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7 Top Christmas Attractions, Festivals, and Events in Vancouver

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From gingerbread houses and solstice lanterns to light displays and visits with Santa, there's much to see and do over the holiday season in Vancouver. Top places to go include Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park, and Capilano Suspension Bridge.

1. Festival of Lights, VanDusen Botanical Garden

© Chloë Ernst

The plants and trees at the VanDusen Botanical Garden are decked out in light strings for the annual Festival of Lights. Besides Santa, a duo of Christmas elves are on-hand in the garden. Check out the light shows around Livingstone Lake or an evening choir concert. With hot chocolate, apple cider, doughnuts, and pizza baked in a wood-fired oven, the garden also has some of the best eats.

Address: 5251 Oak St. (at West 37th Ave.)
Phone: 604-257-8335
Dates: Mid-December to early January

2. Grouse Mountain Peak of Christmas

© Chloë Ernst

One of the best places for families during the holidays, Grouse Mountain offers many outdoor activities with a Christmas flair. Besides the winter-season-long skiing and snowboarding, December brings extras like Santa's workshop, sleigh rides, musical performances, and the outdoor skating rink. While many of Vancouver's holiday attractions stay in the spirit until the new year, Grouse wraps up its Christmas activities on Dec. 24.

The skating rink, a bit bumpy in places, feels like an authentic outdoor pond rink. A highlight for me was seeing the two reindeer that live on the mountain through to Christmas Eve.

Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Phone: 604-980-9311
Dates: Late November to Christmas Eve

3. Capilano Suspension Bridge Canyon Lights

© Chloë Ernst

The entire 122 m (400 ft.) span of Capilano Suspension Bridge is strung with white lights, and additional lights are hung through the forest and along the Cliffwalk. The best time to visit in the late afternoon. This means you can catch the bridge in the daylight and then the light displays at dusk.

Address: 3735 Capilano Rd.
Phone: 604-985-7474
Dates: Late November to early January

4. Bright Nights at Stanley Park

See two million lights while riding the miniature train in Stanley Park. The ride covers 2 km (1.25 miles) on 20-inch gauge track. Kids can visit the North Pole and Santa Claus, making the event very family-oriented.

Address: Stanley Park, off Pineline Rd.
Phone: 604-257-8531
Dates: Early December to early January

5. Vancouver Christmas Market

© Chloë Ernst

This German-style market is a cozy shopping and eating destination in the lead-up to Christmas. School bands, carolers, and a carousel make the atmosphere especially merry.

Address: Plaza at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Dates: Late November to Christmas Eve

6. Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

© Chloë Ernst

A festival held simultaneously in different neighborhoods, the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival begins after dark and includes lantern processions, labyrinths, and musical performances.

Address: Various neighborhoods
Dates: Dec. 21

In previous years, the festival featured:

  • Chinatown: Events are held at the Strathcona Community Centre, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Park.
  • Granville Island: Lantern parades move toward the island from the drum circle in Leg-in-Boot Square, Granville Island Triangle Square, and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
  • Commercial Drive: The events—musical performances and a labyrinth of lanterns—happen at the Britannia Community Centre.
  • There are additional processions held in the former Olympic Village in Southeast False Creek and along the seawall in Yaletown.

7. Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt Regency

© Chloë Ernst

More than 40 gingerbread houses make up the cheerful display in the hotel lobby of the Hyatt Regency. Previous years have included a life-size gingerbread house designed, baked, and assembled by the hotel's pastry chef. Best of all, the event is free and a fundraiser.

The gingerbread houses are submitted by a range of participants, from schools and businesses to the pastry arts department at Vancouver Community College.

Address: 655 Burrard St.
Phone: 604-683-1234
Dates: Late November to late December

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