I’ve yet to turn the page on my calendar, but would love to fit in an overnighter to Vancouver sometime during December. It’s an easy trip from Seattle via Amtrak Cascades or BoltBus, and the city gets all dressed up with plenty of things to do over the holidays. Here are some top picks:
Rogers Santa Claus Parade – Featuring marching bands, festive floats and dance troupes. The parade begins at West Georgia and Broughton Streets and ends at Howe and Davie Streets. www.rogerssantaclausparade.com. Saturday, Dec. 2, 1 PM.
Carol Ships Parade of Lights – This 50+ year tradition now includes more than 50 boats decorated with 100,000+ sparkling lights on Vancouver’s waterways. It’s free from the shore, or pay to be aboard the ships. Sailing schedule changes nightly. www.carolships.org. Through Dec. 23.
Vancouver Christmas Market – This reincarnation of a German Christmas Market returns for its third year. The Christkindlmarkt features traditional German crafts, cuisine and entertainment. Highlights include a children’s area for gift making and carousel riding, and such treats as German bratwurst, Swiss raclette, brataepfel (baked stuffed apples) and schupfnudeln (German noodles). www.vancouverchristmasmarket.com. Through Dec. 24.
Bright Nights in Stanley Park – The holiday train has been a Vancouver tradition for more than 20 years, winding through a forest of two million sparkling lights. Hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, plus Santa in his living room at the train station. www.vancouver.ca. Through Jan. 2.
Luminescence at the Vancouver Aquarium – Jelly Swarm is an interactive light installation created byTangible Intervention, in collaboration with origami artist Joseph Wu, that lights up when two eels send out electric pulses. The Polar Express 4-D Experience is a holiday film that lets you feel the rumble of the train, see snow falling and even smell hot chocolate. And Scuba Claus returns for his annual swim amongst the halibut, rockfish and sea stars of Georgia Strait. www.vanaqua.org. Through Jan. 22.
The Peak of Christmas on Grouse Mountain – This year’s theme, Reindeer Games, features the Skyride transformed into a reindeer taking visitors 3,700 feet above the city. At the top, there’s a live comedy sketch featuring real-life reindeer, sing-along sleigh rides, Santa’s workshop, and skating on the outdoor ice rink. Warm up with hot chocolate and a meal at Altitudes Bistro. www.grousemountain.com. Through Dec. 24.
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – Explore the forest, Treetops Adventure and the new Cliffwalk all lit up with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Gingerbread house decorating, glass blowing ornament demonstrations, scavenger hunt and holiday music. Complimentary shuttle from Canada Place leaves hourly. www.capbridge.com. Through Jan. 5.
Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden – Seasonal displays festooned with more than one million sparkling lights wrapped around trees and trellises. See Santa walking through the garden or reading stories in his living room. www.vandusengarden.org. Dec. 7 – Jan. 1.
Karaoke Christmas Lights Trolley Tour – Sing along with karaoke machines and a holiday playlist as Vancouver Trolley Company wends its way through the streets of Vancouver for Bright Nights in Stanley Park and on to VanDusen Botanical Garden for its Festival of Lights. www.vancouvertrolley.com. Dec. 7-30.
Hotels with Holiday Packages
- Pan Pacific Vancouver | BC & Washington Residents Package | Complimentary self-parking | Late checkout at 1 PM
- The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver | Holiday and Winter Promotions | Special rates for BC-WA-Alberta Residents
- Wedgewood Hotel & Spa | Pre-Christmas Shopping Package | Continental breakfast in Bacchus | Complimentary valet parking