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Christmas Parades and Festivals in Vancouver, BC

Updated on December 20, 2011
Vancouver Aquarium mascot at 2009 Rogers Santa Claus Parade
Vancouver Aquarium mascot at 2009 Rogers Santa Claus Parade | Source

There are a number of Christmas parades, festivals and events that take place each year in Vancouver. Here are twelve Christmas celebrations you can attend in 2011.

1. Santa Claus Parade

The 8th Annual Rogers Santa Claus Parade takes place on December 4, 2011. Last year John Furlong, CEO of VANOC was one of the grand marshals and invited volunteers from the 2010 Olympic Games to march alongside him in a sea of Blue Jackets. In 2011 first responders will be the grand marshals. We all know who everyone really comes to see - Santa!

Come see marching bands, choirs and holiday floats. The 1.2 km parade route starts at West Georgia and Broughton streets, proceeds east along West Georgia to Burrrad, and south on Howe to the finish area at Cordova Street.

Pre-parade entertainment starts at 10:30 am in Coast Capital Savings Christmas Square (Thurlow Street between Georgia and Melville).

The parade serves a double purpose, as do many local holiday events. Money and non-perishable food will be given to The Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

Date: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Time: 1 pm

For more information visit:

Vancouver Aquarium mascot at 2009 Rogers Santa Claus Parade Photo taken by Peter Vanderheyden (Check out his other photos at: Flickr.)

2. Bright Nights in Stanley Park

This year marks the 14th Annual Bright Nights in Stanley Park. The Vancouver Park Board partners with the BC Fire Fighters' Burn Fund to put on the event and raise money for the Burn Fund.

You can take a train ride through an illuminated forest where you'll see animated displays and listen to holiday songs. It's a very popular event with 200,000 visitors every year.

Date: December 2, 2011 to January 2, 2011
(Closed Dec. 25)
Place: Stanley Park
Price: Admission to the plaza is free.
Train Ride: $9 Adults and $6 Kids
(Available on-site & via Ticketmaster)

For more information visit: Bright Nights

3. Festival of Trees

2011 will mark the 25th annual Festival of Trees. Bring your family to the Four Seasons Hotel and upper lobby of the Pacific Center and look at all the decorated christmas trees (over 40!). Then cast your vote for your favorite.

The trees are decorated by community groups, individuals and corporate sponsors. It's a great way for companies to get publicity while helping out the a great cause.

The event is free but a minimum $2 donation is suggested if you wish to vote. The money goes to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Over $2.5 million has been raised via this event in 24 years.

Dates: November 23, 2011 - January 3, 2011
Cost: Free or by donation.

To see pictures from 2010 or find out more visit: BC Children's Hospital Foundation

4. Lights of Hope Campaign

Every year the outside of St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver comes alive with a holiday light display. It's really quite spectacular. You can be there when the lights are turned on (between 6:30 - 7 pm on November 24th) or take a look when you get a chance. The lights stay up until January 7th. Donations are gladly accepted and support the hospital.

Dates: November 24, 2011 - January 9th, 2011
Location: Burrard and Helmcken Streets

For more information visit: St. Paul's Lights of Hope

You can watch the lights being turned on in this video clip from this year. There are even fireworks!

5. Christmas at Local Community Centers

Activities range from Family Gingerbread House Magic in the West End, lighting of the Douglas Park Tree, to a Children's Christmas Party in East Vancouver. Not to mention numerous craft fairs and breakfast with Santa events offered at many community centers.

6. Winter Solistice Lantern Festival

While not technically a Christmas festival, it does take place on the evening of December 21st. Celebrate the fact that the days will start getting longer. There will be a lantern procession and some sites have a lit labyrinth to walk.

Date: Wednesday, December 21
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden (6-10pm)
(Suggested price: $5 or by donation.)
Creekside Community Center
Granville Island
Time: The Lantern procession starts at 6 pm.

For more information, times and procession routes visit: Lantern Festival

7. Vancouver Christmas Market

The German Christmas Village is back for it's second year. There will be an outdoor village decorated for the holidays as well as shopping, entertainment and traditional food. Sip on a hot mug of gluehwein (adults only) as you wander the market or watch your kids ride on the new Christmas carousel.

Date: November 24 to December 24
Time: 11 am - 9 pm
Place: In front of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Tickets are under $5. Multi-day passes available. Separate tickets needed for carousel.

The Christmas Village is donating a minimum of $1000 to The Province's Empty Stocking Fund.

For more information visit: Vancouver Christmas Market

Wintery Magic at VanDusen Gardens
Wintery Magic at VanDusen Gardens | Source

8. Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Gardens

The 55-acre botanical garden includes over 255,000 plants from around the world. At Christmas it is transformed into a festival of lights - 1.4 million lights to be exact! See the Dancing Lights on Livingstone Lake, see Candy Cane Lane and Gingerbread Wood, or visit Santa's Living Room.

Dates: December 9, 2011 - January 2, 2012
(Closed Dec 25)
Hours: 4:30 - 9 pm
Price: $13.50 Adult, $10.00 Senior & Youth, $7.50 Child, $31.00 family, VanDusen Members: $10.75 (Adult), $25 (Family)

For photos and videos of previous events, visit: Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights Slideshow 2010

9. Vancouver Tree Lighting

Come to Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Convention Centre on December 9th for the lighting of the Shaw Holiday Tree. There will be special musical performances and appearances by the BC Lions and Bro Jake. Rick Hansen will do the honours and light the 50 foot tree at 6:55 pm.

There will be crafts for the kids, hot chocolate, and a visit from the man himself - Santa.

The event supports several charities. If you're able, bring an unwrapped gift for a child.

If you can't attend this free community event, you can view the lit tree until the New Year.

Date: Friday, December 9
Time: 5:30 - 7 pm

For more info: Vancouver Tree Lighting

10. Gingerbread Lane

What do you get when you combine 500 pounds of gingerbread dough, 400 pounds of confection sugar and 1,400 egg whites? "Waiting for Santa" - the winning entry by the Vancouver Community College's Pastry Arts team in the Hyatt Regency's annual gingerbread contest. (see video below)

See over 40 gingerbread houses in Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt Regency until December 27.

Date: November 24 - December 27
Cost: By Donation with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish

"Waiting for Santa" by VCC Pastry Arts

11. Tour of Decorated Houses

Every year people decorate their houses for the holidays. The Vancouver Sun creates an annual list of house to visit in the Greater Vancouver region. The 2011 list includes 33 displays to see throughout Metro Vancouver.

To see the complete list visit: Metro's Best Light Displays

12. Woodward's Window Displays - A Christmas Tradition of Old

The Christmas window displays at the Woodward's Department store in downtown Vancouver were legendary. Woodward's was built in 1903 and was a shopping destination until the 80's. It closed it's doors in 1993 and was demolished in 2006. Canada Place purchased the displays and now carries on the tradition of displaying them at Christmas time.

Nine Woodward's window displays can be viewed at the following places:

  • Canada Place - Honey Bears Cave, Candlestick Factory, Woodward's Bookstore and Santa & Elves
  • London Drugs (Hasting & Abbott) - Lamplighter
  • Bentall Centre 1 (Burrard & Pender) - Horse & Cart
  • Bentall Centre 3 (Burrard & Dunsmuir) - Bears at Play
  • Bentall Centre 4 (Dunsmuire & Thurlow) - Victorian Figurines
  • Christmas Market (Cambie & Georgia) - 'Tis the Season

(For times visit: Window Display Viewing.)

For a brochure, mobile app or contest info visit: Brochure & App

Dates: December 1, 2011 - January 4, 2012
The animated displays are lit up from 8 am to 10 pm.

Here's a video from 2007 of the Woodward's Christmas Window at Canada Place:

Are there any Christmas parades or festivals that you enjoy in Vancouver?


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