Of the many aspects of Vancouver’s remarkable setting is this one: In a city whose daily temperature rarely drops below freezing, a White Christmas can still be enjoyed with all the snowy beauty and merriment you would expect to find in one of Canada’s wintery locales.
The nearest accessible mountain is only 20 minutes by car (or free shuttle bus) from downtown and its annual Peak of Christmas celebration is a delightful holiday treat for families or anyone in the festive spirit.
Grouse Mountain hosts the event until January 5, 2020, and it includes a charming Santa’s Workshop cabin where St. Nick poses with kids for professional photos that are emailed to moms and dads. Just next to the cabin are the Peak of Christmas reindeer, domesticated caribou who saunter more than prance around an enclosure. Grouse Mountain rangers provide educational talks twice a day on the animals and the care they receive.
An 8,000-square-foot ice rink presents a physical challenge, but one that feels romantic when you’re gliding beneath towering spruce trees with roots that are 1,231 metres (4,039 feet) above the city.
Also part of the Peak of Christmas are a sensational Gingerbread Village with creations handcrafted by local artists, decorators, and bakers. Crafts workshops help you make holiday keepsakes while the facility’s movie theatre welcomes you to relax with classic Christmas films that show all day.
Along with the holiday highlights, visitors can enjoy the usual draws to Grouse Mountain: ski and snowboard runs, hiking and snowshoeing trails, quality food and inviting west-coast ambience at The Observatory restaurant. If the skies are clear you will also get to see Vancouver and the waters leading to the Pacific Ocean below. It’s not only easy to spend a full day at the Peak of Christmas, it’s one of the most fun and enchanting winter experiences on the west coast.
The mountain’s website reports that it has received 26 centimetres (66 inches) of snow in the past seven days. It is also forecast to see even more snowfall through the duration of the Peak of Christmas. A better winter wonderland would be hard to imagine this close to Canada’s warmest big city.
Here’s a look at other festive activities happening on the west coast.
VanDusen Festival of Lights: This annual celebration of illuminated creations is a hugely popular event.
Far more than a light show, the festival includes a number of food kiosks operated by local favourites such as Japadog and Cin City Donuts. There’s also a wine bar, an artisan market, and a chance for kids to visit with Santa Claus. The Festival of Lights runs daily (closed on Christmas Day) until January 5 and is open from 4-9:30 pm at VanDusen Botanical Gardens (5251 Oak Street), about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from downtown Vancouver.
Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets online because the evenings are often sold out. Adult tickets are $19 when purchased online; $21 at the gate.
Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park: Operating annually for more than two decades, the night train is adored by families for its charming ride through the park’s forest. The event features a whopping 3 million twinkling lights as well as live performances and food stations. The evening train runs from 3-10 pm daily (closed on Christmas Day) and there is a matinee train ride (11 am-2:30 pm) available from December 26-29. A portion of ticket sales helps fund the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. Tickets for the matinee train are just $6 for guests 3 years or older (free for toddlers). The night train entry costs $12 for adults, $9 for senior and youth, and $8 for guests between 3 and 12 years old.
Victoria’s Lights of Wonder: British Columbia’s capital city gets into the festive lights activity with this inaugural event. The Lights of Wonder fills Centennial Square with illuminations that evoke Pacific culture, including depictions of whales and sky-scratching trees. A 40-foot Douglas fir is decorated with wondrous holiday ornaments. The free festival includes live entertainment from Vancouver Island musicians and food kiosks.
Even if you can’t make it to Victoria before the Lights of Wonder ends on January 4, there are still dazzling bulbs around town, including at the spectacular provincial parliament buildings of the BC Legislature. The iconic landmarks are illuminated every night with 3,450 white lights. Another 4,000 Christmas lights have been added for the holiday season for some added wow.
More About the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC (see map below)
Dates: Now until January 5, 2020 (coinciding with school holidays)
Cost: $99 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 kids). Check the Grouse Mountain website for additional ticketing info.
Santa’s Workshop Hours: From 11 am-8 pm daily.
Other Info: Public parking is available at the base at a cost of $8 for three hours. The gondola ride alone costs $59 per adult. The ride takes 8 minutes.