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ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Vancouver in December (2024)

ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Vancouver in December (2024)

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Vancouver, British Columbia is a busy urban center with tons to see and do and is famous for its stunning natural beauty surrounding the city.

One of the best things about Vancouver is that it’s one of those destinations that’s fun to visit at any time of the year.

But the truth is, Vancouver is especially exciting in the month of December. December marks the beginning of winter in Vancouver, and while that means rain and maybe even a little snow, there’s plenty to do in Vancouver in December.

There are plenty of exciting activities at this time of year. That, combined with all the fun festive events, makes Vancouver the perfect December destination.

So, if you’re planning to visit Vancouver this December, then you’re in luck. We’ve also visited Vancouver in December (a couple of different times) and are here to tell you all about why this is one of the best months! This blog is your ultimate guide to Vancouver in December including info on the weather, events, things to do, where to stay, and more!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Events and activities you can’t miss December are:

  • Vancouver Christmas Market – the best festive market and place to buy goodies
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge – In the evenings the entire park is lit up with Christmas Lights. Purchase your tickets online here to secure your timeslot!
  • Visit Grouse Mountain – Take the gondola up Grouse Mountain for an epic view, and during December, lots of fun festivities! Book your gondola ticket online here!
  • Go hiking or snowshoeing – Enjoy the snow up in the mountains on a trail! If you don’t have snowshoes, book this tour!
  • Go skating at an outdoor rink – Visit Robson Square to rent skates and glide around on the rink!

Why Visit Vancouver in December

Winter views from Grouse Mountain, Vancouver

Vancouver is an amazing December destination because it has a milder winter than other Canadian cities. But at the same time, you can still expect a beautiful winter wonderland with plenty of fun December activities.

Not to mention, there are a ton of festive events you can experience in Vancouver in December! Anybody who loves the Christmas season will particularly enjoy Vancouver at this time of year. There are lights everywhere, holiday markets, and plenty of things to do to get you in the holiday spirit!

Vancouver in December Weather

view of mountains near vancouver in december
The winter weather in Vancouver in December is pretty mild.

In comparison to other Canadian cities, you get to experience a much milder December in Vancouver. That being said, temperatures still hover above freezing.

You can also expect a bit of rain. December is one of Vancouver’s rainiest months. Luckily, there are lots of things to do in Vancouver when it’s raining too.

The average temperature in Vancouver in December typically ranges between 37-45 degrees Fahrenheit (3-7 degrees Celsius).

Events in Vancouver in December

 Stanley Park Bright Nights
The Stanley Park Bright Nights! Photo credit: BrightNightsVan

One of the best things about visiting Vancouver in December is the number of events you can find around the city. From Christmas lights to markets and more, there’s a ton of festivities just waiting to be explored!

Granville Island Festive Lights

Granville Island Festive Lights is one of my absolute favorite events in Vancouver in December! Take a stroll through Granville Island’s expansive grounds (nearly 40 acres), and enjoy a relaxed evening without crowds among the lights, restaurants, bars, and taprooms.

It’s 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.

Related Read: Find out about all of the other fun free things to do in Vancouver in our blog!

Festival of Lights

Check out the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden where you can experience one million lights decorating 10 acres. Holiday music, unique light features, and themed areas all in a magical outdoor garden setting.

This event is held every year from early December until early January (it is Closed on Christmas) from 4 pm to 9:30 pm.

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. It’s one event I’d definitely add to your Vancouver itinerary!

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.

Vancouver Aurora Winter Festival

Fairground rides, ice skating, a Yuletide market, sparkling illuminations, and so much more holiday fun to be had at the Aurora Winter Festival! They even have fun characters, like Jolly Old Elf, walking around. It’s Vancouver’s own winter wonderland!

The event is held at PNE, and 2021 dates have not been released yet!

Winter Solstice Festival

Winter Solstice Festival isn’t exactly a Christmas festival, but instead, it’s a celebration of the darkest day of the year and old-world traditions. There is lantern making, entertainment such as music and fire performances, and food vendors. Sometimes they also feature a ticketed candle-lit labyrinth to walk around.

The Winter Solstice Festival takes place December 21 at 2-3 different locations each year. In Yaletown, at Granville Island, and some years in Chinatown at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden. The event is mostly free, some venues may be ticketed and donations are encouraged.

Also, if you want to participate in the Lantern Festival the lanterns cost between $15-25 CAD and require advanced registration.

Related Read: Drive from Vancouver to Jasper for an epic road trip! Jasper in December is also beautiful!

20 EPIC Things to do in Vancouver in December

1.  Go snowshoeing 

Dog Mountain Trail near Vancouver in winter
Winter shouldn’t stop you from hiking Dog Mountain!

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 winter months like December with snowshoeing!

Snowshoeing is a fun December 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.

Alternatively, go on this guided snowshoe tour. The tour includes pick-up from your downtown Vancouver hotel and takes you up into the mountains where there is loads of snow! You’ll strap on your snowshoes and get instructions on how to walk in them before you set off.

This tour really is for anybody who can walk – if you can walk you can snowshoe! It also includes warm drinks and snacks, as well as plenty of commentary about the area and the culture of the Squamish First Nation. It lasts for about 4 hours and costs $97 CAD per person. You can read all about it and book online here!

2. Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge

On the Capilano Suspension Bridge at night during winter in Vancouver
The bridge is only part of the attraction. The treetop walk is so stunning, especially in December!

By far one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Here, you can cross a huge suspension bridge conquering any fear of heights.

But it isn’t just one bridge. In fact, there are a series of bridges here and it is a full tree canopy walk that takes at least an hour to explore properly. You’ll admire some amazing views and enjoy being up high amongst some huge Canadian pine trees. It is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver in winter!

If you’re visiting Vancouver in December, then consider visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge at night when they light it all up in Christmas lights. Not only is this a unique and festive activity, but it’s also beautiful and romantic too!

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is located about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, but they do offer a free shuttle that departs regularly from a couple of different locations around Vancouver.

They do only allow a limited number of people in at any given time, so your best bet is to book your tickets and time slots online in advance here.

Of course, a lot of the best sightseeing tours in Vancouver also pay Capilano Suspension Bridge a visit. If this sounds more like your style, you can book this highly-rated full day tour. Besides visiting Capilano, your guide will also take you to the popular neighborhoods of Gastown, Granville, Island, and Chinatown. You’ll also visit the Vancouver lookout and Brockton Point Totem Pole.

On the tour, your guide will provide tons of info so you can learn all about the area. Transport is completely taken care of as is your admission to Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Vancouver Lookout. This tour lasts for 6.5 hour and costs only $167 CAD per person. It’s a great way to see a ton in Vancouver in a short amount of time! You can read all about it and reserve easily online here!

3. Wander the VanDusen Gardens

VanDusen Gardens lights during winter in Vancouver
The gorgeous VanDusen Gardens at night in Vancouver in December!

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 December.

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! Anybody visiting Vancouver on a romantic couple’s trip, or even honeymoon, will love going for a stroll here hand-in-hand.

The price is $14 CAD to enter the gardens.

4. Go snowtubing

Gnarly's Tube Park at Cypress Mountain
Gnarly’s Tube Park at Cypress Mountain. Photo credit: Cypress Mountain Resort

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!

5. Hit up a Cross country ski trail

Cross country skiing in Canada
Going uphill sure works those legs!

While downhill skiing might be the most popular December activity, both in Vancouver and around the country, cross country skiing is another fun way to get outside in the cold winter month of December. 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 (11.8 miles) of groomed trails, 7.5km (4.6 miles) of which are open for night skiing! There are also skiing lessons for beginners and on-site rentals. 

6. Seaplane tour

Vancouver city view of the False Creek area from a float plane tour
The view from the plan when we did our Vancouver seaplane tour.

If you’re looking for a new perspective of Vancouver, this seaplane tour is the way to go! We had such an incredible experience, it definitely makes our list of the best tours in Vancouver. There’s nothing quite like soaring high up above the city of Vancouver, with scenic, panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. Taking off and landing on the water is simply incredible.

It’s a small group tour, with just 14 people, and will take 30 minutes. The tour costs $167 CAD and will depart from the Canada Place harbor at multiple times of the day. You must book your spot on the seaplane tour online in advance here (they are often sold out!)

You can also use a seaplane as a mode of transport. Instead of driving from Vancouver to Whistler, you can take this flight which will drop you off in Whistler. There are tons of awesome things to do in Whistler too, so it’s well worth visiting for a couple of days.

7. Go for a “Polar Bear Swim” 

So it’s December 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 city beaches like English Bay or Locarno Beach to give you a freezing cold wake-up swim.

8. Relax at a spa

the steam camber at Miraj Hammam Spa in vancouver
The high-intensity steam camber at Miraj Hammam Spa. Photo Credit: Miraj Hammam

The most relaxing way to spend one of your days in Vancouver in December is by hitting the spa. There are a few great options in Vancouver where you can treat yourself to a relaxing massage or facial. Here are the top choices: 

CHI, The Spa (Most Luxurious)

CHI, The Spa is located in the Shangri-La Hotel, as mentioned earlier. They offer a variety or spas, facials, and body treatments. Because this is one of the most upscale hotels and spas, you should expect to spend at least $150-200 CAD on a massage. It will be worth it for the total bliss experience! 
 

Smile Thai Wellness (Most Budget-friendly)

Here you will have a touch of Thailand in the heart of Vancouver. Smile Thai Wellness offers a number of services including a relaxing Thai oil massage, Thai Herbal Spa Treatments, and Massages. Prices begin at $100 CAD for a 60-minute massage. They are located right downtown in the shopping district of Robson Street.  
 

Miraj Hammam Spa (Most Unique)

This hammam is a Middle Eastern spa and the first of its kind in Canada. All treatments at Miraj Hammam Spa start with a hammam (steam room) and then move to a gommage (full-body exfoliation). After, you can receive a relaxing massage and then chill out in the Sultana Lounge. The spa is very opulent and beautiful with velvet beds and silk pillows. Prices start at $100 CAD and it is located just across the Granville Street Bridge from downtown on West 6th Avenue.  

9. Head up to Grouse Mountain

View from Grouse Mountain at sunset.
View from Grouse Mountain in December at sunset. Photo Credit: BigStock

Vancouver is surrounded by numerous mountains, many of which are popular ski and snowboard hills. Grouse Mountain is called the “Peak of Vancouver” and has the most epic view of the city and surrounding areas.

To get up to the top of the mountain, you can either hike the Grouse Grind (a very intense hike!) or take the Gondola up to the top.

Admission and the gondola costs $80 CAD. In December there are activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. There is an awesome restaurant and café at the top of the mountain, so you can grab a snack or drink while soaking in the amazing view of Vancouver, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains.

You can book your ticket to ride the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain online here!

10. Go on a brewery tour

Daniel and Bailey taste beer at Granville Island Brewing
Granville Island Brewery is one of our favorites!

Despite Vancouver’s mild climate, you’re likely going to hit some cold and rainy days while visiting Vancouver in December. What better way to warm up than going on a Vancouver brewery tour? Vancouver is a hot spot for local, craft breweries, and there are honestly so many to choose from. We have a full guide on Vancouver breweries to help you narrow it down!

I personally love Granville Island Brewing. Not only do they have great beer and are located on Granville Island (a must-visit place in Vancouver) they also offer brewery tours. Tours run every day throughout the day and cost $12 per person. This fee not only covers your guided tour of the brewery but also a tasting flight of beer at the end!

For real beer lovers though, you need to go to more than just one Vancouver brewery. This behind-the-scenes craft beer tour will take you to a handful of different breweries around the city where you can try tons of local beer. At each brewery, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at how the beer is made – a super cool tour if you ask me!

Plus, it includes transport so you can drink as much as you want without having to worry about a designated driver!

This 3-hour tour has over a hundred 5-star reviews, so it must be good! It costs $125 CAD per person and includes a ton of beer! You read all the details about it and book online here.

11. Join a food tour

One of the classic Canadian dishes we tried on our food tour in canada
Can anyone guess what this Canadian classic is?

Foodies will love Vancouver because there is so much amazing food to try! However, it can be hard to know where to even start. A food tour is one of the best Vancouver city tours because it will let you in on all of the top local spots for amazing food.

When we went on a food tour in Vancouver we tried everything from sushi to poutine to ice cream (and more!) Our guide was a Vancouver local who had a passion for food and was excited to show us all of his favorite Vancouver restaurants that took him years to discover.

We went on our tour with Taste Vancouver Food Tours. Overall, we really enjoyed the tour and it was pretty cheap compared to other food tours we’ve done around the world (we personally recommend these guys.) We ate so much food that we were stuffed for days (well, not really – but pretty close!)

One thing we love about this food tour, in particular, is that it takes place in Gastown. Gastown is one of the prettiest and oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver, so besides stuffing your face you’ll learn a thing or two about Vancouver’s past, too.

This food tour inlcudes 6 food tastings including some Canadian classics, as well as three drink tastings (alcoholic options are available!) The tour lasts for about 3 hours and costs only $110 CAD per person. You can book it easily online here.

12. Explore Granville Island

Stalls in the Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island Market!
Bailey eats a hotdog at the Granville Island Public Market

No trip to Vancouver is complete without checking out Granville Island. For those who don’t know, Granville Island is a small island accessed by either boat or car right in the downtown area. On Granville Island, there are a few different things to do and explore, my personal favorite though is the markets.

The markets offer fresh produce, meat and fish, souvenirs, as well as many stalls where you can have a tasty meal. There is literally so much food at the Granville Island Markets; it’s a great place to go for lunch!

Luckily, it is an indoor market, so you can enjoy it as much as you want to escape the cold December weather. While you can explore by yourself, there’s something great about taking this VIP market tour – especially if it’s your first time here. You’ll be shown around the market in a small group and get to taste some of the delights from the market’s best spots!

With so many vendors, it can be hard to choose what to try first. We’ve visited Granville Island Market countless times and have still not managed to try everything! 

This tour starts at 10:30 am and lasts for two hours, so it basically is like brunch and lunch combined! You’ll have an expert local guide along to tour you around the market as you sample at least 20 of the best culinary delights on offer. Think fluffy doughnuts, truffle salami, fine cheeses, chocolate, and even Thai food. My mouth is watering already!

This tour costs $130 CAD including all of the food you’ll sample. It has rave reviews and is thought to be one of the best culinary experiences on Granville Island! In fact, it’s even received the designation as a Canadian Signature Experiences tour which basically means it has the tourism stamp of approval as an authentic Canadian travel experience. You can book your spot on this market tour online here!

Granville Island isn’t just about food, though, and there are plenty of other unique shops to check out.

Some of the more interesting shops to check out include Beadworks (more crafting beads than you’ve ever seen in your life!), the Hamuhk Hangout Place (a designated hammock store with options from Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia), or the Granville Island Broom Company (handcrafted brooms of all different designs). 

Getting to Granville Island:

You can get to Granville Island with a taxi or bus or even by booking one of the popular Granville Island tours. The most popular (and most fun) way to get to Granville is riding the Aqua Bus Ferry from the city center.

The ferry runs continually throughout the day and will pick you up from a couple of different stops in the city and take you right to Granville Island. The ferry costs $5 and only accepts cash. Not only is it a method of public transport – it’s a fun thing to do on its own!

13. Laugh out loud at Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv 

an improv scene at Vancouver Theatresport on Granville Island
There are some great shows you don’t want to miss! Photo Credit: Vancouver Theatre Sports

Are you ready to laugh the night away? Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv Comedy in Granville Island has some of the funniest shows in the city. They have been Vancouver’s top improv comedy company since 1980.

Since all their shows are unscripted improv, you won’t ever see the same thing twice. The actors and comedians engage with the audience to come up with ideas for the show. It makes each show totally unique and you’re guaranteed to laugh until your sides hurt!  

Tickets are between $15-$25 CAD and you can sit in theatre seats or at a table. 

14. Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola

The Sea to Sky gondola in winter
At the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola!

One of the most famous attractions just outside of Vancouver is the Sea to Sky Gondola. In a gondola car you’ll glide to the top of Mount Habrich. While you soar to a peak of almost 915 meters (3,000 feet), you’ll have views of Howe Sound, Shannon Falls, and the famous Squamish Chief Mountain.  

Once you arrive at the top, take some time to explore and check out all the activities at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. The mountain scenery is breathtaking as you walk along one of the hiking trails or across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. The bridge has panoramic views above the pine tree-covered valley and is the perfect spot for some photos. There’s also a 5,000-square-foot viewing platform up here, which also has some pretty insane views. 

In Decemeber, there will also be a ton of snow up there!

The Sea to Sky Gondola is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and tickets can be purchased online here and are around $70 CAD per adult.

With that said, the Sea to Sky Gondola is located about an hour drive from Vancouver, so if you don’t have your own wheels then you’ll need to book a tour to get there. This specific tour will take you on a fun day adventure to Whistler with a stop at the Sea to Sky Gondola. It provides all transportation and includes visits to Shannon Falls as well as plenty of free time in Whistler.

The tour lasts for about 10 hours all up, and costs $214 CAD per person. You can book your spot on the tour online here.

15. Check out the Vancouver Lookout

Vancouver lookout at sunset
Vancouver Lookout at sunset

The Vancouver Lookout is one of the best places to enjoy views of Vancouver’s skyline. Go up into the clouds 169m (559ft) above Vancouver and enjoy the panoramic views during the day, night, or at sunset!

To get to the top, you’ll jump into a glass elevator and take a 40-second ride up to the top viewing deck where you can see Vancouver from up above!

The Lookout is open from 9 am to 9 pm in the winter and from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm in the summer. It costs $18.25 for an adult. If you’re planning a special event you can also rent the space for weddings or events.

You can book your ticket online here!

16. Vancouver Aquarium

Seals perform tricks at the Vancouver Aquarium
They eat so much fish!
Penguins at the Vancouver Aquarium
The penguins are so cute!

Being on the coast, Vancouver sees its fair share of sea life. But it isn’t always easy to find these guys in the wild (especially in December) – that’s where an aquarium comes in!

The Vancouver Aquarium has more than 60,000 aquatic creatures including sea lions, otters, and penguins. They have daily shows including the sea lion feeding and an IMAX presentation.

What I like most about the Vancouver Aquarium is that they are a conservation project. It’s actually a non-profit so your entrance fee goes towards a few really neat projects to help protect sea life!

Admission is $38 CAD for an adult, but you can often get a better deal by booking online.

17. Go Wine Tasting in the Fraser Valley

About the taste wines in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, Canada
About to taste wines in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, Canada

This is one of my personal favorite activities to do in Vancouver in December! Anyone who knows me knows that I love wine, and the only thing I love more than wine is wine tours!

The Fraser Valley just outside of Vancouver is a beautiful wine region producing some really tasty wines. A wine tour to the Fraser Valley will take you around to some of the best wineries and you get to taste all of the wine for yourself! Sounds like a good day if you ask me!

This Fraser Valley Wine tour would be top recommendation. It is a six-hour tour that takes you to four different wineries where you can try a variety of boutique wines. The tour will pick you up and drop you off at your Vancouver hotel so all you have to worry about is having a brilliant day!

What I love most about this tour is that it includes a behind the scenes look at the wine making process! Oh, and you don’t have to worry about getting hungry either since snacks and a light lunch is included too!

This tour costs $180 CAD and includes plenty of wine samples, transport, your guide, as well as lunch and snacks along the way. You book your spot online here!

18.  Visit a ski mountain

Lining up at the ski lift at Grouse Mountain
Lining up at the ski lift at Grouse Mountain

In December, you need to go skiing or snowboarding! The most popular and closest places for hitting the slopes in Vancouver include Mt Seymour, Cypress Mountain, and Grouse Mountain. You can rent gear and even just get a day pass if you only want to spend one day.

I personally really enjoyed walking the trails from the top of Mt Seymour. You can drive all the way to the top parking lot and then choose from a variety of different hiking trails from there. Mystery Lake is a great short hike that can be done in an hour or so!

19. Go ice skating at an outdoor rink 

Ice skating at Robson Square in Vancouver
The outdoor rink at Robson Square! Photo credit: Depositphotos edb3_16

Ice skating is a fun way to spend a December 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.

20. Head to Whistler 

Whistler Village in winter
The gorgeous Whistler Village! Photo credit: Mardzpe Depositphotos

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 December. 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 December day. Or, try an adventure activity such as snowmobiling or even ziplining!

Whether you go for a day trip from Vancouver or spend a few nights, you’ll love your time in Whistler!

Getting to Whistler:

You can either drive yourself to Whistler, take a shuttle, or go on an organized day trip from Vancouver.

If you don’t have your own car already but want the freedom of your own wheels, you can easily rent a car.

Alternatively, book this shuttle transport from Vancouver to Whistler. It’s important to note that the shuttles do take longer, so they are better for multi-day trips in Whistler as opposed to just a one-day trip.

A organized tour is likely your best option if you’re short on time. This particular full-day tour combines your trip to Whistler with the Sea to Sky Gondola ride. It costs $214 CAD and includes your Sea to Sky Gondola ticket, as well as all of your transportation, with live commentary on board which I always think is great for first-time visitors.

You’ll also have several hours of free time in Whistler so that you can explore independently and check out the cafes, boutiques, and attractions that most interest you. If you’re not all gondola-ed out, then we highly recommend the Peak 2 Peak gondola as well!

What we also love about this tour is the fact that it includes a stop at Shannon Falls to check out this awesome feat of nature. Plus, it has a maximum group size of 30 so it doesn’t feel like you’re part of a massive herd. It’s also very well organized and everything runs super smoothly, so you don’t waste time hanging around when you could be exploring! You can book this day trip from Vancouver to Whistler easily online here!

Where to Stay in Vancouver in December

Vancouver City from above
Vancouver from above

Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. If you’re planning a trip in December the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!

It’s safe to say you’re going to struggle to choose a great place to stay in Vancouver this December, but I’ll try to narrow it down for you.

Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:

The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown where you’ll find amazing restaurants. Also, attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. The rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality. Easily book your room through Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.

Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!

Click here to browse all hotels in Vancouver!

For more detailed information about the best areas to stay in Vancouver and the best hotels, read our blog about where to stay in Vancouver!

Getting Around Vancouver in December

Aquabus or Water Taxi to Granville Island in Downtown Vancouver
This is a unique way to get around Vancouver, even in December!

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.

Driving

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.

Car share

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. 

Public transportation

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.

Aquabus

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

You may not want to walk too much in the chilly month of December, but Vancouver is a very walkable city. It is very possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.

Biking is also a good option (weather dependent), 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!

Renting a Car in British Columbia

A rural road with Mt Currie in the background
Road trips are the best way to explore Canada!

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 isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars 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!

Before you go…

skiing in the winter
Thanks for reading!

Vancouver is an awesome city with so much to see and do, even in December! I hope this guide to Vancouver in December helped you plan your future trip! If you need more specific help, just reach out to us!

Before you leave, make sure to check out some other blog posts about other Canadian cities such as:

Things to Do in Vancouver in the Summer

Things to do in Radium Hot Springs, BC

30 EPIC things to do in Golden, BC

Biviey

Saturday 30th of July 2022

Very informative and helpful in every aspect to help first-timer Foreign travellers to visit Vancouver, Canada.