Visitors to Vancouver won't find a major public celebration with fireworks or grand-scale festivities. That slight disappointment aside, there are still many stylish ways to celebrate New Year's Eve in Vancouver, including hotel galas, family-friendly events, and outdoor excursions. Note that the hottest tickets tend to sell out weeks ahead of the midnight countdown.
Free Transit on New Year's Eve
Public transportation on New Year's Eve in Vancouver is free from 5 p.m. through to the end of scheduled routes that night. This includes SkyTrain, downtown bus, and SeaBus services.
1. 2013 Parties at Vancouver Attractions
From ski hills to science museums and boat cruises, it's possible to see some of Vancouver's best attractions while celebrating the New Year. There's a large New Year's Eve celebration at Telus World of Science, with two dance floors, DJs, and capacity for more than 1,000 people.
A New Year's Eve cruise aboard Pride of Vancouver is one of the most scenic settings to mark midnight. From the boat, you'll see the lights of the Vancouver skyline and dine on a buffet dinner. There are also dance floors and DJs.
I haven't confirmed this event for Dec. 31, 2012, but in 2011 Robson Square Ice Rink hosted an earlier, family-friendly New Year's with music, a magic show, and stilt-walking performers. An early countdown for kids happened at 8 p.m.
Another early-night activity, but this one geared to active adults, is a snowshoeing trek on Seymour Mountain. The cold weather activity pairs superbly chocolate fondue.
2. New Year's Galas at Luxury Hotels
Many luxury downtown hotels host black-tie galas for New Year's Eve. The most well known (and therefore very quick to sell out) are galas are at the towering Shangri-La Hotel (tickets), the Fairmont Waterfront (tickets), and the Rosewood Hotel Georgia (tickets).
A warning for last-minute bookers: Hotel gala tickets are one of the fastest sellers among Vancouver New Year's events. Buy early.
3. Restaurants for New Year's Eve Dining
4. Downtown Bars and Nightclubs
Along Granville Street and elsewhere in the city, downtown Vancouver bars and nightclubs host parties into the early morning hours. If you're making last-minute New Year's plans, nightclubs and bars will likely have the best availability for tickets. Although if you opt to brave the line ups, expect a lengthy wait. Reliable New Year's favorites include The Roxy for champagne and pizza, Republic for a masked party, and the Commodore Ballroom for its beautiful heritage dance floor.
5. Family-friendly New Year's Eve in Whistler
One of the best events happening outside Vancouver is the all-ages First Night celebration in Whistler. While catering to families with an early countdown, the celebration also has music, ice-skating, and fireworks continuing until midnight. The alcohol-free event happens in the Village Square and there is an admission fee (adults $20, less when purchased in advance).