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Vancouver, British Columbia is an awesome city. It’s well known for its great natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle along with tons of great cafes, restaurants, cultural attractions, and so many amazing things to do.
A lot of people will claim summer is the best time to visit (and, let’s be real, the summer is pretty amazing in Vancouver), but you shouldn’t forget about the winter! Vancouver has a mild climate that makes it ideal for sightseeing and exploration in winter too.
In fact, I visit Vancouver a lot in winter just because I love the fact that the city is much quieter. Oh, and I can also get out to ski and enjoy other outdoor winter activities! Plus, I live in Edmonton, so Vancouver’s mild winter temperatures are very appealing in comparison.
Based on all the time I’ve been lucky enough to spend in Vancouver over the years, I’ve written this blog to share the best things to do in Vancouver during the winter to help your plan your trip. I’ve also included other important info for visiting Vancouver in winter so that you can be fully prepared for one epic winter holiday.
Things to do in Vancouver in Winter
1. Hit the slopes
Skiing is the most quintessential Canadian experience, and Vancouver has no shortage of awesome options!
If you don’t want to travel too far outside the city, check out the local North Shore mountains – Grouse (accessible by transit), Seymour, and Cypress. These three mountains are within 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver. A day of skiing or snowboarding costs around $70 CAD for adults and $25 for children depending on which resort you visit – that’s some of the cheapest skiing in Canada!
If you’re okay to drive a bit further, Whistler Blackcomb is an internationally renowned ski resort. It’s one of the biggest ski resorts in Canada with over 4,757 acres / 1,925 hectares of skiable terrain, 36 lifts, and over 200 runs! Whistler Blackcomb is suited to the novice skier all the way up to the pro.
It takes about two hours to drive from Vancouver along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway. Prices at Whistler Blackcomb aren’t cheap with lift tickets starting at $190 CAD for adults, $160 for teenagers 12 to 18, and $95 for kids ages 7 to 12. These prices do not include any early bird discount so if you know you’re skiing Whistler Blackcomb, book in advance to save money!
Related Read: Whistler is one of the best stops on the road trip from Vancouver to Calgary – find out what the others are!
2. Go ice skating at an outdoor rink
Ice skating is a fun way to spend a winter afternoon in Vancouver. Indoor skating rinks are located throughout Vancouver, mostly at community and recreation centers. It usually costs under $10 CAD to rent some skates and enjoy the rink.
Robson Square in downtown Vancouver also has a fun outdoor skating rink set up temporarily during the winter months. It’s always decked out in holiday decorations and has a fun, festive environment. After, you can go to Robson Street for a hot chocolate and some shopping. It’s the perfect way to spend a winter’s day/night in Vancouver!
The Robson Square rink is open from December to February and is completely free to use. If you don’t have your own skates you can rent them there for around $5 CAD.
3. Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a totally iconic landmark in Vancouver and is always recommended as one of the top places to visit. But, it’s an especially awesome thing to do in Vancouver in the winter!
It’s a great place to visit in the winter because there are usually fewer tourists and visitors, so you can explore at your own pace and have some time there by yourself. You might even be able to get a solo picture on the suspension bridge (check me out in the picture above!)
And although snow is not guaranteed in Vancouver, there are usually a few days or weeks of snow. So, if you’re lucky enough to be there when it does, it’s pure magic!
The Capilano Suspension Bridge also offers the Canyon Lights show, which makes for a really special, beautiful evening out. The price to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge is $59 CAD. This is a highlight in Vancouver and must in my opinion!
4. Watch a hockey game
Okay, I know I said skiing was the quintessential Canadian experience, but I was wrong. Hockey is! When in Vancouver, you’ve got to catch a game and see the Vancouver Canucks in action at the Rogers Arena!
The Vancouver Canucks usually play a few times a week throughout the season when they are in town. Prices can vary with the day of the week and the location of your seat making the biggest difference. But whether you are up close to the ice or way at the back of the arena, grab a beer and hot dog and enjoy the game!
Getting tickets to an NHL game can be hard. You can try on the official website, however, if not available, try Stub Hub for second-hand tickets off a trusted site or local Facebook groups such as Vancouver Marketplace (although risky if you have no experience buying them safely.) If there are two Canadian teams playing such as the Oilers (my team) vs Canucks tickets are very hard to get. Look for games against USA teams.
5. Head to Whistler
Ready for a road trip? Whistler is a two-hour drive away from Vancouver on the famous Sea to Sky Highway and is an amazing place to explore in the winter. Besides skiing and snowboarding, there are so many other amazing things to do in Whistler in winter.
Whistler Village is fun to explore, with tons of great shops, restaurants, and bars. There are also fun cultural attractions and museums. Whistler has outdoor activities galore and luxurious hotels and spas to indulge in. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Whistler in December, then you can check out a range of festive events too!
One thing I recommended doing while in Whistler is visiting Scandinave Spa Whistler. It’s the perfect place to relax on a cold winter’s day. Or, try an adventure activity such as snowmobiling or even ziplining!
Whether you go for a day trip or spend a few nights, you’ll love your time in Whistler!
6. Enjoy all the lights
Checking out some awesome light displays is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit! Vancouver has a lot of different lights set up during the winter for you to enjoy.
Capilano Suspension Bridge is known as a summer attraction, but they put on a pretty impressive light show during the winter. I went a few years ago and loved it. The bridge is much quieter at night and the lights are spectacular!
My favorite though is the Granville Island Festive Lights held every year from the start of November until the new year from 4 pm to 10 pm. It’s completely free to visit too.
Finally, you can always spend some time driving around the streets of Vancouver, or even walk in a nearby neighborhood to enjoy the lights on houses and businesses! We Canadians really love Christmas lights, and you’re sure to see this as you drive around both downtown Vancouver and through suburban neighborhoods.
Related read: check out all of the best things to do on Granville Island
7. Explore Science World
It’s no secret, but Vancouver can get pretty rainy during the winter months. So, when you need an inside day, head to Science World! It is immediately recognizable from its unique spherical shape that dominates the Vancouver skyline in False Creek.
They have tons of interesting exhibits and shows about all things science. They have a lot of child-orientated activities so it’s a fun place to bring the family!
Science World is easily accessible by the SkyTrain (close to the Main Street station) and it costs $25 CAD to enter.
8. Go snowshoeing
Vancouverites love to hike and there are a ton of awesome options in and around the city. Well, that same love for hiking can easily carry over into the winter with snowshoeing!
Snowshoeing is a fun winter activity and a great way to get some exercise. Both Seymour and Cypress mountains have extensive trail options that are well-marked and are good for all fitness and experience levels. Dog Mountain on Seymor is a very popular route that I’d recommend!
If you don’t have your own, snowshoes can be rented from Yes Ski & Snowboard Rental Vancouver in the CBD for $20 CAD a day. They can also direct you to other trails and give you great tips.
9. Enjoy the winter wonderland that is Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is called the “Peak of Vancouver” because it has epic views of the city, ocean, and surrounding mountains at the top. While it’s a popular place to go skiing and snowboarding, there are so many more things to do at Grouse.
Every trip to Grouse will start with a gondola ride to the top or a grueling hike. From there, you can check out options to go snowshoeing, skating, ziplining, or just walk around and enjoy the views or through the magical light walk!
Grouse has a full-service restaurant and cafe, so you can really make a day of it and enjoy this winter wonderland.
10. Ride on the hop-on-hop-off bus
Taking a tour on a hop-on-hop-off bus might mark you as a tourist in the city, but it is definitely one of the best ways to see a lot of Vancouver in a short amount of time! Especially during the winter when it can be cold and rainy… You’ll appreciate a warm bus to travel in!
The Vancouver hop-on-hop-off bus pass is valid for 24 hours, allowing you to explore the city at your own pace. There are over 30 stops, including popular locations like Gastown, Chinatown, Stanley Park, or the Robson Shopping District. All buses are equipped with headsets and audio commentary so you can learn more about the city and what you’re seeing. The price for this tour is $59/CAD.
11. Explore the Vancouver Christmas Market
Ready for a little taste of Germany in the middle of Vancouver? The Vancouver Christmas Market is inspired by the classic Christmas markets in Germany and Europe, with delicious food, festive music, and shopping.
The Christmas Market is located at the Jack Poole Plaza and starts at $13 CAD for adults and $7 for kids (online only, prices at the gate are more expensive) to enter. Once inside, you can explore the many different stalls with treats and handicrafts. I highly recommend treating yourself to some Glühwein (mulled wine) and schnitzel!
The market typically opens on November 20 until December 24 between 11:30 am and 9:30 pm except on Christmas eve it’s only open until 6 pm. However, you should check the event’s specific dates every year.
Related Read: For more Christmas events, check out our blog about visiting Vancouver in December!
12. Stanley Park Bright Nights
One of the best parts about exploring a new city during winter is all the seasonal, festive decorations! And Vancouver has some really awesome holiday light displays during the winter. The Stanley Park Bright Nights is a fun, family-friendly event to check out.
You can go for a train ride and see some magical light displays. After, grab something hot to drink, check out the stalls to buy seasonal gifts, and just enjoy the festive environment! The price to attend is $10 CAD and it;s easily one of the best things to do in Stanley Park.
13. Wander the VanDusen Gardens
The VanDusen Gardens are beautiful year-round, but they transform during the colder months and are one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter.
During the winter months, the gardens transform into the magical Festival of Lights. All 10 acres of the gardens are decorated with over 1 million lights! There are themed light displays throughout the gardens with festive music playing in the background.
It’s a truly magical experience and a great way to get into the holiday spirit! The price is $14 CAD to enter the gardens.
14. Go snowtubing
Vancouver is surrounded by local mountains and is a fun playground for residents and visitors alike. You can always go skiing or snowboarding, but if you’re looking for something that is all fun and requires no skill, try snow tubing!
Cypress Mountain has great snow tubing at Gnarly’s Tube Park that adults and kids alike will enjoy. Snowtubing is like tobogganing, but even more fun and comfortable in the big, comfy tubes. After you experience the thrill of rushing downhill at who-knows-how-many miles per hour, you can link the tube to a conveyer belt to pull you right back up.
Cypress is located in North Vancouver, about 30-45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The price of the tubing is announced every year so be sure to check before you go.
Related read: Traveling across Canada? Read about all the best things to do in Calgary in winter!
15. Ride in a sleigh
Grouse Mountain is called the “Peak of Vancouver” because of its epic views out around the city. It’s a wonderful place to visit with a bunch of fun wintertime activities. Going on a sleigh ride up at the top of Grouse Mountain is an experience like no other.
Admission to Grouse Mountain is around $60 CAD and includes the gondola to the top along with a sleigh ride to enjoy the wintery wonderland that is Grouse. You’ll be able to watch the downhill skiers do their thing, view some spectacular scenery, and hopefully see some wildlife! After your sleigh ride, you can head to the cafe or restaurant to get a bite to eat and drink and warm up.
Be sure to go on a clear day as half the fun at Grouse Mountain are the views!
16. Go on a food tour
One of the best parts about visiting a new city is trying different kinds of food! Vancouver is an awesome city to visit restaurants and bars, so definitely spend some time checking out something new. Because it’s a very international city, there are so many different types of cuisines to try out.
A food tour through Vancouver is one of the best ways to try some delicious bites but also see more of the city. This tour by Secret Food Tours through Vancouver is a great option and I myself joined the tour on a winter visit one time.
For about $100 CAD, you can join a small group for 3-4 hours, eating your way through the city. You’ll get to try diverse dishes like poutine, ice cream, and a “secret” dish. On top of that, you’ll visit the hidden gems only locals know about and can return to them after the tour. The food tour is through Gastown, which is the oldest and trendiest part of Vancouver.
The guide will also provide lots of information about Vancouver’s culture, history, and food. Just make sure to bring an appetite – you’ll need it.
17. Explore Granville Island
Granville Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vancouver, and I totally understand why. It’s a great stop on your Vancouver itinerary any time of the year. Winter is a great time to visit Granville Island because it will be less crowded with tourists, making it easier to explore and see all the sites.
You can read about all the best things to do on Granville Island before you go, but some of the highlights include visiting the public market, grabbing a beer at the brewery, and browsing the many shops and art galleries.
Thanks to Vancouver’s mild winters, you can still enjoy the scenery by taking a walk and watching boats in the marina. To warm up, you can visit one of the excellent restaurants for a bite to eat and drink.
18. See Vancouver from above
Vancouver is a beautiful city, with great views of the ocean and mountains from everywhere. But, it’s a whole other experience getting a birds-eye view over the city from up in the air! This Vancouver seaplane tour is guaranteed to be an epic, once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
The tour is about 30 minutes and will take you soaring up above the city of Vancouver, with epic views of the harbor, downtown city, and mountain peaks. The take-off and landing on the water are also pretty fun, and if you haven’t done it before, be prepared to get the heart racing!
Honestly, a seaplane tour in Vancouver was one of my most memorable experiences in the city.
The price for this tour is $145 CAD and is totally worth the splurge. You’ll be talking for days about this unique experience. And yes, this tour is totally doable in the winter months too!
19. Go hiking
When in Vancouver, do as the locals do and get outside! Hiking (year-round) is a popular outdoor activity in and around the city, and is a great option to explore some of the natural beauty while getting exercise! Plus, almost all of the parks in and around Vancouver are free to visit.
Because Vancouver has a mild climate, a lot of the low-elevation hikes can be done year-round without worrying about snow and ice. But, once you get up into the mountains – which is worth it for the views! – you’ll need to get some snowshoes.
We have a whole roundup of some of the best hikes in Vancouver to get you started. However, one of my favorites is Lynn Canyon. Not as many people know about Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge when compared with Capilano, however, this one is free and, better yet, accessible by a gorgeous hike through the forest.
This one-way loop hike will take about 1.5 hours and is fairly easy. Due to its low elevation, you can enjoy it year-round. You will start at the parking lot of the Regional Park, and walk past the yellow gate towards Lynn Creek. You’ll then walk over the suspension bridge, so make sure to snap some pics and enjoy the water rushing under your feet.
Some other great hikes with a low elevation include Quarry Rock, Stanley Park and Seawall, and the Fort-to-Fort Trail.
20. Try out Fat Biking
First of all… just what is fat biking? A fat bike is a bike outfitted with large, oversized (i.e. fat) tires and rims. This allows the bike to be taken out on all kinds of different terrains. Fat biking is the perfect activity to try during the winter because you can cycle in the snow!
If you know how to ride a bike, you know how to ride a fat bike! So, why not try out this fun activity and go for a snowy bike ride while visiting Vancouver in the winter.
This fat biking is still gaining popularity in Vancouver, unlike in Canmore where it’s one of the best things to do in Winter. So, you have to do a bit of planning to find somewhere to try it. The main place to go fat biking is Squamish, which is about a 1.5-hour drive from Vancouver. Here, there are places to rent fat bikes, and an extensive network of trails to explore! If you’ve never tried it before, be careful, as it is a bit slippery and takes some practice.
21. Go for a “Polar Bear Swim”
So it’s winter in Vancouver – time for a swim in the ocean, right? I’m serious, though! There is a whole network of brave individuals who go for a swim in the ocean on New Year’s Day every single year. It’s called the Polar Bear Swim, and it’s definitely an experience to remember!
If you’re not in Vancouver on January 1 to join the thousands of brave (or crazy?!) individuals, you can always test out your nerves and go for a swim on your own! Vancouver has some excellent public beaches like English Bay or Locarno Beach to give you a freezing cold wake-up swim.
22. Hit up a Cross country ski trail
While downhill skiing might be the most popular wintertime activity, both in Vancouver and around the country, cross country skiing is another fun way to get outside during winter. Cross country skiing is also more accessible, as it is easier to learn and not as expensive as downhill skiing.
A few of the local mountains have cross-country ski trails, but one of the best places to try the sport is Cypress Mountain’s Nordic Area. Here they have 19km of groomed trails, 7.5km of which are open for night skiing! There are also skiing lessons for beginners and on-site rentals.
23. Breweries, breweries, and more breweries
Despite Vancouver’s mild climate, you’re likely going to hit some cold and rainy days while visiting Vancouver in winter. What better way to warm up than visiting a brewery? Vancouver is a hot spot for local, craft breweries, and there are honestly so many to choose from.
Some popular areas of the city to check out breweries include Main Street (Brassneck Brewery, 33 Acres Brewery, or Faculty Brewing Co.), Granville Island (Granville Island Brewing), Port Moody (Yellow Dog Brewing, The Parkside Brewery, Twin Sails Brewing, Moody Ales), or East Vancouver (Storm Brewing, Andina Brewing, Off The Rail Brewing). This honestly just scratches the surface – breweries are all over the city!
If you are a true beer lover and want some expert advice, you can join a beer tour such as this one. For $97 CAD, you can explore the Vancouver beer scene with a small group of new friends. Transportation, beer, behind-the-scenes tours, and a souvenir are all included!
Related read: Want to know how to spend 1 day in Vancouver? Then check out our guide!
24. Visit the Fraser Valley on a wine tour
You’ve hit up some of the breweries in Vancouver, so time to switch gears and try some local wine. The Fraser Valley is a region located east of Vancouver, about an hour’s drive away. This agricultural region is home to some amazing vineyards and wineries. Joining a tour like this one is the perfect way to explore the area and try some delicious local wine!
The half-day tour includes hotel pick-up, transportation between wineries, and lots of great information about the wine-making process. And, of course, there will be lots of wine to try and bring home for later. Although the vines will be bare, the wine will still be flowing!
You can also visit the wineries on your own, and if you do, be sure to visit Seaside Pearl Winery, it’s my favorite. With that said, a tour is such a fun option and especially convenient during the winter when the weather is not so good. You can stay inside, leave the driving to someone else, and just go along for the ride!
Related Read: Are you a wine lover? Then you simply must visit Kelowna, BC! Although typically a summer activity, visiting wineries is still one of the best things to do in Kelowna in the winter months with most wineries open all year around! You can easily drive from Vancouver to Kelowna.
25. Go Shopping
Shopping is both the perfect indoor activity for a winter day, but also a great seasonal activity, especially around the December holiday season. Luckily, there are tons of great options to go shopping in Vancouver!
If you’re a fan of high-end shops, visit Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, where many of them are located. There are also local stores here like Roots or popular chains such as Zara. If you prefer shopping in malls, Pacific Centre in Vancouver or Metrotown in nearby Burnaby are large malls with tons of options. Finally, you can check out outlet malls like McArthurGlen to score some deals.
If you are in Vancouver after Christmas, make sure to check out the many, many Boxing Day and Week sales! You’ll definitely find something to buy as a gift or souvenir at a great deal!
Related Read: If you love to shop, be sure to visit the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta. It’s the biggest mall in Canada!
26. Explore the Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium has been a mainstay attraction in Vancouver since 1956. Today, it houses over 65,000 different animals, with everything from fish, octopus, alligators, sea urchins, otters, seals, and even sea lions!
The Aquarium is committed to education and conservation, so they have an extensive marine mammal rescue program. It’s a family-friendly destination with tons of programs aimed towards children and adults alike to learn and explore all the amazing marine life. A visit to the Aquarium is $42 CAD per adult or $26.25 CAD per child.
And, of course, the Aquarium is the perfect place to go on a winter afternoon, as it’s warm and dry and offers hours of entertainment. If you’ll be in Vancouver for a while, consider a member pass to save money and go multiple times.
27. Eat fresh seafood
As a coastal city, there are so many good seafood restaurants in Vancouver. It’s definitely worth prioritizing while in the city because it’s pretty hard to beat! Even just sushi – which you can find on every street corner – is fresh, cheap, and delicious.
If you want to really experience some amazing seafood, you can check out some of the popular restaurants such as Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, an upscale oyster bar and seafood bar, or the Captain’s Boil, for lobster and shellfish!
If you want to see where all these amazing fresh fish is caught, Steveston (Richmond) is a cool area located along the water. You can walk down Fisherman’s wharf and actually see all the daily catches!
28. Day trip to Squamish
Squamish is a city located north of Vancouver and is a popular location for all things outdoors. It’s simply stunning and worth a day trip to visit!
You can drive yourself from Vancouver to Squamish along the epic Sea to Sky Highway, which is very scenic, and stop at the Gondola located just outside of Squamish. Take the Gondola up to the top of a mountain and enjoy panoramic views, walking trails, and a cafe.
If you don’t want to drive yourself, you can also join a tour! This specific tour costs $150 CAD and will take you on a fun day adventure in Squamish. It provides all transportation and includes visits to Shannon Falls, the Britannia Beach Museum, a ride on the gondola, with lots of interesting commentary along the way!
The truth is, there are plenty of fun things to do in Squamish, so be sure to check it out!
29. Sightsee at the Vancouver Lookout
I don’t know how many times to say it – Vancouver is beautiful! So, naturally, you will want to take every opportunity to see the sights and enjoy the views. The Vancouver Lookout is the best way to do exactly that.
The Lookout is located right downtown, near the Vancouver Harbour. It opened back in 1877 and is 168 meters tall. You can access this view from a 40-second ride in a glass elevator, which in and of itself is pretty cool. The venue is also open for private gatherings and events, so you can dine in style.
30. Relax in a hot tub
After a few days of exploring Vancouver in the winter, you need a place to relax. So, get yourself to a spa in the city and chill out in a hot tub. The Fairmont Pacific Rim is an upscale hotel that has a large day spa as well as a heated outdoor pool and hot tub that you can soak in.
31. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
One of the best indoor activities on a winter afternoon in Vancouver is visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery. Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, this gallery houses some of the most amazing art collections. They have rotating exhibitions that often focus on local Canadian artists or commentaries on current events.
The Art Gallery is open daily and costs $24 CAD/adult to enter. If you happen to be around on a Tuesday night, you can actually enter by donation! Spend a few hours here and immerse yourself in the world of art.
32. Explore Canada on a simulated flight ride
You might be in Vancouver, but did you know there’s a way to actually explore the whole country? FlyOver Canada is a simulated flight ride that gives you epic birds-eye views of Canada’s diverse and dramatic landscapes. The ride is eight minutes long and totally immersive. You are sitting in a seat that moves slightly over the screen, so you truly feel like you are flying.
From this “flight” you will see everything from the west to north to the east coast of Canada, including the plains of the Prairies, rivers, and lakes, and all the cities along the way. If Vancouver is your first stop in Canada, then this flight might be the perfect activity to help curate your Canada bucket list!
It costs $35 CAD for this epic experience.
33. Learn all about historic Gastown
Gastown is one of the oldest, and most interesting, neighborhoods in Vancouver to explore. It is considered the historic heart of Vancouver and has beautiful cobblestone streets and architecture from the early twentieth century. It’s a place of history, but also a great place to eat, shop and drink!
This Gastown walking tour is a great place to start to explore this neighborhood. You’ll learn all about the origins of Vancouver and all the juicy stories about what happened over 100 years ago. The tour is about 1.5 hours and costs only $30 CAD.
Where to Stay in Vancouver in Winter
There are so many places to stay in Vancouver even I struggle to choose after over 15 visits to the city. I love staying close to Stanley Park on the West End but love the atmosphere of Gastown. Then there’s the Yaletown, close to Granville Island and located on the beautiful harbor. I love walking the seawall here!
It’s safe to say you’re going to struggle to choose a great place to stay in Vancouver this winter, but I’ll try to narrow it down for you.
The West End borders Stanley Park, is close to English Bay, and is still walking distance to the Granville Island ferry. It’s a downtown area that’s safe and inviting with lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes.
There’s not a lot for budget travelers in this area but those on a mid-range budget will love the Sonder at Revival. Or, those on a luxury budget The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver which overlooks Coal Harbour.
Gastown sits on the eastern side of the CBD not far from Coal Harbour. The area is best known for its amazing restaurants and bars but also its history. The area is also known to be a little rough around the edges but it’s safe and I often stay in this area.
If you’re on a budget The Cambie Hostel is in a great location with a social little bar attached to it. If you can spend a little more, stay at the EXchange Hotel Vancouver, or for luxury travelers, the Fairmont Pacific Rim is a top choice that sits on the border of Coal Harbor and Gastown.
Yaletown sits on the waterfront and is surrounded by green spaces. It’s arguably one of the nicest parts of the city and is close to the Granville Island ferry, David Lam Park, and Coopers Park. It’s a gorgeous area and the seawall is the perfect place to walk at sunset. Mainland Street, in the heart of Yaletown, is the perfect place to go for a drink and bite to eat and many of the best restaurants in Yaletown are located here.
For budget travelers, the Samesun Vancouver is the best choice. For the medium budget, I’d pick the GEC Granville Suites Downtown purely for its amazing location. Luxury travelers can have it all by staying at the Opus Hotel.
Other areas to stay in Vancouver include Coal Harbour (which I’ve kinda covered), and Mt Pleasant or Main street (not a great location in my opinion.)
For more detailed info on each area and the best hotels, read our blog about where to stay in Vancouver!
Getting Around Vancouver
Transportation and ease of navigating a new city are super important to consider when planning a trip. It will help you determine where to stay and what you’ll be able to visit while in the city. In Vancouver, there are a few different options for transportation in and around the city.
This is probably the best form of transportation if you want to explore anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver and participate in activities like hiking or skiing, which require getting a bit further away. Traffic in downtown Vancouver can be fairly busy, just like any city center.
There is ample parking available both on the streets and in parkades, though it can be expensive. Some hotels provide parking, so check ahead of time.
If you can rent a car so you can explore Vancouver with ease! Just be prepared to pay for parking unless your hotel includes it.
A great option besides renting a car is using a car share service like Modo or Evo. These services allow you to rent a car and pay based on the time it’s used (i.e., pay for 30 minutes, two hours, or the full day, depending on how long you drive for).
You can pick up and drop off the car at specific checkpoints around the city and the best part is they get lots of free parking. This makes it super easy to use a car for just the time that you need it.
Vancouver’s public transit system is not as extensive as many other major cities, but it is still a good way to get around to main attractions. The SkyTrain provides excellent access to some of the neighboring cities, such as Burnaby, New Westminster, or Surrey, so it offers a good option if you plan on exploring outside of downtown. It also runs from the airport, so again, a good option to get into the city from the airport.
There are also many buses in the city that run frequently. Note that public transportation options are extremely limited overnight, with only a couple of night buses and no SkyTrian options after around 1:00 am. All public transportation is run by the company TransLink and is fairly affordable; a single trip costs $3.05, and a day pass costs $10.75 CAD.
Taxis and rideshares
Taxis are available throughout the city, as are Uber and Lyft. These are good options in the downtown core but can get pricey if you are going further outside of that region. For example, the taxi cost from YVR to Vancouver is about $30-50.
The Aquabus is one of the more unique ways to get around Vancouver. These small boats visit 8 locations in the harbor all the way from The Village to Granville Island. The Aquabus costs $17 for a full day pass or round trip tickets start at $3.85 but prices vary depending on the route you take. You can check out all their routes and prices here.
Walking and biking
Vancouver is a very walkable city, and it is possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.
Biking is also a good option, as there are dedicated bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can rent bikes all over the city and pretty much ride everywhere you want to downtown. I love doing this, especially on a beautiful day!
Canada Winter Travel Essentials
If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!
Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:
Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.
Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!
Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.
Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!
Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.
Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
While you may have to contend with a bit of rain in Vancouver, don’t let that scare you off. There are so many awesome things to do in Vancouver during the winter! Take advantage of the temperate climate and close-by mountains to really explore this beautiful city.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this guide on the best things to do in Vancouver during winter has helped plan your upcoming trip. If it has, stay a while and check out more of my blogs such as: