Vancouver in winter is magical, and one of the best things about it is just how much you can do in this amazing city when the weather isn’t playing along like you’d want it to. The true Canuck way is to whack on your thermals and a waterproof and go about your day, but we understand not everyone is hardened to the icy temperatures and inclement weather, and so that isn’t always an option. If you are the sort of person who’d rather not spend every day under the pitter-patter of a Vancouver November, there’ll still be plenty for you to sink your teeth into if you visit BC over the cooler months. Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Vancouver in Winter.
Vancouver Christmas Market
A city institution, the Vancouver Christmas Market has been running for years, normally starting in late November and running until Christmas Eve. Usually located on the waterfront at Jack Poole Plaza (at the Olympic Cauldron) the market shows off the best of British Columbia, both in terms of produce and throwing a party. The food and drink is a mixture of local fare and holiday classics, with plenty of poutine to go alongside your eggnog, and there are carollers, a Santa stall, and the ever-popular massive tree festooned in light.
If you’re looking for a keepsake or gift there are almost a hundred different artisan vendors offering handcrafted gifts, and there are plenty of other activities to keep the whole family entertained, including a market-wide scavenger hunt, making the market one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver at Christmas.
Ticket prices vary between CAD 8 – 15 (GBP 4.50 – 8.50) depending on ticket type and age, and can be bought at the gate, or online for a slight discount. The market does get very busy after five during the weekdays and at weekends – people from Vancouver take Christmas very seriously – so if you are here on holiday, then you might want to get in earlier so you can make the most of a smaller crowd.
The Rainforest Trail
Unless you’re taking maximum precautions and avoiding the outside world, it’s likely you will get wet when visiting BC in the winter months, so you might as well embrace it and see some stunning nature along the way. Whilst there are a whole host of amazing, accessible treks in and around the city that are easy and safe enough to do in any weather, it is definitely worth the trip out to Vancouver Island to do this short but incredible trail. There are two routes, both around 2km, and they’re both along boardwalks, so there’s very little chance of hurting yourself on rough terrain, making it a perfect all-weather walk.
If you want a rainy hike but don’t want to jump over to Vancouver Island, the Lynn Loop is a short but beautiful loop in another area of rainforest just north of the city, and has the added benefit of being in the vicinity of the Lynn Canyon and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, an underrated picture spot that locals have managed to mostly keep secret from tourists. The Cypress Trail is another great hike that’s just a few KMs outside the city, and has the benefit of going past several waterfalls which will be extra powerful in the rain, making for a memorable experience. There are a number of other hikes that cover some rougher terrain as well, if you’re a more hardened walker who’s looking for more challenging things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day.
Drink your way through Gastown
If you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver in the rain that are interesting, cultural, and involve mostly staying inside then a little pub crawl through this historic area is probably for you. Strolling through Gastown is a delight in itself, and in a misting of rain the old brickwork and retro streetlamps create an atmosphere that evokes the spirit of the roaring twenties even more than the area usually does. And that’s all before we even get into the world-class establishments that dot the area.
Shebeen Whisky House is a local favourite, and is home to a number of unique and interesting whiskies, as well as some hearty food to warm you up in the Vancouver winter. The Lamplighter Pub is another famed institution and was the first pub in Vancouver to get a license to sell alcohol. They do plenty of themed nights and are generally a friendly bunch, so they’re always worth a visit.
If you’re looking for a bit of local culture alongside your drinks, then The Portside Pub is for you, especially if you’re lucky enough to visit during one of their East Coast Boil sessions. During those nights you’ll get a real taste of classic BC food, a gallon or six of local beer, and a lot of kissing fish for god luck. Anybody looking for things to do in Vancouver at Christmas will be hard pressed to find a more fun activity.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
Without a doubt one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter (and in general), a visit to the Maritime Museum is both educational and engaging, and gives you a great overview of how this amazing city came to rely on its seaside location, as well as a tonne of information about the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest and Arctic. Although the exhibitions themselves are accessible and fun, kids (and adults) will also love the interactive exhibits, which can keep even the most curious of minds entertained.
The museum itself is easily accessible from the city, by either car, bus, or boat, and it’s open from Thursday to Sunday between 10.00 and 17.00. You can get a guided tour at a cost of CAD 65/person (GBP 37). General admission is CAD 13.50 (GBP 7.70) for adults over 18, CAD 10 (GBP 6.30) for kids between 6 and 18, and CAD 11 (GBP 5.70) for seniors (65+).