HI Hostels Blog

Vancouver Winter Wonderland

Vancouver Winter Wonderland introduction

Vancouver is an excellent winter playground destination. Would you like to ski, snowboard, or even heli-ski?  Travellers come from six continents, to spend their winters here. For some, Vancouver is merely a starting point to adventure. Try one of British Columbia’s world-class ski & snowboard resorts.  Olympic athletes came from all over the world, trained on ski hills around BC, and won medals during the 2010 Winter Olympics.    Local resorts like Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are situated within 30 minutes of Vancouver. It’s a great time to visit.  HI-Vancouver has terrific accommodation deals.  Remember that your HI membership will always get you exclusive discounts.  You will love all the après-ski events that our Vancouver winter wonderland has to offer.

ski, snowboard, or even heli-ski

British Columbia’s world-class ski & snowboard resorts



HI membership


HI-Vancouver Ice Skating Activity

Ice Skating Activity

Just think of all the wonderful movies, that had a romantic scene, set at an ice rink.  Would you like to try ice skating?  Every Thursday, join fellow hostellers for ice skating.  We will take a group, on a guided walk, to the West End Ice Rink.  The West End is also a culinary delight, for sampling world cuisine and desserts.  While in the neighbourhood, take a stroll around English Bay too. At city center, is the world famous Robson Square Ice Rink.  This 2010 Olympic legacy venue, re-established a winter tradition.  It is completely free to use the ice rink. Skate rentals are $4.  The rink will open in December.  For the group skate, hostellers can also opt to come here.  It is fun times for all.  Warm up with a hot chocolate, in between skating sessions.

West End Ice Rink

Robson Square Ice Rink


Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights

Enjoy a kaleidoscope of colourful holidays lights, designed to lift spirits and raise money for worthy charities. In mid November, ten kilometers of beautiful lights will illuminate St. Paul’s Hospital, for the Lights of Hope campaign. Take a moment to bask in the holiday glow.  Are you taking a walk around Stanley Park?  Bright Lights in Stanley Park creates an enchanted forest environment of two million lights.  The Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden features 1.4 million twinkling lights.  Stay for the Dancing Light show by Livingstone Lake, or take a stroll down Candy Cane Lane. The sparkling city lights bring great joy, to everyone in Vancouver.

St. Paul’s Hospital

Bright Lights in Stanley Park

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden



Vancouver Christmas Market

Christmas Market

In late November, a seven hundred year old German tradition returns to Vancouver. Christmas Markets, known in Europe as Christkindlmarkts, are a festive gathering point in the local community.  Enter another world, with 45 plus vendors, at the Vancouver Christmas Market. The European market is located beside Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  I love the gingerbread, cinnamon spiced wine (aka glühwein), freshly roasted chestnuts, and chocolate fountain. The intricate Nutcracker statues and glass ornaments evoke special, old world charm. Stay for the European choir music, visit with St. Nicholas and take a ride on the beautifully adorned carousel.


Vancouver Christmas Market


Music and Performing Arts

Music and Performing Arts

After almost 50 years, a rock legend returns to Vancouver. Paul McCartney comes to BC Place, in a concert spectacular.  The Cirque du Soleil (“Circus of the Sun”) acrobats return to Vancouver, to perform “Amaluna”. It is loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.  Holiday purists can enjoy a traditional dance masterpiece.  The wondrous Goh Ballet performs “The Nutcracker”.  Awe at more than 200 costumed dancers, choreographed to Tchaikovsky’s memorable score, played by the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. House music lovers will thrill at the CONTACT Winter Music Festival. Performers at this electronica concert event include Deadmau5.  Vancouver has a rich, vibrant music and arts scene.

Paul McCartney


The Nutcracker






Holiday Tree and Santa Claus Parade

Tree Lighting & Santa Parade

The Vancouver Tree Lighting ceremony will bring our community closer together.  The 50-foot tree will be lit up at Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver Convention Centre – West.  Listen to a live performance by The Vancouver Children’s Choir.  Well, it simply would not be December without the Santa Claus Parade. Spectators are encouraged to come early for pre-parade festivities. The parade features marching bands, dance troupes and community float displays for the crowd of 300,000.  Santa’s annual appearance brings joy and hope.  Santa’s elves will generously collect non-perishable food items and monetary donations for local charities.

Tree Lighting

Santa Claus Parade


Holiday Displays

Holiday Displays

For 101 years, Woodward’s Department Store was a Vancouver landmark.  Its window displays delighted Vancouverites.  When Woodward’s closed in 1993, Canada Place Convention Centre decided to buy the holiday displays and keep the magic alive.  Now, everyone can enjoy the charm of these Victorian era displays.  My favourite new indoor display is Gingerbread Lane.  These creations are edible and pastry chefs work hard to create something special every year.  The houses are made in intricately decorated miniature.  Just imagine spending over 100 hours to design and create a gingerbread house.  They smell incredible and the culinary skill that created them is impressive.

Woodward’s Department Store

Gingerbread Lane


Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

Join the Secret Lantern Society in celebrating the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. It takes place at multiple locations throughout the city: Commercial Drive, Yaletown, Granville Island, Olympic Village and Chinatown. This evening event marks the re-surgence of light and pays homage to many cultural traditions. Come early to enjoy light installations, warm yourself in front of Swedish fire, take a walk through the Labyrinth of Light, enjoy a performance by a fire troupe and listen to live world music. It is a magical moonlight promenade, elegantly lit by hand-crafted lanterns, on the longest night of the year.

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

Vancouver Winter Wonderland sunset

HI-Vancouver is the perfect place to meet international friends and share some exciting travel adventures.  Join our wonderful activities and programs.  Experience the Best of Vancouver. Are you worried that you will have some sort of Charlie Brown® Christmas?  You are most welcome to join other hostellers, for our communal, Christmas Day dinner!  Wake up early during Boxing Week to shop for deeply discounted retail merchandise.  Join us on New Year’s Eve, for a sensational party, in the heart of the Granville Street entertainment district.  Be sure to get up early on New Year’s Day.  Take the plunge with other Vancouverites, in a cold water dip at English Bay, during the annual Polar Bear swim!  HI-Vancouver wishes you all the best of the season.  2013 marks the 80th anniversary of Hostelling International – Canada.  Visit HI-Canada for all the latest news and exciting announcements.  May you and your loved ones enjoy the happiest of holidays.

Activities and programs

Best of Vancouver


80th anniversary



Written By: Ron Au-Yang (HI: Pacific Mountain Region – 2011 Volunteer of the Year)

Photo Credit: Ron Au-Yang

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