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Free and cheap family holiday fun in Vancouver

Is it just us, or does every holiday event suddenly cost an arm and a leg? If you want to enjoy the holiday spirit with your fam but don’t want to break the bank, check out this great list of free (or nearly free) festive events and outings.

CBC Food Bank Day and Open House

December 1st from 6 am to 6 pm

CBC fans wait all year for a chance to see their favourite on-air personalities (we’re looking at you Stephen Quinn, Andrew Change and Johanna Wagstaffe), meet local celebs (think David Suzuki and Christopher Gaze) and enjoy free, live entertainment from choirs to local bands and all for a good cause: raising money for BC food banks. And yes, there’s fun for the kids too from newsroom tours, a green screen at the weather station, as well as Daniel Tiger and Chirp mascots from CBC Kids in the atrium.

Vancouver Christmas Tree Lighting

Friday, December 1st

Back for its 11th year, this free family friendly event full of hope and light takes place at the Vancouver Art Gallery and features four magnificent holiday trees, one of which is 76 feet tall. Come for tree lighting and stay for the live entertainment, free cookies and hot chocolate, food trucks and activities for kids. Cap the evening with a visit with Santa, or stop by the Canada Post station and write a letter to the Big Man himself.

Bright Nights & Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum


Don’t miss the Bright Nights festivities on December 2nd
Heritage holiday runs all month

Heritage holiday fun runs all month with lots of displays, sparkling light displays, décor, sing-a-longs, crafts, and even special event performances scheduled throughout the season. Admission is free at the gate, with $2.60 fee for carousel rides.

6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby

Wesbrook Holiday Celebration

December 2nd

Looking for festive family fun? Head to UBC’s Wesbrook Village for their annual  Holiday Celebration. They’ll have a holiday balloon display, face painting, horse and carriage rides, carollers, Santa Claus, and more!

Wesbrook Village

The Vancouver Santa Claus Parade

Image credit: TIna Lovgreen/CBC

December 3rd

Telus presents the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade this year with over 60 marching bands, dance troupes, festive floats and community groups, attracting over 300,000 spectators along its route through downtown Vancouver. Arrive early and take in some pre-parade family entertainment at the Christmas Square the North side of the Vancouver Art Gallery. And bring something for the Food Bank. #TELUSSantaClausParade

Vancouver Menorah Lighting

December 12th, 5:30 pm

Light Up the Night celebrates the first night of Chanukah by lighting Canada’s tallest Menorah. The kid-friendly celebration features children’s performers, free hot chocolate and special Chanukah donuts. Festivities start at 5:30 pm. Bring a unwrapped toy to donate to the Chanukah Toy Drive for the BC Children’s Hospital.

Vancouver Art Gallery (Corner of Georgia and Hornby)

Christmas at Canada Place

This year’s free events include the famous Canada Place Sails of Light, an avenue of Christmas trees, and the historic Woodward’s Windows. For a great Insta-op, check out the 15ft snow globe.

St. Paul’s Lights of Hope

vancouver christmas on two wheels

Annually, the towering wall of lights at St. Paul’s Hospital are lit. This spectacular eye-catching scene never disappoints. There’s no fee (except for optional donations you can give to support the hospital) and it’s on all season long.

St. Paul’s Hospital, 1081 Burrard Street

Ice Skating at Robson Square



December 1 – Feb 14 (from 9 am to 9 pm, and 11 pm on weekends)

Free skating (with a $4 fee for skate rentals if you need them)! This is a fantastic and magical place to enjoy with the family. Skating in the square surrounded by lights and in the heart of downtown.

Robson Square Ice Rink

>> Where to go for holiday skating!

700 Hamilton Street

Lights at Lafarge

Until January 22, 2018

Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake transforms into a magical outdoor holiday wonderland each December, and it’s all free! With 100,000 twinkling lights, Lights at Lafarge is one of the largest free holiday lights displays in the Lower Mainland. Take the Evergreen extension and get off at the last stop: Lafarge Lake-Douglas.

>> Where to go for holiday lights

Solstice Lantern Festival

December 21, 2017

Produced by the Secret Lantern Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to beauty, the Solstice Lantern Festival happens in five neighbourhoods across Vancouver at the same time. These festivals use lighted lanterns, beeswax candle labyrinths, fires and the celebration of music, song and dancing to mark the longest night of the year and the coming return of the sun. Each neighbourhood’s festival has slightly different events and processions, but staying local is a great way to celebrate your community and go to a walkable event.

5 locations around Vancouver

Holiday Heights at Bloedel – Arctic Oasis

December 15 – January 7

While there’s no Ferris Wheel this year, there is plenty of holiday cheer up at Queen Elizabeth park. Warm up inside the Bloedel tropical dome, enjoy the exotic birds, lush gardens and holiday light display. Find all the hidden penguins in the arctic oasis for their holiday-themed scavenger hunt. Enjoy the evening city views and lit fountains at Queen Elizabeth Park.

Bright Nights at Stanley Park

November 28 – January 1

During the holiday season, the Bright Nights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza sparkle with three million twinkling lights. There is music and fun through the route and plaza. It’s not free but the matinee train is only $6 for all ages and great for kids!

Stanley Park

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