The bustle of the holidays is upon us, and yes, we know they’re looking a little different this year. But the great news is that there are still many opportunities to celebrate the festive season with the family in and around Vancouver. From virtual flyovers of Santa’s workshop to spectacular light shows in gardens, canyons and parks, these joyful events and attractions are sure to brighten dark winter nights and add sparkle to the season. Gather up the troops for days of festive family fun and celebrate Christmas in Vancouver with kids and families.
*Note: As of early December 2020, many Vancouver holiday attractions and events have been curtailed or cancelled due to provincial health orders. For those that remain open, please consult attraction websites to determine operating hours and to book tickets online. Stay safe and happy holidays.
Where to celebrate Christmas in Vancouver with kids
Burnaby Village Heritage Christmas
One of Metro Vancouver’s loveliest old-school Christmas attractions, Burnaby Village Museum’s historic site is transformed into a charming reminder of the holidays of old. The brightly-painted clapboard buildings are decorated with twinkling lights and natural decorations to foster a festive spirit. Note that, due to the current Covid situation, the site’s heritage carousal and gift shop will be closed this season.
When: November 21, 2020 to January 1, 2021
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
North Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge never looks quite as spectacular than during the holidays. The trees and namesake suspension bridge are covered in twinkling fairy lights that spill over into the rest of the rainforest and Treetops Adventure (the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world), creating an impressive display of light in the darkness. There’s also live seasonal music and kid-friendly fun including craft activities and scavenger hunts. Remember to hold on tight as you walk over the suspension bridge – it does tend to sway!
When: December 1, 2020 to January 3, 2021
Help Santa find his three missing reindeer at Flyover Canada. This virtual flight-simulation lifts off for a breathtaking eight-minute ride over Canada’s incredible winter landscape. From the wild East Coast shoreline to the vast prairies and soaring snow-covered peaks of the Rockies, everyone will marvel at how beautiful Canada is in winter. For Christmas, the ride takes on a holiday theme as guests assist two twinkle-eyed elves (Pinecone and Chestnut) on their reindeer search. The snowy pre-show segment gets everyone in the holiday mood, and be sure keep eyes peeled for the finale appearance of Santa’s sparkling North Pole workshop.
When: November 19, 2020 to January 3, 2021
Glow Gardens at Langley’s Greater Vancouver Zoo
One of the Lower Mainland’s most popular Christmas lights extravaganzas will take over Langley’s Greater Vancouver Zoo site in 2020. At Glow Gardens, guests will be treated to an open air park space filled with a sparkling array of twinkling illuminations, huge light sculptures, festive live entertainment and seasonal food and drinks. Kids will especially enjoy the present-themed scavenger hunt and there will also be a chance to do some gift and treat shopping at local vendor stalls.
When: November 18, 2020 to January 2, 2021 (5pm to 10pm)
Festival of Lights at Van Dusen Gardens
One of Vancouver’s most popular Christmas lights displays returns this holiday season, transforming the city’s VanDusen Botanical Garden into a wander-worthy winter wonderland of one million twinkling lights. As with each outdoor (and indoor) holiday attraction this season, the Festival of Lights has been reimagined to incorporate Covid-related capacity reductions and safety measures, including face mask recommendations and one way pathways.
Some features will not be running this year, including the carousel, visits with Santa and the dancing light show. Visitors will have 45 minutes to complete their visit.
When: November 27, 2020 to January 3, 2021 (4pm to 9:30pm)
Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas
Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas shines bright again this year. There’s loads of holiday happenings on Grouse Mountain, as it turns into a magical, snow-covered winter wonderland during the holidays. Reserve a spot and ride the Skyride gondola to the peak to enjoy the outdoor fun and illuminations, including the show-stopping Light Walk glowing light tunnel. This snowy journey will take you around Blue Grouse lake through a series of magical Christmas Lights in a beautiful illuminated wonderland. Take a spin on the outdoor skating rink, visit real-life reindeer and warm up with some hot chocolate inside the lodge while enjoying the city’s twinkling lights below.
When: November 20, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Robson Square Skating Rink
Lace up at the Robson Square Skating Rink in the heart of downtown Vancouver, just steps from the Vancouver Art Gallery. It’s the perfect rink size for taking the wee ones ice skating for the first time, and practicing your triple axels (or crossovers), if it’s not too crowded. Skate rentals are on-site, and check out the cute little Zambonis that clean the ice. Opens December 1st
Winter Solstice Lantern Festival
This year marks the 27th annual edition of this charming, family-friendly community festival illuminating the darkest night of the year. The Solstice Lantern Festival welcomes everyone to gather together in procession – preferably with a lantern they have made – into three Vancouver neighbourhoods (Granville Island, Yaletown and Strathcona). Dress warmly and expect music, dancing and singing as the strolling parade wanders along, illuminated by its handmade lanterns.
When: December 21, 2020
Vancouver Christmas Market
Sadly, the popular German-style Vancouver Christmas Market will not be operating in 2020.
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Disclosure: The writer visited these attractions as a guest of Tourism Vancouver. As always, her opinions are honest and her own.
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