How to Spend Winter in Vancouver
You are probably thinking that the only things to do in Vancouver in Winter is shop, eat and drink. You couldn’t be more wrong! There are SO many fun things to do in Vancouver in Winter!
Vancouver is such a great city and has so many awesome activities to do all year round! Most people will argue that Summer is the only time that it is worth visiting Vancouver, but the other seasons each have their own special vibe.
Winter in Vancouver can be absolutely magical! It doesn’t snow consistently in the city during Winter, however you don’t have to go far to find the snow. Vancouver is a great place to spend Winter as the temperatures don’t get nearly as low as in other parts of Canada.
During the Wintertime, there are loads of fun things to do in Downtown Vancouver as well as outside of the city. In this guide, I will be sharing the best things to do in Vancouver in Winter which include some great Winter hikes and snow shoe adventures, some fun Christmas activities and also a few indoor activities.
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How to get to Vancouver
Vancouver is located on the West Coast of Canada, right next door to Seattle in the USA. Vancouver has its’ own international airport so you can fly directly into the city or you can drive across the US border from Washington State.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How Cold Does it Get in Vancouver in Winter?
Vancouver’s temperatures are some of the mildest in Canada so Winter is much more pleasant in Vancouver as opposed to some of the other Canadian cities.
On an average Winter day, the maximum temperature is usually around 4-8 degrees Celsius with a minimum of -2 to -4.
Which month is the coldest in Vancouver?
The coldest month in Vancouver is January so if you love being cold, then definitely visit Vancouver in January! ?
Does it Snow in Vancouver?
The short answer is yes, it does snow in Vancouver, however when it snows in the city, it is usually not enough for the snow to settle. Because of Vancouver’s more mild climate, it is more likely to rain in the city than snow during the Wintertime.
If you are in Vancouver and want to spend some time frolicking in the snow, you can head up to the local mountains, either to Cypress Mountain, Mt Seymour or Grouse Mountain.
Where to Stay in Vancouver in Winter?
There are plenty of hotel options in Downtown Vancouver or if you prefer to be a little closer to nature, we recommend staying in North Vancouver which is closer to the mountains.
The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver – We stayed here for a couple of nights when we first arrived in Vancouver. The hotel is in a great location downtown and is really beautiful.
GEC Granville Suites Downtown – A more budget option but still very central with great facilities. We actually lived in this hotel for around 3 weeks while we were looking for an apartment.
Riverfront Bed and Breakfast – This is the cutest bed and breakfast with an amazing Full English/Irish breakfast every morning!
SureStay Hotel by Best Western North Vancouver Capilano – This is a great option if you are on a budget and is only around 2km from the Capilano Suspension Bridge
How Many Days Should You Spend in Vancouver
This is completely personal choice depending on what you are wanting to do in Vancouver. We think about 3-4 days during Winter in Vancouver would be a good amount of time to enjoy some Christmas vibes and have some fun in the snow.
20 Things to do in Vancouver in Winter
You are probably thinking that the only thing to do in Vancouver in Winter is shopping, eating and drinking.
I am here to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong! Vancouver is an adventurers paradise in Summer and Winter! I have provided a list below of the best things to do in and around Vancouver during Winter.
Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge and Enjoy the Canyon Lights
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the best things to do in Vancouver at Christmas and one of my favourites. Although it does get quite busy, it is still worth it!
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is open all year round, but from November to January, the entire park is decorated with twinkling fairy lights. Walking through park on a moody day or close to sunset is truly magical. There is a gift shop and a restaurant in the park. Don’t forget to bring along your camera!
📌 TIP for BC locals – If you are a British Columbia resident, you only need to purchase one ticket and then you can upgrade it for free to an annual pass!
Book a Seaplane Flight to see the Views
Seeing Vancouver from a birds eye view is something you shouldn’t miss out on! This flight takes you up and over the city and surrounding parks and beaches. We did this when we first moved to Vancouver and it really made us realise just how beautiful Vancouver is! Book your flight here!
Hike or Snow Shoe to Bowen Lookout
Elevation: 110 metres
From Vancouver: 30mins
Dog Friendly: Yes
Toilets: Yes, at the Cypress Mountain Resort
Bowen Lookout is a great hike for those that don’t want to hike too far. The hike is 4km out and back located in Cypress Provincial Park in Vancouver. The view at the end is pretty awesome for such a short hike! For more information on hiking to Bowen lookout, check out our Complete Hiking Guide.
Go to a Canucks Ice Hockey Game
If you are in Vancouver for a few days during Winter, we highly recommend purchasing tickets to a Canucks game! You can watch the Canucks play in Rogers Arena.
Ice Hockey is one of the most entertaining sports we have ever watched! In Canada at an Ice Hockey game, everyone boo’s when the opposing team scores and when the home team (the Vancouver Canucks) scores there is a horn blasted and party music as well as lots of cheering. It is a lot of fun and definitely an experience that you should not miss!
Visit the Vancouver Christmas Markets
If you are visiting Vancouver in late November or December, you can go to the Christmas Markets which are located in Canada Place at the Sea Wall. The markets have gourmet food, authentic German drinks, festive sweets and live Christmas Music as well as lots of stalls with gifts that you can buy. You can purchase your tickets here.
Search for the Cypress Mountain Cabins
Up in Cypress Mountain, there are over 100 privately owned cabins located around the Hollyburn Nordic Ski area trails. It makes for a really fun day out to pop on some snow shoes or hiking boots and micro spikes and walk around the trails looking for the cute cabins!
If you do decide to do this, remember that they are owned by people so be respectful of the cabins and other people’s privacy. If you do want to check out the cabins, our blog post on How to Find the Cabins will be helpful.
Visit Vancouver Aquarium
If its a super wet day and you don’t feel like spending it outside, why not head to the Aquarium! Vancouver Aquarium will keep you entertained for hours as you wander around discovering what lies beneath the surface of the ocean in different parts of Canada and the rest of the world.
This aquarium is actually one of the best aquariums we have been to! They have so much to see and learn about including their resident rescue animals.
Walk around the Spirea Trail and look for the Magical Light Rays
Time: 15-20 mins
From Vancouver: 1hr 10mins
Dog Friendly: Yes
The Spirea Nature Trail is a walk located in Golden Ears Provincial Park that takes you through the most magical mossy forest you probably have ever laid eyes on. During the colder months of the year there is a chance that you might be able to catch the magical light rays streaming through the trees in the forest.
Tips for catching the light rays include:
- Visit the Spirea Trail in the colder months – Fall, Winter or early Spring. The temperatures need to be 0 C degrees or colder.
- Visit first think in the morning shortly after the sun has come up. In the Winter, it will be later and in the Spring it will be earlier.
- The humidity will need to be 90% or higher. Check the Weather Network website for Alouette Lake, Golden Ears Provincial Park as this will be the most accurate weather reading.
For more information on the Spirea Trail check out our guide!
Go Snow Shoeing
Grouse Mountain has the easiest snow shoeing trails so is a great place to start. You will need to get the gondola to the top of the mountain which you will need to purchase tickets for. The best snow shoe trail in Vancouver for beginners is Grouse Mountain’s Blue Grouse Loop.
Mount Seymour has both free snow shoeing trails such as the incredible Pump Peak, and paid trails and they also offer tours!
Lights to the Lodge at Hollyburn Lodge Cypress Mountain
This is a great activity for beginners and families. The trail is a safe and easy 2.5km loop or 2km return to the historic Hollyburn Lodge along a self-guided trail through the Old Growth Forest. The trail is lit up by fairy lights through the forest.
Adventure to Find Some Natural Hot Springs
There are hot springs all over the place in British Columbia! You just need to do some good old fashioned research to find them. Or you can wait for our hot spring guides to be released!
A lot of these hot springs require hiking through the snow to get to so make sure you stay safe during all hot spring adventures!
Pack a Picnic Dinner and Watch the Sunset at Scenic Point, Pitt Meadows
There’s something extra special about Winter sunsets, especially when you have a mountain backdrop. Pitt Meadows is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. It is also a popular spot for elopement and wedding photographer shoots. Once you are there you will see why!
Hike to Norvan Falls
From Vancouver: 35mins
Dog Friendly: Yes
Toilets: Yes just past the parking lot
The Norvan Falls Hike is an easy but long hike that takes you to a beautiful waterfall. The trail is located in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver. The trailhead is about 35 minutes drive from Downtown Vancouver.
The trail can be used for most of the year, however in Winter make sure you bring along your micro spikes. Due to the trail running parallel to the river, it can get extremely icy and slippery.
Visit Bright Nights in Stanley Park
During the month of December, Stanley Park is transformed into a dazzling Christmas light display. There are food trucks, live entertainment and lots of photo opportunities.
You can read more about the Bright Nights Festival here.
Go Skiing at one of the Local Mountains
There are 3 local Vancouver mountains that you can ski at. These mountains are Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour.
Mount Seymour is the best mountain for beginners, with Cypress being the best for the more advanced skiers. You can get season passes or choose at each mountain or choose to go casually which is more expensive per visit.
You can get ski rental gear at each of the mountain ski resorts, however, you will need to have your own ski clothing as you cannot rent this.
Hike through the Snow to Dog Mountain
From Vancouver: 40mins
Dog Friendly: Yes
Toilets: Yes There are toilets located near the end of the parking lot by the North Shore Search and Rescue office.
Dog Mountain, on Mount Seymour is a pretty easy hike that is great for the whole family! The trail leads you to a beautiful view overlooking Vancouver. We also love doing this hike at sunset.
Visit a Brewery
If you like craft beer, you are in the right city! Vancouver has LOADS of breweries. A couple of the best spots for brewery hopping are in North Vancouver and East Vancouver. Check out Parallel 49 Brewing which is a brewery with a large variety of beers and a built in food truck in side of the brewery! Another few great breweries nearby to make note of are Container Brewing, East Van Brewing Company and Bomber Brewing.
Wander around the VanDusen Gardens to see the Christmas lights
Go Snow Tubing
Tubing is absolutely so much fun! Tubing is like sledding or tobogganing but instead of sliding down the hill on a sled, you use an inflatable ring-shaped tube. This is a great alternative to skiing if you are not into skiing. Places in Vancouver that you can go tubing at are:
Go Up the Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located near Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway. It is around a 50 minute drive from Vancouver to the gondola and the gondola is open all year round.
The gondola takes you up to 885m above sea level to the Summit Lodge where you can enjoy some yummy food and craft beer whilst taking in the amazing views of from the platform overlooking Howe Sound.
At the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola there is an awesome suspension bridge and some walking trails. During Winter, the Sea to Sky Gondola has snowshoeing, snow tubing and ski touring available.
Watch the Sunset from Quercus Viewpoint
Distance: 1.8km loop
From Vancouver: 45mins
Dog Friendly: Yes on leash, however prohibited from the main beach and picnic area
Toilets: Yes at the carpark
The Murrin Loop Trail to Quercus Viewpoint is one of our favourite short and easy hikes to watch the sunset from! The incredible viewpoint looks over Howe Sound with mountains lining each side and the hike is just South of Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway. The Murrin Loop Trail is located in Murrin Provincial Park and starts at Browning Lake which is a popular spot for picnics and water activities on the lake.
🎄 Take a Christmas Themed Tour!
Don’t feel like roaming around the city by yourself? Book yourself in on one of these tours so that all of the organisation is done for you.
Go on a Winter Hike!
Apart from those listed in this guide, there are loads more Winter hikes in Vancouver to do such as Hollyburn Peak, Tunnel Bluffs and more!
Go for a Bike Ride or Walk around Stanley Park
Stanley Park is beautiful all-year-around and is a great reason to get outside during Winter.
The Stanley Park Seawall is a large part of the Stanley Park loop and its a great place to check out some of Vancouver’s best viewpoints such as Prospect Point and Siwash Rock.
You can rent a bike to ride around Stanley Park from a place called Stokes which is just outside the park.
FlyOver Canada in Canada Place is an amazing immersive simulated flight ride that takes you over some of Canada’s most incredible landscapes. It is a great experience for the whole family!
Tips For Visiting Vancouver in the Winter
If you visit Vancouver in Winter as opposed to Summer, you will need to be aware of a few things that will help you to have a smooth and enjoyable trip.
What to Pack For Spending Winter in Vancouver
Although Vancouver in the Winter is quite mild, if you plan on venturing into the mountains for some outdoor activities you will need some extra clothes. The below list should hopefully help you get some ideas on what to pack.
- Lots of layers! Bring along all of the layers – thermals, base layers, a nice warm fleece and puffer jacket.
- Winter accessories – gloves and beanies! I don’t know about you but my hands get so cold in Winter, especially when I’m trying to take photos.
- Waterproof outer layers – waterproof jacket and pants
- Ski or Snowboarding Clothes – If you have clothes for the snow, bring them! There aren’t any places that I know of where you can hire the clothing for skiing.
- Skis, snowboards or snowshoes if you have your own – If you don’t have these, you can hire them in town or at any of the local ski hills.
- Hiking boots that are waterproof and insulated. There’s nothing worse than having cold, wet feet!
- Snow traction devices like microspikes – When hiking in the snow it is likely that you will come across icy sections, especially on the more popular trails.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen – Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is Winter. Even on a cloudy day, the sun can reflect off the snow and give you a really nasty burn!
- Casual Clothes including a nice warm Winter coat for wandering around the city.
- A swimsuit for hot spring adventures!
- Your camera!
Vancouver Snow Hiking Tips
When hiking in the snow, you should plan accordingly to ensure that you don’t get cold or lost.
- Dress for snow – A base layer, fleece sweater and puffer jacket as well as a waterproof jacket and pants if you have them. Also make sure you bring along a pair of gloves and a beanie. You will probably get hot while walking but if you stop for photos it can get cold quite quickly.
- Always let someone know where you are going. This should be the same in any season but in Winter getting lost can be much more dangerous due to the freezing conditions.
- Bring along a pair of micro spikes or snow shoes. This will depend on where you are hiking and what the trail conditions are like. More often than not, the trails can become very slippery and so micro spikes are such a great investment!
- Research the trail before you go. Know what you are in for, how much snow there is going to be and what the weather is going to be like.
- Wear sunscreen! The sun reflects off the snow and can give you such worse sunburn than in Summer even if it is overcast.
Winter Driving Tips
Although, most of the time you probably won’t have any issues driving in the city of Vancouver in Winter due to the mild climate, if you choose to leave the city and venture to the local mountains or further, you should know the rules of driving in Winter in British Columbia.
Make sure you have the right tyres for the roads you will be travelling on. If you leave the city, usually you will need Mud and Snow (M&S) or Winter tyres during Winter. If you are not sure of the rules or what tyres your hire car has, ask the rental company.
Our Thoughts on Visiting Vancouver in the Winter
We are not going to lie, our favourite season is and always will be Summer in Vancouver because of all the amazing hikes, however, Winter is magical. The fact that the Winter is actually bearable in Vancouver definitely makes it a great city to spend a Christmas full of adventure in.
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