You don't need to spend money to enjoy Christmas in Vancouver. Finding free Christmas and holiday events in Vancouver is easy!
Use this list to find the best free things to do in Vancouver for Christmas and the winter holidays, whether you're looking for family fun, a romantic evening, or the best way to celebrate the season.
1. Free Ice Skating at Robson Square - November 15, 2013 - February 28, 2013
Since reopening for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the free outdoor ice skating at Robson Square has become one of Vancouver's most popular winter activities. Located at 800 Robson Street (just across from the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Vancouver), the Robson Square Ice Rink is open Sunday - Thursday from 9am - 9pm and Fridays & Saturdays from 9am - 11pm. Skating is free; skate rentals are $4, helmets and ice cleats are $2.
Yaletown hosts the its second-annual free Christmas event in Vancouver: a festival on Mainland Street (between Davie and Nelson) that includes a "All I want for Christmas" street market, horse-drawn carriage rides, reindeer, ice skating, and Santa. (Bring your own camera for pictures with Santa!)
Held in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver, Light Up the Night celebrates the first night of Chanukah with by lighting Canada's tallest Menorah! The celebration also includes amazing fire performers, hot cocoa and latkes, and pictures with Judah the Macabee. Festivities start at 6pm.
You can also bring a unwrapped toy to donate to the Chanukah Toy Drive for the BC Children's Hospital.
One of the Top 5 Vancouver Holiday Attractions, the Rogers Santa Claus Parade features over 60 marching bands, dance troupes, festive floats and community groups, attracting over 300,000 spectators along its route through downtown Vancouver.
Canada Place goes all out for Christmas in Vancouver! This year, the theme is "Christmas in Canada" and free activities include indoor ice skating at the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal, seeing and visiting Santa in his workshop, the historic, holiday-themed Woodward’s Windows, and live music and "festive performances" every day.
One of Vancouver's more unique holiday traditions is the parade of "Carol Ships"--ships decked out with elaborate Christmas lights--that take to Vancouver's waterways for nightly processions. To go aboard the Carol Ships costs money, but it's free to watch the spectacle at any of the shoreside Carol Ship events, including Carol Ship watching and bonfires in North Burnaby and West Vancouver's Dundarave Park.
Kerrisdale Village--a picturesque shopping district in the southern Vancouver--celebrates the season with lots of free fun, including free horse and carriage rides (Saturdays only and December 23), live Christmas music in the streets, and a chance to meet Santa and his elves.
Every year, the residents of East Vancouver's Trinity Street join together to create one of the best displays of Christmas lights in Vancouver. Houses along Trinity Street go all-out for the holidays with incredible light displays and festive decor, inviting their neighbours (and all of Vancouver) to enjoy a free stroll down the street.
Take part in one of the world's oldest traditions at this annual event that celebrates the return of the light after the year's shortest day, the Winter Solstice. The Festival includes lantern displays, live musical performances, and events in five Vancouver neighbourhoods, including Yaletown, the Downtown Eastside, Granville Island, and at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden in Chinatown. All Festival events are free, but donations are requested.