Winter holidays are arguably the best, wherever you come from in the world, the run up to Christmas can often be a little bit of a drag, what better way to enter the spirit of the season than a holiday in Vancouver. Or better still, spending Christmas aboard one of Nanaimo Yacht Charter’s beautiful boats, exploring the region and all it has to offer at this time of the year.
The weather at this time of year is just what you need to get you feeling Christmassy, with flurries of snow and temperatures ranging between 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. You will undoubtedly enjoy days of beautiful sunshine, which brings out the gorgeous white of the snow surrounding you as the sunbeams dance across the landscape. There is no scenery in the world which compares to that of British Columbia at this time of year, and nowhere in the world feels more Christmassy either!
Picture the scene… you and your family are on board one of our luxury yachts, the radio is on, playing your favourite Christmas tune, the kids are snuggled under the blanket watching the waves crash by (and keeping an eye out for the whales of course!), and you’re at the helm whilst your partner makes some hot coco. Gosh, what perfection.
So what’s on?
In terms of activities over December, you will be spoilt for choice. From snow sports to festivals, trains to pony’s – we have got it all! Whether you are an adrenaline junky, or the kind of person who prefers to be a bit cosier, there is something in the mix for you. Here we will go through some of our personal favourites which you may like to consider adding to your yachting holiday itinerary.
Stanley Park Train
One great example is the Stanley Park Train. This choo choo is a replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway from the 1880’s, and it enables passengers to wind their way through forest for two kilometres. It runs all through the summer but there are also some seasonal openings and so make sure to do your research before sailing that way.
Vancouver Christmas Market
Then of course you have the usual Christmas market, although Vancouver’s is a little more extraordinary. If you are still struggling to get into the spirit of the season then a trip to the market will most certainly get you there. The Christmas market is full to the brim of entertainment, artisan gifts, and of course a delicious array of food and tipple! No Christmas market is complete without a nice warm cup of Glühwein (or mulled wine to most!). Sometimes there is even an X Factor style competition known as the ‘Xmas Factor’ where attendees can put themselves forward after warming up their pipes with a song of their choice. Not something every Christmas market offers, so if you are a fan of karaoke, or fancy yourself as the next Leona Lewis, then why not give it a try! Certainly something I am sure the children would love.
The Festival of Lights and Enchanted Nights
Now, if you are still not there with the whole Christmas thing, this next one will knock your Christmas socks off! The Festival of Lights and Enchanted Nights runs from December the 4th until January the 3rd in 2016 and only closes for Christmas Day. It is the perfect place to spend your Christmas Eve. Set in the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in the Bloedel Conservatory, at this festival you will be greeted with over a million lights which make you feel you are in some kind of fairy tale. You can walk through a world of miniature fairies and sprites which will solidify that magical feeling – what Christmas is all about! As well as the stunningly lit gardens for you to feast your eyes one, there are numerous themed areas such as a gnome performance (we aren’t quite sure what that is either, you’ll have to let us know!), and a dancing lights show set over Livingstone Lake. As well as all of this, there will of course be holiday music to accompany you on your journey around the festival, which really compliments the array of tropical plants and birds that flourish too. There are also opportunities for pony rides, which can be a romantic addition, or something great for the children to enjoy.
The Peak of Christmas Event, Grouse Mountain
The Peak of Christmas event upon Grouse Mountain is a great choice too. Here you can meet the man himself (Father Christmas), and get a peek into his workshop too! You can also meet Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen as well as take a sleigh ride through the magical forest. If you have still got some energy left, you can also enjoy a 8,000 square foot mountaintop ice skating pond. To end your day on Grouse Mountain, you can watch a movie in the Theatre in the Sky or listen to some carol singers too.
Robson Square Ice Rink
Open on December the 1st, the Robson Square Ice Rink is a joy of the holiday season. Take to the ice and practice your skills in this beautiful setting. This is one for all the family, and will have you smiling ear to ear. No festive season is complete without a little bit of ice skating.
Skiing or Snowboarding
Now whilst this is a yachting holiday, there is no reason you can’t take to the slopes for a day or two upon Cypress Mountain which is only 30 minutes from central Vancouver. Opening times are dependent on conditions, so check out the latest weather forecast the day before you plan to visit. Getting up close and personal with the snow really is one of the best things about winter in the region, and if you have never skied or boarded before there are a number of instructors and schools that you could book in with for a few lessons. Skiing is not all that different to ice skating, and snowboarding is quite similar to skate boarding – it’s all about the balance and the way you shift your weight and move your legs.
This is an activity that you may be able to start as early as November. Cypress, Grouse and Seymour mountains are all popular destinations for this activity. This is another great way to really feel connected with nature and the beautiful snow around you. Numerous companies operate snowshoe tours, and the guides can tailor your experience to yours and your family’s level.
If snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding isn’t for you, then perhaps tubing is the way for you to get your snowy action fix this holiday! Cypress Mountain has a snow tube park, and they welcome all tubers aged six and above. The park as six chutes, each at around 100 meters long, and don’t worry there is a tow to get you to the top of the hill!
This is a great alternative to the above activities if you have children under the age of six. There are many locations across the region where this activity is available, but some of the best are at Mount Seymour and Cypress. Others include Cleveland, Trimble, Kensington, Falaise, Sutcliff and Queen Elizabeth Parks. Slightly more gentle paced than some of the other snow sport activities we have discussed, and one the whole family can enjoy too.
Whistler, the most famous mountain of the region, allows visitors to try their hand at bobsleighing, or the skeleton where you go down head first! The icy track there is 1450 meters long, with a vertical drop of 152 meters – so this activity is for the adrenaline seekers in the family and certainly not for the faint of heart. It will however, be an experience you will never forget.
A what? Yes, a snow limousine. This option is great if you want to take it easy and let someone else do the hard work for you to experience the magic of Grouse Mountain. A personal chauffeur will take you around the ski slopes in a sled-like piece of equipment locally known as the snow-limo. This leisurely way to explore the slopes can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on your route preference. This activity is great for taking in the views, which is a little harder to do when you are pelting it down the mountain on skis or a snowboard!
Another light festival which is best viewed from the Capilano Suspension bridge. Running from the end of November until early January, this festival is another Christmas season wonder of the region. You can also visit the world’s tallest living Christmas tree in the locality, which is pretty amazing at 46 meters tall.
So there you have it – those are our favourites. There is also the winter solstice festival., heritage Christmas, Fort Langley, Maplewood Farm, or watching the Vancouver Canucks or Giants! You could also do some of the things which are available all year round such as the zoo, the aquarium, an art gallery or museum should you wish to stay inside for a bit. There are also the more unconventional options such as visiting the H.R. MacMillian Space Centre where you can explore the universe and exhibits about it to entertain people of all ages. There are many more things to do over winter in Vancouver, and so a yachting holiday gives you the perfect opportunity to experience as much of it as possible.