My family LOVES celebrating Christmas. My son started asking for a Christmas tree about a week after we took it down in January, and hasn’t stopped. And I’ll admit, his enthusiasm really ups the ante for me, and I’ve been looking forward to this holiday season for months. My husband says he just likes getting gifts, but I don’t buy it. This time of year is full of magic- we love getting out to explore as many fun holiday festivals and light displays as we can. I want to keep this magic alive inside both of my kids as long as I possibly can!
Vancouver, B.C. is the perfect place for holiday-loving families to take in all the excitement of the season. There are so many really wonderful Christmas things to do for families that are so unique and magical. My family loves visiting in December and book it every year we can!
Looking for a Christmas in B.C. internary? Check out this SUPER magical one!
1. Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
If I had to pick a favorite Christmas event anywhere, I think it just might be Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s a totally unique and really amazing experience. And if you are a Pacific Northwestern who KIND of wishes we could get snow instead of endless rain at Christmas, this special event will make you love our winter rains once again!
A little background- The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a 450-foot-long bridge located 200 feet above the Capilano River. The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park includes this main bridge, as well as a number of smaller tree-top bridges, cliffside bridges, and forest areas. It’s a great place to visit any time of year for the views and to learn a bit about the history of the area.
In December, the park is lit up with probably a million lights. Climbing these high bridges with some really amazing lighting displays is really spectacular and difficult to put into words. But it’s definitely worth a visit!
A couple of important notes:
Strollers are not allowed on the bridges. There is stroller parking, but you should plan to hold your smaller children. The website explains that children who are carried should be carried below the railing level in a child carrier.
Children (or adults for that matter) should not run or intentionally shake the bridges.
Also important to know that these bridges are high. I felt safe with my kids even though I’m a pretty nervous mom, but if you have a major fear of heights, this event may not be for you.
2. The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
If you are needing a snowy Christmas experience, the Peak of Christmas may be perfect for you. During the month of December, the entire Blue Grouse Loop area, near the Peak Lodge at Grouse Mountain is transformed into the ‘North Pole’ and it is SO CUTE!
You’ll take the gondola up to the top of the mountain where you can play in the snow! There are opportunities for sledding, sleigh rides, a light walk, ice skating, making toys in Santa’s workshop, meeting the reindeer, watching a Christmas movie and more! The first time my family went to this event, we made the mistake of thinking we’d just be there for an hour or two, but there is SO much to do and see!
Note: Gondola lines can be long, which means it might take a while to get up there, and a while to get down. Dress for the cold, and plan to make a day, or a long evening, of your trip up to The Peak of Christmas. This is not the kind of event that you just stop by for a few minutes- it is a bit of a commitment, but well worth your time!
Such a cute ice skating rink
The Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Garden is really fun to check out. The gardens are, of course, beautiful, and the lighting is really well done. Each area of the gardens has a slightly different theme, and The event is well laid out, with lots of snack options, and an opportunity to meet Santa or ride the beautiful carousel.
Note: Tickets are only sold online, in advance and are not sold at the door. While this event doesn’t typically sell out weeks in advance, you will want to book when you can because evenings do sell out.
We love this super great event, which benefits the BC Professional Firefighters Burn Fun! Bright Nights at Stanley Park features an estimated 3 MILLION lights- more than any other Vancouver area event. But don’t feel intimidated even if you are visiting with small children- it feels totally attainable. In fact, this event may just be our favorite for families with younger kids! Especially because there is a train!
The adorable mini-train takes guests all around the park, giving them a beautiful holiday lights show. The train runs day and night, but the nighttime rides are highly recommended for the best view of the light. This far north, it’s dark by 4:30 pm, so you even babies and toddlers will be happy. Though you will see a ton on the train ride, don’t stop there! There are many, many more lights and holiday decorations that are only viewable on foot.
Kids loved the mini train and the beautiful lights at Bright NIghts!
In addition to the lights, you can meet Santa beginning at 4:00 pm most evenings, and get a great meal, hot cocoa, or snack; tons of food vendors show up to this amazing event.
Note: Train ride tickets go fast. Be sure to book well in advance if you are wanting to go. Missed train reservations? Don’t worry! You can still see everything and have a ton of without the train ride.
Flyover Canada, in downtown Vancouver, gives guests an opportunity to take a ride on Santa’s sleigh all the way across Canada and then all the way to the North Pole. The entire experience is about 30 minutes long and allows you to ‘fly’ suspended up in the air over a 65 feet spherical screen- you’ll even feel the wind and the mist as you fly! The experience features some of FlyOver Canada’s standard Canadian scenery, plus some fun Christmas add-ins, and a North Pole scene that kids will love. Basically, it’s Soarin’ with a Christmas theme, and without having to take the trip to Disneyland!
Flyover Canada is located at Canada Place. Take your time walking down because Canada Place has some beautifully decorated trees (this year, they even had a construction-themed tree that my toddlers LOVED) and a number of fun Christmas winter window scenes, including a polar bear. And after visiting Flyover Canada, take the 5-minute walk over to Jack Poole Plaza for the Vancouver Christmas Market!
Also, with SO many Christmas events taking place at night, it was nice to find something we could do during the day!
Note: Children must be at least 40″ to ride. You are buckled in tight, but because of the height, it may be too intense for some younger children or adults who are particularly fearful of heights.
Usually, my kiddos (and myself honestly) have a hard time getting excited about anything to do with shopping, but the Vancouver Christmas Market is not like typical shopping. This special Christmas Market does have some fantastic, unique gift ideas, plus tons of TONS of fun food and drink vendors, including a special non-alcoholic hot punch just for the kids. You’ll also find tons of craft opportunities, gingerbread decorating, and even beautiful Christmas carousel. Plus the lights, decoration, and vendor booth are adorable and design gives the entire market a wonderfully festive vibe.
Photo courtesy of Vancouver Christmas Market
We love this family-friendly event! The theme this year is Christmas Carnival. During the event, children will be challenged to become the assistant ringmaster in training with fun carnival-themed games and activities. You’ll also want to check out the brightly lit up Christmas train and enjoy some snacks and hot chocolate.
We love that this event is small enough that you will like you can relax a little without worrying that you’ll lose the kids in the dark, but still filled with lots of Christmas magic.
8. Watch the Nutcracker
The Nutcracker, danced by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is beautifully made. The set is bright and beautiful with so much to take in and the dancers and orchestra are perfection. I have fond memories of getting dressed up to see the Nutcracker as a kid, and it’s wonderful to be able to continue that with my children.
Note: The Nutcracker is around 2 hours long with one intermission, so it maybe be too much sitting for toddlers or young children. We recommend waiting until your children are at least 5, or older for a particularly wiggly child.
If your kid loves trains, this Christmas-themed train is sure to be a hit! The train ride begins at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, B.C., located about an hour north of Vancouver. It lasts just under an hour.
Start the fun with family-matching pjs for your trip, if you chose. And even if that’s not your style, it’s fun to check out what some of the families are wearing. On your trip, your ‘mission’ is to help deliver wrapping paper and bow’s to Santa’s village.
During the ride you’ll enjoy tons of activities for kids, along with cookies, and hot cocoa. At the end, you can visit Santa’s village, ride the mini train, and get photos with Mrs. and Mr. Claus.
Squamish North Pole Express at West Coast Railway Heritage Park
10. Spend a weekend at Whistler
Whistler village has so many fun things to do for all ages around the holidays. Even day, there are fun event like Santa visits, Christmas crafts, carolers, Christmas plays, and of course, lots and lots of lights. The skiing is pretty great as well! But if your kids aren’t yet skiing, they can still go tubing, snowshoeing, or just check out some of the amazing views and play in the snow! We LOVE the Whistler super walkable and super cute- it’s exactly what you want for a winter getaway!