Story by Sarah Deveau
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — While Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick is busy checking his list twice, we’re gifting you a list of favourite holiday events in Vancouver. If you’re visiting the west coast, be sure to check out these top attractions during the holidays to make the most of the Christmas season.
This authentic German-inspired outdoor Christmas market on Queen Elizabeth Plaza in the heart of downtown features unique eats, handcrafted goods and artisanal products in little rustic wooden huts. More than 50 vendors sell unique items from holiday ornaments to handmade toys, all perfect for gifting. Kids will love the old-fashioned carousel, and can learn to assemble a Herrnhuter star ornament or personalize their own gingerbread.
One of my favourite market features is the reusable mug system. Traditionally, European Christmas markets have a mug deposit system to reduce waste and offer guests a useful souvenir. When you purchase a drink, your price includes a $4 deposit, returned if the mug is given back to the mug return booth. After they’ve downed their mulled wine (or apple cider for the kids), many patrons choose to keep the mug as a lovely memento.
Address: 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
Dates: Until December 24, 2015
Tickets: $8, adults; $7, seniors; $4, children 7-12 years of age
There’s no guarantee of a white Christmas for Vancouverites, who are more used to brown and green landscapes even in the dead of winter. Those wanting the magic of sparkling snow head to a popular all-season spot for outdoor enthusiasts, Grouse Mountain. A wilderness paradise just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver and a ski hill during the snowy months, it transforms during the holidays for the Peak of Christmas event.
Visitors take the Sky Ride up the hill — North America’s largest aerial tramway system — for spectacular views of snowy mountains, brilliantly lit downtown Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.
At Santa’s Workshop children can meet Santa Claus and his elves, see and learn about live reindeer, glide around the 8,000-square-foot outdoor skating pond, and listen to Christmas choirs, watch holiday-themed movies and much more. If you plan to enjoy a sleigh ride, dress warmly and take advantage of the large blankets provided for your comfort.
Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Dates: Until January 4, 2016
Tickets: $43.95 for gondola tickets for adults; $79.95 for a family ticket to the Peak of Christmas celebration.
Now in its 18th year, Bright Nights at Stanley Park is operated and installed by 800 firefighters, who spend more than 8,000 hours over three months to set up the more than three million dazzling lights that sparkle through a thousand acres of urban forest. Ride the park’s mini train to ooh and ahh at the sights before enjoying a visit with Santa and the elves, Christmas carols in the plaza, and hot cocoa and roasted nuts.
Address: Stanley Park Train Plaza, Vancouver
Dates: Until January 2, 2016
Tickets: $11, adults; $8, seniors and kids 3-17.
This popular attraction, featuring a 137-metre-long suspension bridge swinging 70 metres above the Capilano River, is transformed for Christmas with festive lights along the bridge and canyon walls. See the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, take in a voice-activated light show, go on a scavenger hunt throughout the park, sing along with the holiday band, gather for a family photo at the Winter Pavilion and more.
Address: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
Dates: Until January 3, 2016
Tickets: $37.95, adults; $34.95, seniors; $30.95, students 17+; $24.95, youth 13-16; $12, kids 6-12.
Festival of Trees at River Market
If you’re willing to venture farther afield, River Market in suburban New Westminster is host to the Festival of Trees, a much-anticipated holiday tradition and fundraiser for New Westminster schools. Each participating school decorates its tree using decorations made by the students, with market visitors voting for their favourite trees. All schools benefit from the donations given, and the winning school receives an additional $1,000 donation from the market.
Check out the trees, shop for one-of-a-kind gifts from the vendors, and dine at one of the incredible food establishments in the market. Every weekend, River Market hosts an assortment of themed events.
Address: 810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster
Dates: Until first week of January
Tickets: Free admission