Family-friendly winter fun in Vancouver


One sure way to enjoy winter: Break out the toboggan and hit the mountains near Vancouver. (Photo by spDuchamp)

Story by Tricia Edgar Outdoors Columnist

It’s cool, it’s cloudy, and the cedars drip with rain. The river roar, and the mountains are dusted with snow. This is Vancouver in the winter, and it’s a beautiful place to explore. If you’re visiting with children this year, here are some family-friendly places to discover.

Snow Play in North Vancouver

In Vancouver, the cold white stuff hangs out on the mountains, where you can go visit it and play. North Shore mountains like Mount Seymour, Cypress and Grouse offer part-day ski lessons for adults and children. Sliding in the snow is particularly fun, especially if you have very small children who are not comfortable skiing and snowboarding. On a sunny day, Mount Seymour offers outstanding views of the city from atop its tobogganing and tubing slopes.  There’s also a toboggan run on Cypress Mountain near the Hollyburn cross-country ski area.

Explore Vancouver’s Forests  

If you’re visiting Vancouver in December, chances are it will be raining. Storm season is spectacular in Vancouver. Head to Lynn Canyon Park and stand on the suspension bridge, watching the river surge below you. Visit Capilano River Regional Park’s salmon hatchery, where you can watch adult salmon brave the roaring water to move up the river and spawn.

If you happen to catch a rare sunny day, head on up to Grouse Mountain, where you’ll be able to play in the snow, check out Santa’s workshop and reindeer, and see spectacular city views as you head to the outdoor skating pond.

All Aboard the Stanley Park Christmas Train

At Bright Nights in Stanley Park, enjoy two million lights as you wander through the forest on a miniature train. Pre-order tickets, because this event does sell out. Before and after your ride, you can also walk through a lovely light display, hot-buttered popcorn in hand. This year, there are new matinee train rides from 11 am to 3 pm, particularly good for little ones who might not be able to hang around until later in the evening.

An Underwater Christmas

An aquarium may not seem like a particularly apt venue for seasonal celebrations, but the Vancouver Aquarium is big on Christmas cheer. There’s a scuba Santa dive and a Christmas tree with lights powered by an electric eel. This year, the Aquarium hosts a celebration of light called Luminscence, an exploration of glow-in-the-dark creatures.

Lighting Up the Dark

Winter time is dark, and light displays are popular in local parks and neighbourhoods. The VanDusen Festival of Lights is an evening garden walk through landscapes aglow with hundreds of thousands of lights, accompanied by the music of community choirs. Children will love the model train as well!

Looking for lights on a smaller scale? Enjoy North Vancouver’s Park and Tilford light display, get a thrill as you stroll through the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge, or vote for your favourite house at the Trinity Street Christmas Lights Competition.

If you’re in Vancouver for the winter solstice on December 21, you’re in for a treat. For almost 20 years, Vancouver’s Secret Lantern Society has created beautiful, candle-lit neighbourhood celebrations at the darkest time of the year. Enjoy lantern processions, music and more in five different Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Whether you’re exploring the forests and mountains on a snow-covered daytime walk or investigating Vancouver’s many urban light displays, it’s easy to go all natural in Vancouver this winter. Vancouver’s outdoor landscapes are playful and peaceful this time of the year, and they provide many options for families to explore.

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