December brings alight the holiday events all over British Columbia. There are dozens of things to do in Vancouver in December, it is almost impossible to fit all of them in. While some holiday events in Vancouver actually occur in November, most celebrations and events are in December.
While 2020 will look much different than previous years, if you are wondering what to do in Vancouver in December you will not be disappointed this year. There are still plenty of Vancouver events to enjoy, and I have listed them all below.
FlyOver Canada’s Fly Like Santa
Fly like Santa this Christmas on a magical flight across Canada from FlyOver Canada. After meeting some of Santa’s elves, Chestnut and Pinecone, you’ll join them as they take flight across Canada looking for their fellow elves. You may even get a sneak peek of Santa’s Workshop as you soar over the North Pole.
Fly Over Canada is offered all year round with holiday seasonal specials like this one. It is on our list of the best things to do in Vancouver for this reason!
Tickets: Book your tickets online in advance here for the lowest price and to ensure availability.
Dates: November 19th, 2020 to January 3rd, 2021
Location: 201 – 999 Canada Place Vancouver, BC
Important Notes: The queue is partially exposed to the elements. Ensure you wear proper attire. It is recommended to buy tickets online in advance.
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
Named one of the most spectacular holiday lights displays in the world, Canyon Lights is set to dazzle and amaze, high above the forest floor. The suspension bridge, rainforest and Capilano River are ablaze with lights, Treetops Adventure (the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world) is lit from top to bottom, the “Arc de Lumina” light tunnel mesmerizes on Cliffwalk, while the Snowy Owl Prowl scavenger hunt entertains the whole family.
A tradition for many Vancouver families, Canyon Lights looks forward to welcoming back guests with a few operational changes to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff in a COVID world. While normally one of the things to do in Vancouver in December, Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge will again be open to visitors on December 1st 2020. Tickets and annual passes will only be available for pre-purchase online for a specific date and time to limit contact upon entry and reduce capacity.
Dates for Canyon Lights: Tuesday, December 1, 2020 and runs until Sunday, January 3, 2021 from 2:00pm – 9:00pm daily (closed December 25).
Location: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
Important Notes: Masks are required. Strollers are not allowed. Dress for the outdoors.
Towers of Tomorrow with Lego at Science World
Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO® Bricks features 20 of the world’s most astonishing skyscrapers from the United States of America, Australia, Asia, Canada and United Arab Emirates constructed with breathtaking architectural detail and accuracy by Australia’s Ryan McNaught, the only certified LEGO® professional in the Southern Hemisphere.
Built on a scale of 1:200 and with stunning precision and attention to detail, the LEGO® towers offer visitors a bird’s-eye view of these extra-ordinary buildings and are just as impressive in model size.
Visitors, young and old, will be able to create their own ‘tower of tomorrow’ from over 200,000 loose LEGO® bricks in hands-on construction areas and add their creations to a steadily rising futuristic LEGO® metropolis inside the exhibition.
Location: Science World (Included with Admission) 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver
Dates: Thursdays to Sundays 10am to 5pm until January 3rd 2021
Stanley Park Holiday Train
Welcoming over 200,000 visitors annually, the Stanley Park Railway is popular with locals and tourists alike. They have recently announcedBright Nights at Stanely Park will run Nov 26th until Jan 1st 2020. The 20 gauge, 2 km track winds through the forest over ground cleared by Typhoon Freda, the most devastating storm in Vancouver history which blew through in 1962.
Passengers can get a close-up look at a vintage engine and a quick photo before boarding for the 15-minute ride.
The jewel of the Stanley Park Railway’s collection of old locomotives is a locally-built replica of Canadian Pacific Railway Engine #374, famous for pulling Canada’s first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s.
Stanley Park Railway is adjacent to other popular destinations such as Lumberman’s Arch, Malkin Bowl, and the Rose Garden. Tickets are $10 for all ages (under 2 is free). They must be bought online in advance.
Location: Stanley Park
Dates: Nov 26th to Jan 1st
Lights on the Lake at Harrison Hot Springs
While this event gained a ton of online press for being mis-marketed as a Whoville, it is a beautiful display of lights in Harrison on Harrison lake. Whether you visit for the day or make it a weekend getaway from Vancouver, it is a great outdoor event that will likely be very popular in 2020.
2020 Dates to be released
Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum
Thousands of guests will be transported to a winter wonderland at the Burnaby Village Museum during Heritage Christmas, one of the largest annual holiday celebrations in Metro Vancouver. Twinkling lights will adorn the vintage storefronts at Burnaby Village Museum, while holiday carolers
and characters like Buddy the Elf wander the streets during Heritage Christmas. The result is a magical holiday experience unlike any other in Metro Vancouver and it’s all presented free of charge by the
City of Burnaby.
Location: 6501 Deer Lake, Burnaby BC
Dates for 2020: TBD
Grouse Mountain Peak of Vancouver
Grouse Mountain offers more than just skiing. With skating, light walks, snowshoeing and more, it is worth taking the tram up the mountain. More info will be posted on activities and dates for 2020 as it becomes available.
Get your admission passes here.
Vancouver Christmas Market (Cancelled for 2020)
The famous Vancouver Christmas Market starts in November and features a German-inspired Christmas Market. For those who like a jump on the holiday season, it creates the perfect atmosphere to get into the holiday spirit. Experience a selection of traditional food and beverages, and browse vendors offering authentic wood carvings and toys, knitted goods, nutcrackers, pottery, and other unique gifts. This is a popular place to get Vancouver souvenirs.
Dates: Cancelled for 2020. Planning a virtual connection. Stay Tuned.
Vancouver Santa Claus Parade (Cancelled in 2020)
After months of exploring alternative formats and options that would allow it to go ahead in some way, the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade Society has officially canceled the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade for 2020 due to COVID-19.
For 16 years, the annual parade has thrilled audiences of all ages with crowds of 300,000 flocking to downtown Vancouver to watch marching bands, choirs, float entries and community groups perform along the 1.8-km route. In addition to kicking off the holiday season, the parade celebrates the spirit of giving by generating much needed donations for those in need across the Lower Mainland through its support of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, as well as the CKNW Kids’ Fund, which enhances the lives of children living with physical, mental and social challenges in B.C.
“The health and safety of our participants and spectators will always be our highest priority. While current guidelines for public gatherings preclude us from staging the parade this year, our hope is to return in 2021, when we can better ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.” the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade Society released in a statement on their website on Oct 29th
Other events associated with the parade are also canceled this year. These include Breakfast with Santa at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Photos with Santa at TELUS Garden, and pre-parade entertainment in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Dates: Cancelled in 2020
Bright Nights Stanley Park Holiday Train (Cancelled for 2020)
Welcoming over 200,000 visitors annually, the Stanley Park Railway is popular with locals and tourists alike. The 20 gauge, 2 km track winds through the forest over ground cleared by Typhoon Freda, the most devastating storm in Vancouver history which blew through in 1962.
Buy tickets to ride the Bright Nights Train and experience the lights, breathtaking displays, and live performers along the train route. Or view the displays at the Train Plaza by donation ($5.00 suggested).
Your donations at the front gate and a portion of ticket sales go to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. $1.4 million has been raised to help burn survivors and their families since 1998.
Dates: Cancelled for 2020
Lights at Lafarge Lake (Canceled for 2020)
Lights at Lafarge Lake is one of the largest free light displays in Metro Vancouver, featuring more than 100,000 twinkling lights. The outdoor display will be a popular Vancouver event in November 2020 as it offers an outdoor activity. If you are wondering what to do in Vancouver in November and are looking for an outdoor activity, this is one you should add to your list.
Dates: Cancelled for 2020. Will Return for 2021
Christmas in Wiliams Park (Langley)
Christmas in Williams Park transforms this popular langley park into a lighted wonderland. this FREE event for families offers a drive-through light experience thanks to the Christmas in Willams Park Society.
Where: 6525 238Th st, Langley
Dates: Nov 28th to Dec 20th 5pm to 9pm
Is December a Good Time to Visit Vancouver?
December is considered the offseason to visit much of British Columbia. Generally, the local ski hills are not open until winter break (between Christmas and New Years) although Whistler Blackcomb opens in line with American Thanksgiving in November. The summer months are peak season to visit Vancouver, so if you want to visit without crowds or are visiting for Christmas, December is a good time to come into the city.
It rains 20 out of 30 days of the month, so make sure you plan for rain. While the city does not see much snow, the wet can be very uncomfortably cold, so ensure you have the right clothing.
Read More: 99 things to do in British Columbia
Does it snow in Vancouver in December?
As you will read below, snow is a rare sight in Vancouver and is usually only seen on higher elevations. With that being said, flakes do fall in the city on occasion. If you are looking for a white Christmas, Christmas in Vancouver is not the right choice (but nearby Whistler or other British Columbia ski resorts are perfect choices!)
Weather in Vancouver in December
Vancouver has a moderate climate for most of the year. It does not get the cold snowy weather that you will find in much of the rest of Canada, but it is important to plan for the elements just in case. There is a likely chance of snow in higher elevations in Metro Vancouver in December, and you are likely to see fresh snow on the mountains around the city (usually the first dusting comes in late October and early November).
Snow on the mountains likely means rain in the city. When planning a trip to Vancouver in December, ensure you are prepped for rain with a decent waterproof jacket and appropriate footwear. You will also want layers.
Get more information on Vancouver weather December with tips on what to pack, temperatures to expect and how likely you are to see wet weather or sunshine.
December in Vancouver: What to Pack
As mentioned above, it does not get extremely cold, but expect wet and cool weather, usually just above freezing. You will want to ensure you have warm, waterproof clothing including sweaters, hoodies, and a heavier jacket. Bring closed-toed shoes and some type of waterproof footwear. You will probably want a light pair of gloves and a hat. If you do not have a packable umbrella, I suggest you buy one.
Cancelled Events in 2020
For a listing of cancelled events in Vancouver in December 2020 you can read this post: Holiday event cancellations in Vancouver 2020