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.
Surrey Tree Lighting Festival and Holiday Market
Saturday November 23 2019 Surrey
This is so much more than a tree lighting! It’s a full-blown family festival with a stage of live performances, a holiday craft market, a light tunnel, a fun zone with free amusement park rides, road hockey and more for the kids!
Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum
November 23- January 3 2020 Burnaby (Closed Dec 24 & 25)
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.
Vancouver Christmas Tree Lighting
November 29 2019 Vancouver
Back for its 13th year, this free family friendly event takes place at Robson Square and features four magnificent holiday trees, one of which is 76 feet tall. Come for the tree lighting and stay for the live entertainment, free cookies and hot chocolate, food trucks fun for the kids. Cap the evening with a visit with Santa.
Lights at Lafarge
November 30 2019 – January 19 2020, Coquitlam
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. Kick off party takes place on November 30th!
CandyTown Yaletown Holiday Festival
November 30 2019 Vancouver
Bring the kids to downtown this free winter festival. Lights and candy canes adorn lamp poles while costumed characters parade down the street. Stilt walkers and roaming holiday characters interact with revellers, to the wonderment of tots – while live music and carolling sets the stage for Yuletide cheer.
Shipyards Christmas Festival
November 30 2019 North Vancouver
The Shipyards will be transformed into a winter wonderland filled with music and twinkling lights. Enjoy ornament & lantern making, storytime, gingerbread decorating, balloon creations and face painting. The Mayor will officially light the City’s Christmas tree at 4 pm. and Mrs. Claus will stop by for a visit and photos.
Big Rigs for Kids
December 1 2019 Surrey
Take part in this holiday tradition in Surrey. Kids (and especially pint-sized truck lovers!) will enjoy the intricate light displays depicting holiday favourites including Rudolph, Frosty and more. Plus festive crafts, entertainment, and even a community sing-a-long!
Christmas in Kerrisdale
Weekly from November 30-22, 2019
Enjoy the charm of Kerrisdale on December weekends with strolling bands, Christmas quartets, holiday horse and carriage rides, and on the 15th, the Gliding on Ice free skating event.
The Vancouver Santa Claus Parade
December 1, 2019 Vancouver
Telus presents the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade 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. #TELUSSantaClausParade
Chanukah celebration and menorah lighting
December 5, 2019 Vancouver
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. Bring a unwrapped toy to donate to the Chanukah Toy Drive for the BC Children’s Hospital.
CBC Food Bank Day and Open House
December 6 2019
CBC fans wait all year for a chance to see their favourite on-air personalities (we’re looking at you Stephen Quinn and Gloria Macarenko), 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.
Wesbrook Village Winter Festival
December 7 2019 Vancouver
Looking for free festive family fun? Head to UBC’s Wesbrook Village for their annual Holiday Celebration. They’ll have a holiday balloon display, face painting, a scavenger hunt. horse and carriage rides, carollers, Santa Claus, and more!
Santa’s Workshop at McArthur Glen *Free*
December 14 & 15 2019 Vancouver
Visit Santa’s workshop for a letter-writing station and free photos with the man himself, enjoy the glittering holiday decorations – including the dazzling 52-foot Christmas tree and a giant bauble walkway – for the perfect Instagram shot.
The Singing Christmas Tree
Dec 6, 7, 8 & 13, 14, 15 2019 Vancouver
This free event is a true bucket lister! Featuring a gigantic, 10-level Christmas tree with over 80 choir members tucked inside, the show boasts singing, solo performances, skits, acrobatics, dancers and more. Tickets are free but they “sell-out” fast!
Christmas at Canada Place
December 6, 2019 to January 2, 2020
This year’s free events include the famous Canada Place Sails of Light, an avenue of Christmas trees, and the historic Woodward’s Windows.
Santa Claus Parade New Westminister
December 15 2019 New Westminster
Floats and entertainment along historic Columbia Street! Kids can also come into Anvil Centre between 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and write and send their letters to Santa with Canada Post’s holiday helpers. Arrive early for a good spot and bundle up.
St. Paul’s Lights of Hope
Until January 5, 2020
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.
Ice Skating at Robson Square
December 1 – February 29 2020
Free skating (with a $5 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.
The CP Holiday Train
December 17 2019 Port Moody
Watch the train’s big arrival at 5:20 pm and then get ready to sing along with Terri Clark at 5:45 pm. Decked out in thousands of lights, this train travels across Canada during the holiday season to raise food and cash donations for local food banks. Join the kids activities until 8 pm!
PS: The train heads to Port Coquitlam for 7 pm.
Solstice Lantern Festival
December 21, 2019 Vancouver
The Solstice Lantern Festival happens in several 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.
Holiday Heights at Bloedel
December 14 2019 – January 5 2020 Vancouver
Experience a winter wonderland inside the Bloedel Conservatory with 150 free flying tropical birds, magical lights, holiday plant displays, festive music, photo ops, a scavenger hunt and much more. Enjoy the evening city views and lit fountains at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Bright Nights at Stanley Park
November 27, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Vancouver
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!
Harriet Fancott is the Editor and Social Media Manager for Vancouver Mom. She has over 20 years experience in the arts, tech and mom-based blogging arenas. She lives in East Vancouver with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring all that Vancouver has to offer from festivals and events to playgrounds and beaches to sushi and ice cream (although not together).