'Tis the season to gather your friends and family together to celebrate!
This year, we’re rounding up the details on all your favourites and throwing in some fresh ideas. Make unforgettable memories this year at these festive events around the Lower Mainland.
1. The Day Before Christmas presented by the Arts Club Theatre Company – Thursday, November 16 to Sunday, December 24
Arts ClubAnyone who's ever had their best laid holiday plans go left will love this comedy! Perfectionist Alex tries to maintain that difficult balance between work and life. Is there any way to prevent her cherished Christmas traditions from falling apart? Take your friends to this hilarious comedy and bring levity to the stressful holiday season.
Goldcorp Stage, BMO Theatre Centre, 162 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver; Running time 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission; Tickets from $29
2. Christmas at Hycroft – Thursday, November 16 to Sunday, November 19
Facebook/Christmas at HycroftVisit Hycroft Manor, at the edge of Shaughnessy, for their 45th annual Christmas festival. The halls of this Edwardian mansion will be decked out in holiday finery for the event. Inside the ballroom is the artisan village where you can shop from over 25 vendors. Outside in the courtyard, you can find gourmet food and festive entertainment. There’s also a speakeasy with a secret password you need for entry!
Hycroft Heritage Preservation Foundation, 1489 McRae Avenue, Vancouver; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closes Sunday at 6 p.m.); Admission $15
3. Lights of Hope Celebration at St. Paul’s Hospital – Thursday, November 16
Lights of HopeHelp St. Paul’s kick off their Lights of Hope Celebration as they throw the switch on their iconic holiday display with over 100,000 lights! This annual fundraiser supports St. Paul’s Foundation as it meet the needs of patients in Vancouver. This is your chance to support your community as you sip hot chocolate, sample food truck wares, listen to Christmas carols sung by local choirs and watch the fireworks show. In case you can’t make the fundraiser launch, the Lights of Hope display will be twinkling on Burrard Street until January 8th.
St. Paul’s Hospital, 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Free, donations accepted
4. Explore the Canyon Lights – Thursday, November 23 to Sunday, January 28
Capilano Suspension Bridge ParkCanyon Lights is a winter festival that features outdoor family activities, entertainment and a light display on the suspension bridge and in the surrounding forest. This year, eight of the park’s 30-ton Douglas fir trees will be transformed into the tallest Christmas trees in the world! The “Snowy Owl Prowl” and DIY gingerbread cookies are not just for kids.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Tickets $14.95 to 42.95
5. Holiday at the Vancouver Aquarium – Friday, November 24 to Tuesday, January 2
Vancouver AquariumHere’s your chance to celebrate the holidays with all of your under-the-sea friends. There is a light display powered by electric eels and plenty of other interactive activities for kids to enjoy because there's more to the aquarium than just fish. They will also be showing a 4-D experience of The Polar Express. Don’t forget to look out for Scuba Claus. He can be found swimming merrily through the Strait of Georgia exhibit. Vancouver Aquarium, 845 Avison Way, Vancouver; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tickets $22 to 39
6. The Peak of Christmas – Friday, November 24 to Sunday, January 7
Grouse MountainHead to the Peak of Christmas event for a truly magical holiday experience. Get there early to enjoy a full day of activities everyone will love, including visits with Santa’s reindeer, sleigh rides, ice skating and more. The bustle of the city below will fade away as you lose yourself in the winter wonderland on top of Grouse Mountain.
Grouse Mountain Resort, 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver; 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily with exceptions; $15.95 to 114.95 with lift tickets
7. Candytown Holiday Festival – Saturday, November 25
Facebook/Yaletown InfoMake sure not to miss this festival that transforms Yaletown into Candytown. Organized by the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, Candytown features a gift market, costumed characters, a Christmas tree lot and free horse-and-carriage rides. The-brick-and-iron backdrop of Yaletown looks like a cheerful, Dickensian scene, making the festival even more magical. Get there early to beat the crowds.
Yaletown, 1152 Mainland Street, Vancouver; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Free
8. Surrey Tree Lighting Festival – Saturday, November 25
Facebook/Surrey Tree Lighting FestivalVisit Surrey City Hall for their annual Tree Lighting Festival. Visitors can ride the "Shooting Star" Ferris wheel and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. There will be plenty of local vendors and activities, plus the mayor and city council will light the 55-foot Christmas tree at 6:30 p.m.
City Hall Plaza, 13450 104 Avenue, Surrey; 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Free
9. Lights at Lafarge Lake – Saturday, November 25
Facebook/City of CoquitlamOnly a ride on the Evergreen line away, the Lights at Lafarge Lake will be lit up with fanfare this year. Enjoy hot chocolate, scavenger hunts, craft workshops, caroling and more. If you can't make it to the first day, the lights will be up until January.
By the Lafarge Lake-Douglas SkyTrain Station, Coquitlam; Free
10. Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum – Saturday, November 25 to Friday, January 5
Burnaby VillageIt’s worth visiting the historic Burnaby Village Museum for just the carousel ride alone this winter. Wander the village streets to see vintage-style holiday displays with fragrant cedar wreaths. There are plenty more events and activities to discover at this annual Heritage Christmas event.
6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby; Dates and times vary; Free (Carousel rides $2.65 each)
11. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Saturday, November 25 to Sunday, December 31
Carousel TheatreThis treasured story by C.S. Lewis is brought to the stage by the Carousel Theatre for Young People this season. Follow the four Pevensie children as they venture into Narnia, a magical land condemned to eternal winter by the White Witch. Go on a Friday night to take advantage of their “Family Friday” ticket discounts.
Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright Street on Granville Island, Vancouver; Running Time 80 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission; Tickets from $18
12. Homes for the Holidays – Saturday, November 25 to Sunday, November 26
Kids Help PhoneVisit five homes on the westside of Vancouver and see interior holiday design and decor like never before. This self-guided fundraising tour sees homeowners opening their doors so visitors can view the work of talented local designers. Proceeds go to the Kids Help Phone, supporting children in your community.
Various venues; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tickets $50
13. Ride the Polar Express in Squamish – Saturday, November 25 to Sunday, December 17
Facebook/West Coast Railway Heritage ParkSee The Polar Express come to life this season and ride a real train. The 50-minute journey along the rails is set to the soundtrack of the film. While en route to the North Pole to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, passengers onboard can sip hot chocolate and nibble cookies. The Polar Express only runs over four weekends so get tickets early.
West Coast Railway Heritage Park, 39645 Government Road, Squamish; Train times 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and Saturdays 6 p.m.; Tickets $35 to 59
14. Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park – Thursday, November 30 to Monday, January 1
Twitter/Bright Nights VanThis is the 20th year of the Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park. Three million lights will sparkle and shine in the forest and plaza surrounding the miniature Christmas train. This is a must-see event for families and any out-of-town guests. A portion of ticket sales goes to the BC Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund. Don’t forget to grab some hot chocolate and buttered popcorn while you take in the lights.
Stanley Park Railway, 610 Pipeline Road, Vancouver; Matinee Train 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Evening train 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Tickets $6 to 12
15. Go on a snowshoe tour at Mount Seymour – All December
Mount SeymourYou don’t have to buy expensive equipment or shell out for a season pass to enjoy fresh snow on the mountains. Go snowshoeing this season and work up a sweat in preparation of holiday feasting. Tours include a guide, snowshoe rental and trail pass plus hot apple cider. Tours vary depending on your interest and skill level, but we’re partial to the nighttime chocolate fondue tour.
1700 Mount Seymour Road, North Vancouver; Various dates and times; Tickets from $20
16. The Carol Ship Parade of Lights Festival – All December
Flickr/Vince AlgoniAll aboard! Carol ships are decked out in lights and alive with festive music thanks to carolers and a resident pianist. Book a ticket to this holiday classic and enjoy a four-hour cruise with a buffet dinner. Musical participation is encouraged but not mandatory!
Dock B, Plaza Of Nations Marina, 750 Pacific Blvd, Vancouver; All cruises board at 5:30 p.m.; Tickets $78.95 to 85.95
17. Hop on a ferry and take in the lights in Victoria – All December
Facebook/Tourism VictoriaFor a mini-holiday, hop a ferry to Victoria to celebrate the season. The entire inner harbour is lit up in December and Victoria transforms into a postcard-perfect winter scene. Visit the parliament buildings at night to see them lit up or opt for the Butchart Gardens annual Magic of Christmas light display.
18. Ice skate at a magical outdoor rink – All December
Robson SquareFind an outdoor rink near you and lace up! Bucolic and pastoral (even in an urban centre), outdoor ice skating is one of the most Canadian things you can do during the holidays. Visit rinks at Robson Square, The Peak of Christmas or Tsawwassen Springs.
19. Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt – All December
Facebook/Hyatt Regency VancouverEvery year, the Hyatt Regency Hotel holds a gingerbread house competition to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Drop by in December and visit the distinctive handmade displays. Make sure you eat beforehand so you’re not tempted to nibble on any unsuspecting gingerbread roofs.
Hyatt Regency, 655 Burrard Street, Vancouver; Free
20. VanDusen Festival of Lights – Friday, December 1 to Tuesday, January 7
VanDusen Botanical GardenWander the twinkling winter wonderland at VanDusen Botanical Gardens this season. This annual event has a new outdoor fireside lounge where you can sip on “adult” hot chocolate while the kids listen to storytime with Santa. Ride on the festive carousel and look out for designated selfie spots and photo ops complete with props. Remember to buy tickets online to save time.
VanDusen Botanical Gardens, 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver; 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. from December 15th to 24th); Tickets $8.57 to 18.10
21. Christmas with the Bach Choir – Sunday, December 3
Vancouver Bach Choir“Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we!” The full Bach Choir—with its 400 singers of all ages—will make the halls of the Orpheum ring with spirit this season. Make this classy holiday sing-along a tradition with your family this year.
Orpheum Theatre, 601 Smithe Street, Vancouver; 2 p.m.; Tickets $33.25 to 69.25
22. TELUS presents the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade – Sunday, December 3
Vancouver Santa Claus ParadeThe annual Santa Claus Parade takes over downtown Vancouver each December as thousands turn out to see Santa. Dress warmly, get there early and enjoy the festive floats and performances.
Parade route runs along West Georgia Street; 12 p.m.; Free
23. A Christmas Carol presented by Gateway Theatre – Thursday, December 7 to Sunday, December 24
Facebook/Gateway TheatreThe iconic miser Ebenezer Scrooge will get you in the Christmas spirit with this redemptive tale of love and loss. First published in print in 1843, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a holiday classic. This year, Gateway Theatre brings it to the stage with live music in a family-friendly production.
Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond; Tickets $27.62 to 52.38
24. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast presented by the Arts Club Theatre Company – Thursday, December 7 to Sunday, January 7
Arts Club“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.” The whole family will be transported to the Beast’s castle and be enchanted by the musical numbers in this adaptation of the Disney film. Impressive costumes and sets create a fun, holiday atmosphere everyone will love.
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville Street, Vancouver; Tickets $29 to 99
25. Yule Duel – Thursday, December 7
Facebook/Yule DuelDuelling carolers collide in Gastown this December at this magical fundraising musical event. Over 20 choirs from across the city will be in attendance ranging in style from barbershop to gospel. This year, expect choirs to compete for the trophy in style with costumes and choreography. Come down to hear as Gastown rings with cheer!
Water Street, Gastown, Vancouver; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Free
26. The Nutcracker presented by Goh Ballet – Thursday, December 14 to Tuesday, December 19
Goh BalletHaving visions of sugar plum fairies? See the real thing at Goh Ballet's traditional performance of The Nutcracker. The Vancouver Opera Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s score. More than 200 local and international performers will bring fresh life to this classic holiday ballet.
The Centre, 777 Homer Street, Vancouver; Tickets $28 to 96.50
27. Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival – Friday, December 15 to Sunday, January 21
Vancouver Lantern FestivalGet in the holiday spirit and celebrate Chinese culture at this five-week long festival at the PNE. Featuring massive lanterns, this festival is a fun take on a holiday light display. There are two nightly performances including Chinese folk dancing, music and acrobatics.
PNE, 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Closes at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday); Tickets $13.50 to 19
28. Big Elf Run – Saturday, December 16
Facebook/Running ToursHave some healthy fun this season at the third annual Big Elf Run. This holiday event offers three options: a 1km Wee Elf Run, a 5km Elf run/walk and or a 10km run/walk. Registration includes an elf toque and the routes are suitable for all ages and abilities. Join in the after party for hot chocolate and a live DJ.
Lumberman’s Arch, 3301 Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver; Check in at 11:30 a.m.; Registration $15 to 30
29. Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – Thursday, December 21
Facebook/Secret Lantern SocietyThis multi-neighbourhood festival celebrates the winter solstice by lighting up the darkest night of the year with lanterns, music and fire shows. Celebrations take place in Yaletown, Chinatown, Strathcona and at Granville Island. Visit the Labyrinth of Light installation (Tickets $7) built with over 600 beeswax candles.
Various times and venues; Free, $5 suggested donation
30. Ballet BC presents Alberta Ballet in The Nutcracker – Thursday, December 28 to Saturday, December 30
Ballet BCKeep the holiday magic alive this year at The Nutcracker, with music by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This is a classic take on The Nutcracker, with a setting in imperial Russia at the turn of the century. Expect nothing but opulence at this ballet performance.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 630 Hamilton Street, Vancouver; Tickets $35 to 95