021 because of COVID-19.)
January Events & Things to Do
Below you’ll find a list of recommended winter activities as well as January’s best festivals, events and live entertainment.
As you’ll see from our list, highlights of the month most years include seeing live theatre at places like the Arts Club or Vancouver Theatresports, snowshoeing in Grouse Mountain’s Light Walk trails, tubing at Cypress and Mount Seymour and enjoying the snow at any of the region’s great ski hills. Another top activity most years is dining at restaurants during the Vancouver Dine Out Festival (which normally takes place in January, although not in 2021).
Note: In 2021, at least for the beginning of the month, all live theatre venues are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Also this year, unlike in the past, the Vancouver Dine Out Festival runs from early February until early March instead.
Top January Activities
January is typically a fairly cold, dark and wet month, so best things to do include indoor activities most days, snow sports in the mountains anytime it’s not raining at higher elevations, and outdoor recreational activities close to town whenever it’s sunny.
Festivals, Events and Shows
Special events in January include the following:
- Polar Bear Swim at English Bay Beach – hundreds of crazy participants turn out for an icy dip in the ocean, and thousands more turn out to watch on January 1st in the early afternoon. Similar events also take place in White Rock, Port Moody, Delta and in North Vancouver’s Deep Cove. (Note: These have all been cancelled for 2021.)
- Dine Out Vancouver Festival – dozens of restaurants offer special multi-course meals during the last half of January throughout the Lower Mainland. (TIP: Combine dinner out with a show or a stroll outdoors.) (Running from February 5th until March 7th in 2021, so not in January this year.)
- PuSh Festival – this International Performing Arts Festival runs from mid-January to early February most years. (Scheduled to run from January 26th until February 7th in 2021, but with exact details to be confirmed.)
- Soar Over Taiwan – an Asian-themed flying-experience attraction at FlyOver Canada runs from mid-January until mid-February in 2020. (To be confirmed for 2021.)
- Chinese New Year – this takes place in February most years, but sometimes in January (although not in 2021 or 2022). Examples of activities include the following (but there are more):
- River District Lion Dances – Chinese New Year lion dances and free refreshments at River District Vancouver.
- Vancouver Lunarfest – Lunar New Year activities in the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza and other venues on various dates.
- Chinese New Year Parade – a major cultural event through the streets of Chinatown.
- Performing Arts Productions – for live entertainment opportunities check out Vancouver’s Shows and Entertainment listing.
January Christmas Attractions
Christmas might be over, but some of the Lower Mainland’s best Christmas-themed attractions continue for a bit of January. Some of our favourites include the following:
- PNE WinterLights – a new Christmas drive-thru attraction at the Pacific National Exhibition. (It runs until January 3rd in 2021.)
- Glow Vancouver – a popular attraction with holiday illuminations in the Fraser Valley. It’s still open until January 9th in 2021.
- Festival of Lights – the Christmas lights and festivities at VanDusen Botanical Garden. (Cancelled for the 2020/21 season due to COVID-19.)
- Lights on the Lake – Christmas illuminations and light displays line the waterfront at Harrison Hot Springs. (To be confirmed for January 2021.)
- Lights at Lafarge – the Christmas illuminations at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park usually continue well into January. (Cancelled for the 2020/21 season due to COVID-19.)
- Christmas at FlyOver Canada – the multi-dimensional film experience at Canada Place continues its Christmas holiday theme most years until the first few days or so of January. (Cancelled for the 2020/21 season due to COVID-19.)
Vancouver Indoor Activities
Best ways to escape the winter weather in Vancouver include the following most years (but in some cases not in 2021):
- Dining Out – eating out is a great indoor activity anytime of the year, but especially in the second half of January during the Dine Out Vancouver Festival when hundreds of restaurants are offering special deals. (TIP: To make the experience especially memorable, combine your dinner out with other activities listed below.) (Note: You can still eat out at restaurants in January, assuming there aren’t any government orders not to because of COVID-19. The Dine Out Vancouver Festival, however, doesn’t start until February 5th in 2021.)
- Taking in a Show – in addition to movies, lots of live entertainment takes place in Vancouver. Highlights in January include PuSh Festival performances. See Vancouver Shows and Entertainment for details.
- Watching Live Hockey – Nothing is more stereotypically Canadian in winter than hockey, and the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Giants play about ten home games between them most years in January. (Not happening in January 2021.)
- Ice Skating – there are lots of community rec centres where you can go ice skating in January most years. A couple of outdoor (yet covered) places to skate for free though are at Robson Square and North Vancouver’s Shipyards. (Note: The skating at Robson Square is completely cancelled for 2021. The status of the skating at the Shipyards was to be confirmed the last time we checked, but things were not looking promising.)
- Exercising Indoors – January is usually a great month for being indoors and swimming at area recreation centres, especially at places like Watermania in Richmond and the West Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the North Shore. Fitness classes are also popular this time of year, and especially nice are sessions of hot yoga! (Note: Because of COVID-19, these activities aren’t such good ideas, and might even be prohibited.)
- Visit an Indoor Attraction – Vancouver’s museums, art galleries and other indoor attractions are great places to visit when the weather is miserable. Check out Vancouver’s Best Indoor Activities for ideas.
For more ways to escape the rain, check out Vancouver’s top Rainy Day Activities.
Fun in the Snow Activities
January is one of the best months to go downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tobogganing and tubing. Here is where you can do all that close by on the North Shore:
- Cypress Mountain – Vancouver’s ski hill with the most terrain, lifts and vertical drop also features a fantastic tubing park and both cross-country and snowshoeing trails.
- Mount Seymour – a great family ski hill with tubing, tobogganing and snowshoe trails, plus free snowshoeing at the provincial park next door.
- Grouse Mountain – the resort offers excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities with awesome terrain parks, plus outdoor skating, snowshoeing trails, an indoor theatre, restaurants with views and a Light Walk and Sliding Zone.
Great snow activity venues a little further afield include the following:
- Sasquatch Mountain – a ski resort located not far from Harrison Hot Springs. (Note: Up until 2016 it was called Hemlock Valley.)
- Manning Provincial Park – although about three hours from Vancouver, it’s close for residents of the Fraser Valley, offers a change of scenery for city folk and features great snow for alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding and tubing.
- Whistler-Blackcomb – Canada’s premier ski resort offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the world, as well as cross-country trails, tubing, snowmobiling, skating, heli-skiing, and even bobsleighing and dog sledding.
Best Outdoor Places on Sunny Days
January is one of Vancouver’s coldest and wettest months of the year, which means any day that’s clear and sunny is a great day to be outdoors. In addition to the above ski hills, top outdoor places to explore in January include the following:
Walking Trails in Nature – parks that still look exceptional in winter include Burnaby’s Deer Lake Park, Fort Langley‘s Fort to Fort Trail, Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park and Rice Lake in North Vancouver, anywhere in Stanley Park, Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park and Alice Lake by Squamish.
Urban Walking Trails and Seawalls – top places for a stroll on a sunny January day in the city include the Stanley Park seawall, from Ambleside to Dundarave in West Vancouver, anywhere along the False Creek Seawall, and along the waterfront in Coal Harbour and by English Bay.
For more information on what’s happening this month, check out Vancouver’s Best Places’ January Events Calendar.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Free Events in January
- Vancouver’s February Calendar
- Free Events in February
- Vancouver Winter Activities
- Vancouver Rainy Day Activities
- Lower Mainland Ski Hills