As the weather turns from crisp to brisk, Vancouver comes alive with winter activity. From ice skating at Robson Square to spending the day at Willow Stream Spa, there is plenty to do in the colder months of the year. Vancouver’s mild climate makes it the perfect city to explore, during all seasons. We have rounded up the ultimate Vancouver winter activity guide so you don’t miss anything off your list this Christmas.
- Hit the slopes
Winter time in Vancouver comes with a variety of outdoor activities and the local mountains are the perfect place to experience some of the best ski facilities in North America. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour are all within an hour drive of the city and are open until 10pm most nights, giving you the chance to hit the slopes into the evening. A few hours north, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are two internationally acclaimed ski resorts with over 200 marked runs, ranging from beginner to expert. The mountains have one of the longest ski and ride seasons in North America. For the adventure seekers, Whistler Heli-Skiing offers big mountain terrain with access to 173 glaciers and 475 runs in an area 50 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb!
- Check out a local art exhibition
Vancouver’s evolving arts and culture scene offers a wide variety of activities from theatre and film to galleries and museums. Spend an afternoon viewing one of the most anticipated exhibitions to come to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond. The exhibition is devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturier and features more than 40 looks from iconic runways. Fairmont Pacific Rim invites you to discover the art and artistry of the hotel’s growing international art collection with their self-guide art tour podcast. Explore the public art and architectural detail at the property, beginning outside and gradually making your way inside to the works throughout the public areas of the hotel. The podcast takes 35 minutes to complete.
- Catch a theatre performance
The thriving Vancouver art community is home to internationally acclaimed performances and theatre productions from classic to the contemporary. From December 21st – 23rd experience the journey that is Goh Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Queen Elisabeth Theatre. The enchanting rendition is accompanied by the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. The Arts Club Theatre Company is the largest theatre company in Western Canada and has performances running year round on three stages. Running from December 1st – January 6, enjoy a classic fairy-tale favourite, Beauty and the Beast at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. A perfect outing that the whole family can enjoy.
- Taste your way through the city
Vancouver has been a pioneer in the ‘foodie city’ movement, and the melting pot of cultures has shaped it into the diverse dining scene today, recognized amongst the best culinary destinations of the world. The city’s award-winning chefs celebrate locally sourced fresh food and sustainable seafood through creative menus and cuisine. Step inside Botanist located inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim and indulge in a sensory experience. Executive Chef, Hector Laguna’s menu represents the botany of the Pacific Northwest region, where locally sourced ingredients are coupled with contemporary techniques. The artfully plated dishes, warm colour palates and greenery make it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle and settle in for the evening.
- Spend a day at the spa
Find time to unwind at Willow Stream Spa, an oasis in the middle of the city. The downtown Vancouver location is perched on the fifth floor of Fairmont Pacific Rim and has over 8,500 square feet of tranquil space, including nine treatment areas, a couple’s room with a deep Japanese Zen soaker tub, a Nail Spa, three lounges, a full fitness centre and spa terrace. Indulge in some R&R with a trip to the spa and experience an authentically local west coast spa treatment rich in natural coastal ingredients. Try out the Neroli Blossom Renewal, a 60 minute body experience to awaken your senses with the signature aroma of neroli essential oil in a deeply relaxing, and uplifting experience.
- Get in the festive spirit
If you don’t feel like the festive season is in full swing, head to the Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza and jump start your Christmas spirit. Located across the street from Fairmont Pacific Rim, the market features more than 80 huts of authentic German sweets and treats. There is also a carousel for the kids and mulled wine for the adults. Just across the bridge, Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge light up the night with hundreds of thousands lights, transforming the park into a winter wonderland. The 30-ton Douglas firs receive star treatment, reaching up to 110 feet above the forest floor, making them the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world.
- Lace up a pair of skates
A classic favourite and a Vancouver tradition, the Robson Square Ice Rink and Plaza is a must do in the winter. The rink is located in the very heart of the city next to the Vancouver Art Gallery and Robson Street shopping district. The rink is covered meaning it’s open rain or shine and is open Sunday to Thursday from 9:00am – 9:00pm and Friday to Saturday from 9:00am – 11:00pm. Skating at Robson Square is free if you bring your own skates. Skate rentals are available on site at $5/pair.
- Sip your way through the Hot Chocolate Festival
Calling all chocolate lovers! From January 20 – February 14 taste your way through the 8th annual Hot Chocolate Festival with over 35 participating chocolatiers, pastry shops, bakeries, cafes, gelato and ice cream makers. Flavours range from classic, alcoholic and dairy-free. Check out the long list of participants here. Stop by giovane café + eatery + market and try the signature hot chocolate made with Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread. For those with a sweet tooth, the classic sugar bun pairs perfectly with a warm beverage.
- Dive into the Polar Bear Swim
Start the new year feeling fresh and take the plunge into English Bay. The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the oldest and largest Polar Bear clubs in the world, led by the founder Peter Pantages. The event is a spectacle to watch and participate in, as over 1,500 swimmers raced into the icy water last year. Those who don’t like cold water be warned, the water in English Bay is typically around 6 degrees during the plunge.
- Taste a trip of cocktails inspired by Thea Porter
The cocktail capital of Canada sits right here in Vancouver and the city has raised the bar for innovative cocktail design and developments. The Lobby Lounge and RawBar inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim is the perfect place to spend an evening, near the sleek fireplace with a great cocktail and live entertainment. The extensive cocktail list includes the city’s most fashionable cocktails, ‘Fashion Takes Flight’, a trio of cocktails inspired by the rotating couture dresses on display in the lobby. The current couture trio of cocktails are inspired by the works of Thea Porter, a British artist, fashion designer and retailer.