Holiday Glow in Vancouver, BC

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Posted by Cheryl-Anne Millsap on Dec. 5, 2018, midnight

December is a busy month and with work schedules, school, family gatherings and social obligations, it can be hard to find the time to take more than a few days away. But it’s also the time of year when the idea of a quick city break – a jaunt to somewhere big and bright and full of holiday cheer – takes hold.

For most of us who live in this part of the Inland Northwest, a big city getaway usually means a weekend in Seattle. If we don’t choose to drive the snowy passes, the Emerald City is just a short hop on one of the frequent flights departing Spokane International Airport.

But there’s another destination that shines just as bright. Why not start your fun in Seattle, and then move on up the coast and across the Canadian border to Vancouver, British Columbia?

Vancouver is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with all the robust personality of the Northwest blended with old world elegance and urban sophistication.

Vancouver skyline with snow
Clayton Perry / Tourism Vancouver

Getting There

Via Interstate 5, Vancouver is a little less than a three hour drive from Seattle. Of course, there may also be extra wait time at the border crossing, as well as increased traffic on the roads during the holiday season.

A convenient alternative is riding the rails with Amtrak Cascades (amtrak.com). With fares that range from $32 to $77 each way, the Cascades skims along the coastline, leaving you free to enjoy the spectacular views, sip a cup of coffee and chat with your travel companions, and maybe even accomplish a few work tasks, thanks to the complimentary WiFi. Taxi service is available to take you downtown from the train station.

Amtrak operates daily round trip service between Seattle and Vancouver. Departing Seattle at 7:45 a.m. (check for updated schedules before you book), the train pulls in before noon. Return service leaves at 7 p.m. and arrives back in Seattle at 11 p.m.

Holiday Cheer

Once you’re in Vancouver there is no shortage of fun available. From the beautiful waterfront to the artisan vibe of Granville Island (granvilleisland.com) to the outstanding collections at the Vancouver Art Gallery (vanartgallery.bc.ca/), it’s easy to fill a day or a weekend wandering around the heart of the city. But in December there’s even more to love.

Each year from late November to Christmas Eve, the city celebrates the holiday season with a traditional Christkindlmarkt.

Inspired by a centuries-old German tradition, Vancouver Christmas Market (vancouverchristmasmarket.com) is a treat for the senses. The air is filled with music, laughter and the unique personality of an Old World market as you stroll through the lanes between the more than 80 festive shops and huts

Sizzling sausages, mugs of spiced Glühwein (mulled wine), sweet treats, pretzels and more encourage you to stop and taste. Authentic handcrafted gifts and collectibles make distinctive gifts for those on your list, and – of course – the perfect souvenir of your visit to the city just across the Canadian border.

Located at Jack Poole Plaza, this year’s Vancouver Christmas Market is open daily from Nov. 21 until Dec. 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and on Christmas Eve from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Couple eating outside at Vancouver Christmas Market
Rishad Daroowala / Tourism Vancouver

To make the 2018 holiday season even brighter, this year Vancouver has added another festival to its celebration lineup. The new Aurora Winter Festival (aurorawinterfestival.com/vancouver/) brings the magic of the North Pole to the city.

From Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, the Aurora Winter Festival will transform Concord Pacific Place into a magical winter forest filled with mystical creatures, illuminated gardens and a snow maze. Other attractions include ice skating on a frozen river, Santa’s Workshop, amusement rides and a village market with merchants and food vendors.

You’ll find even more twinkling lights in North Vancouver’s Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (capbridge.com), where thousands of lights decorate the iconic suspension bridge, Cliffwalk over the Capilano River and Treetop Adventure (110 feet above the forest floor). The park remains open until 9 p.m. during Canyon Lights (Nov. 22 - Jan. 27; closed Dec. 25); tickets are required.

Sweet Dreams

Vancouver is a city of sky scraping condominium and hotel towers, and there is certainly no shortage of options for your stay, but perhaps the most romantic way to celebrate is a night at the elegant and intimate Wedgewood Hotel and Spa (wedgewoodhotel.com).

A member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection, the luxury hotel sits on a tree-lined street in downtown Vancouver. Each of the 83 rooms and suites has a private balcony, and the hotel’s award-winning spa offers an array of luxury treatments and services.

Sip and Savor

Vancouver is a foodie’s delight and I don’t even know where to begin wonderful dining options. It’s enough to know that with innovative cuisine prepared by award-winning chefs, a multicultural focus on eating well and a fleet of food trucks drawing crowds around town, it’s easy to find your new favorite place.

If you’re having trouble deciding, Tourism Vancouver (tourismvancouver.com) has put together several dining guides to help you find the perfect spot for a bite to eat on your holiday city break. They’ll help you find the best brunch, food with a view and the freshest seafood the city has to offer.

Friends drinking at a restaurant
Suzanne Rushton / Tourism Vancouver