When temperatures won’t stop dropping, and rain won’t stop pouring, what do you do? Usually, we put on warm socks, comfy clothes, and stay inside, but Vancouver is a hub for activities, and not just summer events and explorations, but winter activities. That’s right. It’s still possible to have fun in the thick of Vancouver’s winter (it’s helpful to choose a non-rainy day), and we are here to tell you all about things to do in Vancouver in winter.
Read on to find out the best places to stay and what to do in this bustling, lively British Columbian city, and for excellent deals to support all of your Vancouver winter activities.
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Best Outdoor Winter Activities in and around Vancouver
So you find yourself in Vancouver in winter? Now what? You’ve gone to the Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Science World, but, although these are fantastic indoor activities, you miss the fresh air, the smell of trees, the salty sea scent, and panoramic views. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of things to do around Vancouver in winter!
Skiing and snowboarding around Vancouver
Vancouver may be a happening city, but it’s no substitute for powdery slopes! Thankfully, it’s close to three ski resorts: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Seymour Mountain. If you want to drive a little further and crave an even more epic experience, Whistler is where to go.
Let’s put this into perspective:
From downtown Vancouver, Whistler is around 1 hour and 40 minutes away by car, while Cypress is 50 minutes, Seymour is approximately 40 minutes, and Grouse is 20 minutes. Talk about options! Here’s some basic info on each:
Mount Seymour Resort: Beginners and young families will enjoy the slopes spanning this ski resort! And 40% of its runs are green, while another 40% are blue, leaving 20% for the black diamond category.
Grouse Mountain: Beginners will get the most out of Grouse Mountain, but intermediate skiers will find something here too! With 33 trails, surely you’ll find something tailored for you here (unless you fall under the “advanced” category).
Cypress Mountain: This is the mountain that more experienced boarders and skiers go to when they don’t feel like driving to Whistler to get their mountain fill. Cypress has most lifts, terrain (600 acres), and vertical drop compared to the other two local spots.
Snowshoeing around Vancouver
With so many provincial parks nearby, it’s easy to find an outdoorsy escape from Vancouver’s bustling city life. And what better way to meander and get your heart pumping than to snowshoe amid snow-dusted trees, along mountainscapes? When it comes to top-notch trails in Vancouver, we suggest checking out the following:
Snowshoe Grind on Grouse Mountain: This 4.3km snowshoe winds to stunning views and includes a gondola ride, making this activity one of the best Vancouver winter attractions! You’ll have to fork out $45, but when it comes to experiencing something new and phenomenal scenery, the price is definitely worth it.
Bowen Lookout on Cypress Mountain: This 3.5km trail may be short, but it’ll get your heart pumping and take you up to vistas of Howe Sound and Bowen Island, and back to your car in no time.
Dog Mountain Hike on Mount Seymour: This 5.0km is a popular hiking route for locals in the summer, but it turns into a snowy bliss in the winter, making it ideal for snowshoeing. Enjoy 360 views from the top (if it’s a clear day)!
As you can see, Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mount Seymour all have incredible snowshoeing opportunities. The three trails mentioned above are only glimpses of what these mountains have to offer in terms of Vancouver winter activities.
However, Squamish also offers excellent snowshoe trails, such as the 20.0km Elfin Lakes route in Garibaldi Provincial Park, which is just under a two-hour drive from Vancouver.
Vancouver has ice rinks scattered throughout the city, making it one of the easiest things to do with kids in Vancouver (and one of the most quintessential Canadian winter activities). You can find a list of the skating rinks dotting Vancouver on the City of Vancouver’s website.
To really get into the winter spirit (or Christmas spirit, depending on when you go), several people enjoy lacing up their skates and hitting up Robson’s Square! The glass-covered dome also blocks out potential rain (or, on the odd chance, snow).
Or head to Grouse Mountain, and fully immerse yourself in Canada’s favourite winter combination: mountain vibes and an outdoor skating rink!
Cross-country skiing Skiing
Unfortunately, Cypress Mountain is the only place near Vancouver that offers cross country skiing trails! If you don’t mind a little road trip, you can head to Lost Lake Park in Whistler Village, or go to Whistler Olympic Park or Callaghan Country in the Callaghan Valley. All three XC skiing paradises are around 1 hour and 40 minutes from Vancouver. But when it comes to outdoor adventure, who cares about driving a bit, right?
Hiking around Vancouver in Winter
While it’s nice to walk through a winter wonderland, it’s also nice knowing that Vancouver doesn’t get a lot of snow during Canada’s chilly months, so hikes are more accessible year-round. Here are some excellent hikes in and around Vancouver that are generally snow-free:
Jug Island in East of Vancouver: This 5.3km hike is a great walk for families! It takes around an hour to reach the trailhead by car.
High Knoll Hike in East of Vancouver: This hike is also 5.3km! It’s probably best to do this one with older children only. It also takes around an hour to reach this trailhead by car.
Norvan Falls in North Shore: This 14.0km hike is perfect for those who want a longer walk along a relatively flat path. Oh, and you get to see a waterfall at the end. It takes around 45 minutes to reach this hike by car.
Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Vancouver, year-round. Do yourself a favour and lace up your boots (make sure your shoes can survive wet conditions), and wind to fantastic views.
Okay. If skating isn’t one of the best things to do with kids in Vancouver, sledding has got to take that top spot. Despite Vancouver’s lack of snowy bliss, there are still some notable sledding locations. You can find a sliding zone at Grouse Mountain, near the skating rink. There are two groomed runs tailor-made for tobogganing here! You can’t bring your own sled, but it only costs $5 to rent one.
You can also go to the Toboggan Park in Mount Seymour, or you can go to the sliding zone on Cypress Mountain. You have to bring your own sled (non-inflatable), and it costs $10 per person for two people to rip down the hill.
If you want to amp up the adrenaline and twirl super fast down slippery slopes, tubing is your ideal Vancouver winter activity. And guess what? You can choose to go to two of the three frequently mentioned mountains in this article for some tubing fun: Mt. Seymour and Cypress Mountain.
Experience a burst of thrill and a new perspective of the mountainous views sprawled below as you zipline across canyons and snowy peaks. Each tour is around two hours, and you can book with a group or go by yourself!
Head to Grouse Mountain for this unforgettable, unique winter activity!
Go to a Canucks game
(Note this may not be possible during COVID-19 due to the late-season start and the possibility of the Vancouver Canucks—and all teams—playing for empty arenas.)
If you’re a local and reading this activity suggestion, feel free to skim on by (since you’re probably well aware of this option). Still, newcomers, especially those from abroad, should definitely purchase tickets to watch the Canucks play. There’s nothing like watching a hockey game in Canada. It’s fun; it’s loud, and, let’s face it, the game of hockey is the best team sport in the world.
Best Winter Deals In And Around Vancouver
Who doesn’t want to find fantastic deals when going on a holiday? To stop you from spending copious hours researching the best winter deals in and around Vancouver, we’ll find some for you and lay them all out right here:
Best Accommodation Deals around Vancouver
Save some dollars by staying somewhere for a discounted price or at a hotel that offers a can’t-miss-out-on-this package. Here are some of the best accommodation deals around Vancouver:
The Fairmont Waterfront: Canadian residents won’t want to miss out on this deal! You can get a 10% discount off Fairmont’s best rate, receive a room upgrade and complimentary parking, and check out at 5 pm, giving you more time to explore Vancouver without worrying about paying to keep your car somewhere.
Sandman Hotel Group: Canadian residents can stay at one of the Sandman hotels in Vancouver (Davie Street or Vancouver City Centre) and receive 35% of the standard rate. What a deal! You also get free parking and complimentary WiFi—book between now and April 30th to take advantage of this terrific deal.
Pinnacle Hotels: Sign up to become a Pinnacle Rewards member and receive 25% off your stay and receive rewards when you arrive. You can choose between a bottle of red or white wine, a $20 Starbucks gift card, or a $25 dining certificate to the restaurant at the hotel.
Best Ski Deals around Vancouver
Take advantage of some of the best ski deals around Vancouver:
Cypress Mountain: Cypress Mountain offers a Sky Card, which gets a ton of sweet deals and discounts. You can buy a 2 Day Sky Card, 3 Day Sky Card, or 5 Day Sky Card, which includes two, three, or five full-day lift tickets. With these cards, you get discounts off your lift tickets for the rest of the season, 20% of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing tickets. Pretty good, right?
Grouse Mountain: Get your early bird pass before November 30th and save 45%! This pass grants you unlimited skiing or boarding throughout the season, plus some sweet perks, such as 10% off food and drinks, 20% off at the Starbucks at Grouse Mountain, 20% off retail purchases, and 50% off when you visit Grouse Mountain’s partner resorts. You can’t really pass up this deal, can you?
Winter Weather in Vancouver
When the temperatures drop in Vancouver, white fluffy stuff doesn’t fall from the clouds, but rain falls, falls, and falls. However, on average, snow graces Vancouver around eight days of the year, so maybe you’ll be lucky or unlucky—depending on how you look at it—to arrive during one of these rare times. In Vancouver, winter weather rarely sees the thermometer drop below 0°C, but the temperature still gets relatively low! For example, in December and January, the temperature averages between 3°C and 7°C.
Meanwhile, the rest of Canada is basically an ice cube…
What to Wear during Winter in Vancouver
Don’t think “snow,” think “waterproof.” Consider bringing along clothes that will keep the rain from getting your clothes all wet and soggy. It’s usually best to rock layers of clothes, like a fleece sweater, under a waterproof jacket. You may want to bring along an umbrella as well!
If you plan on hitting the slopes, going snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or tubing, do bring along your mittens, toques, snow pants, winter jacket, and anything and everything that will protect your skin from snow seeping through.
Fun Winter Facts about Vancouver
We challenge you to memorize these fun winter facts about Vancouver and tell them all to your friends and family!
- Vancouver is the third warmest city in Canada in winter!
- Vancouver receives the third-lowest snowfall compared to other Canadian cities during the winter.
- Vancouver was the first Winter Olympic host to hold the opening and closing ceremonies inside.
- Speaking of the Winter Olympics, Vancouver was also the first host to have the men’s and women’s hockey games played on an NHL-sized rink rather than an international-sized rink. This saved a lot of money since they didn’t have to build a new rink.
Which Vancouver winter activity do you want to try out first?