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A view of Nelson at dusk from across Kootenay Lake | Kari Medig

BC’s Bounty: A Local Guide to Winter Flavours and Festivities

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Nelson | Kari Medig

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‘Tis the season for mulled wine with fondue dips, winter walks with steaming hot cocoa, and fireside feasts in cozy places—all in the company of our loved ones. While we’re doing our part to be responsible and keep one another safe, winter’s festive season is still a time to reconnect in new and old ways.

Cheers to local flavours and festivities, and the many ways to celebrate BC’s bounty this season.

Canyon Lights | Destination Vancouver/Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Vancouver & Lower Mainland

Vancouver’s festive spirit comes alive in winter with dazzling displays of holiday lights, dining delights, and celebrations well into the new year.

Work up an appetite with light walks happening all around the Lower Mainland. In Vancouver, check out the Bright Nights in Stanley Park (on until Jan. 2) and VanDusen Festival of Lights (on until Jan 3); The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival also returns to False Creek this year, in December. Across the shore, check out Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge (on until Jan. 23); or enjoy Surrey Holiday Lights (on until Jan. 2) and Lights at Lafarge in Coquitlam (until midnight on New Year’s Eve), both accessible by SkyTrain.

Come Christmas Day, ARC Restaurant at Fairmont Waterfront puts a spin on their Bottomless Brunch with unlimited festive selections of roasted turkey with all the trimmings, eggnog smoothies, and smoked salmon Benedict. Brunch goers can ease into the afternoon with a skate at th Shipyards Commons just across the way on Vancouver’s North Shore.

In Richmond, take a self-guided tour of Steveston’s Winter in the Village and Fisherman’s Wharf boat display, and while you’re there, don’t miss the sweets. Shop hop for winter treats and baked delights from Something Sweet, Sweet Surrender Gelato, Sinfully the Best, The Sweet Spot, and Outpost Mini Donut Company.

For a winter wonderland close to the city, head to Grouse Mountain with the Skyride tram to the Peak of Christmas, on until January 3rd. Visit with Santa, wander glowing tunnels on a Lightwalk experience through the forest, and skate on a mountain-top pond. Early risers can book a buffet breakfast with Santa on select dates through December.

If you haven’t had your fill in December, the new year brings more ways to indulge. Dine Out Vancouver returns from January 14 to 31, 2022 offering ways to support local and try out sample menus. Reservations open on January 6. Pair your nights on the town with a liquid dessert from one of dozens of participating vendors as part of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Stroll the city to pair winter walks with a hunt for the best cup of cocoa from January 15 through to Valentine’s Day. 

Mark Chinese New Year festivities in February with a night out at one of Richmond’s famous restaurants like Jade Seafood Restaurant, Fisherman’s Terrace, or Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant. February 1 kicks off the Year of the Tiger when families traditionally gather for reunion dinners to bring in the new lunar year.

Sunshine Coast

Many cideries and breweries on the Sunshine Coast offer heated outdoor patios and warm indoor spaces while serving seasonal treats. 

In Gibsons, relax farmside at Persephone Brewing with weekly food features and outdoor fire pits. Head to Tapworks Brewing for a heated patio with a view (hint: sometimes you can spot whales) and their covered Burger Shack serving up Sunday brunch. Visit Banditry Cider, the Sunshine Coast’s newest edition, for a roaring outdoor fire pit and to-go charcuterie boxes. While their neighbour, Sunday Cider, has an outdoor pick-up window as well as a picnic area so bring your layers on a dry day and enjoy the fresh winter air with your drink. The Bricker Cider Company, just outside Sechelt, serves up happy hour specials from The Shed, including bread bowl chili and pulled pork sandwiches both inside and on a covered patio. 

If you prefer to go rogue, take a drive down hidden forest roads to find elusive food trucks like Coast Forno’s pop-up wood-fired pizza or The Shortcut all-day breakfast.

Fairmont Empress in Victoria | Jordan Dyck
Fairmont Empress in Victoria | Jordan Dyck

Victoria & Vancouver Island

Spend an afternoon enjoying a tradition that has lasted for 113 years. Book in for a holiday edition of Festive Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress, complete with views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour; or experience Christmas on the Veranda, with fireside s’more kits, complete with made-in-house ginger cookie graham crackers. If Christmas cocktails are more your thing, head to the Q Bar and cozy up on a stool at this classic Victoria haunt, named one of the 50 Best Bars by Canada’s 100 Best list for 2020.

Forty-five minutes up-Island, get into the holiday spirit with award-winning cider and spirits at Merridale Cidery & Distillery. Wander the holiday orchard faerie walk while sipping on mulled cider before sitting down to a cocktail flight and a farm-to-fork meal at The Eatery.

Farther north, check out Nanaimo’s indoor Island Roots Farmer’s Market, every Wednesday from 3-6 p.m., for locally grown produce and artisanal goods. After you cruise the market, head for nearby Beban or Diver Lake park for a crisp, fresh air winter stroll.

Heading to the Island’s west coast? Fuel long strolls along the seemingly endless stretches of beach between Tofino and Ucluelet with local delicacies ranging from coffee to kelp.

Whistler

There is no shortage of cozy lounges and fireplaces to curl up next to in Whistler. After a long day on the slopes, a Vallea Lumina multimedia night walk, or a Whistler Village stroll under the canopy of dazzling lights, there is always a seat by a warm fire waiting. The Fairmont’s Mallard Lounge, Braidwood Tavern at the Four Seasons, the Firerock Lounge at the Westin, and Cure Lounge & Patio at Nita Lake Lodge all have exceptional après winter vibes. If staying in the elements is more your style, bundle up (or keep that ski gear on) and sit fireside at Garibaldi Lift Company or the Dubh Linn Gate

For festive fondue, head to the villages’ Crepe Montagne. Up for adventure? Join a Crystal Hut Fondue experience to dine under the stars on Blackcomb Mountain, or join Canadian Wilderness Adventures’ Yukon Breakfast snowmobile tour to Sproatt Mountain. Don’t miss the outdoor patio camper at the Four Seasons Whistler for a secret fireside cocktail nook. Make sure you order the Tipsy Snowman signature hot chocolate (spiked or not). 

Snowshoeing the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in Myra Canyon | Thompson Okanagan/Matthew Clark
Myra Canyon | Thompson Okanagan/Matthew Clark

Kelowna, Kamloops, and the Thompson Okanagan

Come winter, the bounty of this fertile region spills over into winery tasting rooms, restaurants, and carnivals of festive delight.

In Penticton, cross-country ski at Nickle Plate Nordic Centre or explore winter walks on the Myra Canyon Trestles before heading for a meal at Bogners of Penticton. Their farm-to-table chef menu changes every 10 days and dishes are served up in a Tudor-style house for a cozy winter meal. Post-dinner, find a local winery for a tasting room overlooking snow-covered vineyards. In Summerland, don’t miss the Winter Wine Experience at Okanagan Crush Pad, where you can choose from one of three festive wine flight featuring six wines and a charcuterie board.

Northeast of Penticton, you’ll find that special place to celebrate the holidays at Naramata Inn. This 133-year-old heritage building, dressed in festive lights, hosts a seasonal pop-up wine bar throughout December. Or book a table to celebrate Christmas or the New Year in style, with a seasonal menu carefully curated for the occasion. In Kelowna, there are holidays events all through December, including downtown street markets, winery events, and festive concerts. Fore more winter wine experiences, West Kelowna has an abundance of ways to sip and celebrate.

 

For a true Canadian winter experience, join a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a backcountry cabin in the woods and dine on gourmet, chef-prepared meals by candlelight. This experience at Big White, just outside Kelowna, is perfect for culinary lovers who crave a little adventure.

The Vernon Winter Carnival kicks off February 4 with events until February 14. Taste creations at the outdoor chili cook-off, the Sip & Savour event, pancake breakfast, or the Meant to Bee: Cheese, Mead, & Honey Pairing Experience. Mix your indulging with festive winter parades, a Carnival of Lights firework show, and the Snow Sculpture Symposium.

Wander Kamloops’ downtown Storybook Village to see storefronts decorated in your favourite storybook themes. Pop inside each one to shop local, picking up treats from The Art We Are or artisans goods from Far & Wide, Crooked Crown, and more. Then fuel up at one of the many downtown restaurants or breweries.

A skiier walking in downtown Rossland | Steve Ogle
Downtown Rossland | Steve Ogle

Kootenay Rockies

Winter in the Kootenay Rockies means snow falling slowly outside cabin windows, winter walks in wonderlands cloaked in snow, and cozying up to hearty meals and après libations.

At Panorama Mountain Resort, the Elkhorn Cabin Raclette is a uniquely Euro-Canadian winter experience. Journey half-way up the mountain and dine at 8,000 feet (2,428 metres) before coming down to soak in the on-site Panorama Springs Pools. For more winter soaks, head to Fairmont Hot Springs to relax amongst a dazzling winter holiday lights display or join a guided snowshoe before a festive dinner at Antler’s at the Lodge restaurant and a late-night bonfire with s’mores.

Cozy mountain towns along the Powder Highway are known for their pre-ski café and bakery scene just as much as their après-ski bar scene. Check out well-known favourites like La Baguette and The Modern Bakeshop and Cafe in Revelstoke, Oso Negro in Nelson, and Hooper’s Bakery in Rossland for a baked treat and espresso before the slopes. And if you time your visit to Rossland right, participate in the fun of the Rossland Winter Carnival, Canada’s longest-running winter celebration held January 27-30, 2022.

After a long day on riding power, check out the Kootenay Rockies West and Kootenay Rockies East Ale Trails to find the brewery hotspots in each mountain town.

This season begins with a roar of holiday festivities and eases into the cozy and calm vibes of deep winter. It’s the time to reconnect with loved ones over good food, good wine, and good times before the first signs of spring wind the energy back up again. Relax, and dive into the flavours and festivities of cozy season and BC’s winter bounty.

For helpful route information and tips to help you plan your winter travels, see How to Travel BC This Winter.

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