Vancouver, Canada is a thriving western city in Canada with a large and diverse population. Surrounding by mountainous terrain, the city provides myriad activities for outdoor recreation at any time of the year. However, winter is the time when Vancouver really shines as the chance to engage in outdoor recreation takes on a whole new meaning.
Visitors seeking dynamic and exciting ways to get outdoors in the cold, brisk air of winter while choosing from any number of options for play will find that this city fits the bill.
Here is a run-down of some of the best outdoor Vancouver activities in winter.
Why to Travel to Vancouver this Winter?
See the Holiday/Christmas Lights
One of the easiest and safest activities this year is to go see some Christmas lights. Whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday, we can all agree that the lights of the holiday season are something that we can all enjoy!
From the VanDusen Botanical Garden to the Glow Gardes Drive-Through in Langley, there are light displays that are available to you, no matter how you choose to view.
Many are free but some require a slotted time to ensure that we do not have overcrowding this season. Take a look at this list of 12 Outdoor Holiday Light displays for a more comprehensive list.
View Canyon Lights in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
During the winter months, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, canyon and surrounding woodlands are lit ablaze with festival holiday lights. This is one of the most popular winter attractions in Vancouver. The bridge is situated high above the forest, so the glittering display of lights provides something of a winter wonderland for visitors.
This attraction offers a Treetop Adventure featuring some of the tallest Christmas trees in the world and a light tunnel. Then, of course, there is the experience of crossing the suspension bridge itself.
Throughout the holiday season, the light show around the bridge is just part of the festive atmosphere. There is a constantly revolving offering of family-friendly activities that make this a spirited outdoor event in Vancouver.
Check Out Stanley Park
This is another popular winter Vancouver destination full of twinkling holiday lights that makes it feel like a bonafide winter wonderland.
Stanley Park is a family-friendly outdoors activity that provides a Christmas Train to take you on a tour of the park, while the kids can pose for photos with Santa and everyone can partake in cups of hot chocolate to warm up in the cold winter air.
Take A Stroll Along The Seawall
Many of the winter outdoor activities in Vancouver speak to a sense of adventure and, in some instances, extreme fun. However, the beauty of the natural settings means that simpler activities are also enjoyable in Vancouver. A stroll along the seawall is just such an example of a simpler way to enjoy the outdoors in Vancouver during the winter months. Views of the ocean, inhaling the brisk air and the view of Burrard Bridge make this activity well worth an inclusion on a list of top winter activities in Vancouver.
While this is a busy tourist destination during summer, the crowds are diminished during the winter months. So, when looking for more solitude in the colder winter months, this is an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors.
Enjoy The Riley Park Winter Farmers Market
If you want to slow down on the extreme winter activities, then check out the Riley Park Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey Stadium. The market is in operation even through some of the coldest months of the season, with vendors peddling farm-grown produce and locally-made crafts and goods. The farmers market offers visitors everything from candles to jewelry to desserts, locally-sourced honey, spices and more.
The vendors that participate in this market are generally comprised of local artisans, which means that shopping in this market is a way to support local makers.
Take In The View From Above at Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver for its vast array of activities.
Take the SkyRide Aerial Tram up to Grouse Mountain and enjoy glimpses of wildlife, including bears, birds and more. Grouse Mountain offers a lumberjack show, snowshoeing or ice skating in the outdoor rink.
Visitors can also enjoy nature movies in the mountain park or sleigh rides through the alpine forest. The mountain also offers numerous ski runs for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, from beginner to advanced level.
Build An Igloo
That’s right – one of the top outdoor activities to enjoy during winter in Vancouver is to build an igloo. This is one of the many activities offered on Grouse Mountain. It is part of the snowshoeing experience in which participants can create a snow cave of your own.
The tour company will take you through pre-built structures to provide the necessary inspiration to make your own Igloo.
Hit The Open Terrain With Cross-Country Skiing
Skiing does not always require a mountain. Cross-country skiing can provide just as much excitement for winter adventurers that also want to check out the natural scenery that abounds around Vancouver.
Cypress Mountain offers perfect cross-country trails for skiing enthusiasts. There are also plenty of opportunities for beginners to learn before hitting the open trails.
One of the reasons that cross-country skiing is so popular in Vancouver is because it does not require the same degree of skill as zipping down Black Diamond runs at Grouse Mountain. While cross-country skiing still requires some skill, it is a less stringent form of outdoor activity that allows adventurers to take their time in enjoying the outdoors in Vancouver.
Zipline Through The Winter Forest
Ziplining is an activity most commonly associated with more extreme forms of adventure, and is commonly allocated to the warmer, summer months. However, in Vancouver, things normally relegated to the warmer months represent yet another challenge for visitors to this cold winter climate.
Grouse Mountain not only offers opportunities for skiing and natural scenery, but also, for ziplining. Winter ziplining provides a chance for adventurers to glide through the air strapped into a safety construct while viewing snow-covered trees and the deep canyon below.
This is one of the more extreme outdoor Vancouver events and is ideal for thrill seekers looking for some winter fun.
Camp In The Snow
For those that really want to enjoy the great outdoors during winter in Vancouver, snow camping is the ultimate experience. Several structured tour groups provide opportunities to spend the night in the snow and enjoy this extreme version of winter camping.
Because of the risk involved in camping in the snow, especially on one of the area’s mountains, it is best to coordinate this winter activity through a tour company that can not only impart tips on how to camp in the snow safely, but also, on the necessary supplies and resources necessary to do so. Additionally, given the avalanche risk on the area mountains, it is important to know the right conditions for campings in the snow in light of the potential for avalanches in the area.
Experience Something New At The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival
If you are looking for something more unique to do during winter in Vancouver, this unique festival is an ideal option. It is situated across four different communities in Vancouver and is a free community event that offers fire performances, music, dancing and more.
While this is a free event, donations are appreciated to help with fundraising efforts for local organizations.
Practice Your Figure 8’s On The Ice
There are numerous ice skating opportunities around Vancouver, from the Robson Square rink that offers free skating to the rustic rink on Grouse Mountain. Robson provides partial covering from a dome, which draws large crowds, while the rink on Grouse Mountain provides a stunning natural setting that includes proximity to a fir and hemlock forest. The Shipyards, in northern Vancouver, also offers outdoor ice skating opportunities throughout the winter.
All of the rinks in the area provide skate rentals for those traveling to the region, and some also offer lessons in ice skating for novices.
Enjoy A Snowmobile Tour
To really enjoy outdoor Vancouver in winter, one of the best ways to cover a lot of ground is through a snowmobile tour. You can either strike out on your own or book a group tour if you are unfamiliar with the region. The ultimate in off-road adventures, snowmobile tours can take you off the beaten path to see the beauty of Vancouver.
One of the reasons this is a top outdoor winter activity in Vancouver is because it enhances accessibility. Because the snowmobile does most of the work, people of varying degree of ability can enjoy this outdoor activity and check out the stunning natural vistas around the city.
Traverse the Callaghan Valley or check out the NorthAir Goldmines for some added adventure. Beginners can follow well-worn trails on the outskirts of the city, and participate in official tours that will ensure views stunning wildlife vistas.
If you don’t have experience with snowmobiles, there are several companies that offer lessons on how to use these machines and safety tips on how to effectively navigate the myriad mountain trails that are located in and around Vancouver.
Outdoor recreation opportunities in Vancouver abound throughout the winter months, which is one fo the reasons that it remains a popular destination for visitors seeking adventure in this larger Canadian city.