Top 3 Reasons to Visit These BC Cities This Winter

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This winter, head north to the diverse cities of British Columbia, where you can delve into the past, get festive with the locals, sip stellar wines, or leave it all behind on a quiet mountain adventure.

Vancouver: City, Sea, and Mountains

Granville Island | @vancitywild

 1. Wander the City

On cool, rainy days in Vancouver, seeking shelter is key. Explore the small art galleries of East Vancouver and Granville Island, or head for the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the bold, contemporary expression of an exhibit featuring American artist Cindy Sherman. Stay dry at The Shipyards District on Vancouver’s North Shore and skate under a 12,000 square-foot canopy before shopping Lonsdale Quay or sipping beer at Beere Brewing Company or House of Funk Brewing. Looking for comfort food? Head to Richmond and eat your way along on the Dumpling Trail. Sample steamy, chewy, tasty creations from top restaurants in this dumpling hot spot.

 

Stanley Park seawall | Maurice Li

2. Explore the Seawall

Vancouver’s temperate weather means that strolls along the 10-km (6-mi) Stanley Park Seawall is a great way to spend an afternoon any time of year. Pop into the newly opened Stanley Park Brewing, located in a restored 1930s heritage building, and post up at the log bar for pints of beer and a bite to eat. There’s lots more to explore in Stanley Park, too. Gawk at marine life in the Vancouver Aquarium, learn about First Nations culture at Brockton Point where nine totem poles stand tall, or look up and up at the 800-year-old hollow western red cedar in the middle of the park.

Grouse Mountain | @vancitywild

3. Head for the Mountains

Head for one of the three local mountains just minutes from downtown Vancouver for a true winter experience. Even if you don’t ski, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Zipline through an old-growth forest, take a wintery sleigh ride, or take in the Peak of Christmas with a skate on an outdoor rink and a light walk through the forest on Grouse Mountain. You can glide through the mountains, too. Cross-country ski at Cypress Mountain or book a snowshoe fondue tour and crunch through lit trails before sitting down to dinner in a historic lodge nestled in the forest.

Getting to Vancouver is easy with direct flights from LA, San Francisco, and San Diego. From Seattle, take a road trip across the border in three hours or hop on the Amtrack train for a scenic trip.

Victoria: Festivities, History, and Fresh Air

Trounce alley restaurants and shops in Victoria | Tanya Goehring

1. Get Festive

It’s easy to get into the festive season in this capital city. Parliament buildings, laneways, trees, and shops are all lit with twinkling lights and festive décor come winter. Shop your way through the boutiques of downtown, historic Chinatown, and the Victoria Public Market before relaxing at a cozy old-English-style pub, quaint café, or intimate lounge, complete with a fireside drink.

Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria | Jordan Dyck

2. Discover the Past

Step inside one of the few castles built in Canada. Craigdarroch Castle was constructed by a coal baron in 1890 and visitors can now tour this National Historic Site. For art history lovers, learn about one of Canada’s most famous painters, associated with the internationally renowned Group of Seven, at the Emily Carr House. Finally, explore the Royal BC Museum and view exhibits showcasing 550 million years of natural history and over 9,000 years of human history in British Columbia.

 

Goldstream Provincial Park | @ryanfloodphoto

3. Step Outside

Breathe fresh BC air while touring enormous gardens and forest trails around Victoria. Head to Butchart Gardens between December 1 and January 6 for glittering gardens and ice skating under a canopy of lights. Just west of Victoria, search for bald eagles and hunt for waterfalls in Goldstream Provincial Park. Discover more hiking trails and gentle walks on Mount Douglas, around the migratory bird sanctuary at the Esquimalt Lagoon, or at Beacon Hill Park.

There are myriad ways to reach this oceanside city. From Vancouver, jump on the ferry from Tsawwassen, or take the Clipper ferry from Seattle for a slow, relaxing cruise across the ocean. Make the trip quick by floatplane, helicopter, or V2V passenger ferry.

 

 

Kelowna: Canyons, Wineries, and Hiking

Myra Canyon | Matthew Clark

 1. Snowshoe Through Canyons

One of the most unique winter experiences in BC is just outside Kelowna, where visitors can explore the Myra Canyon and Kettle Valley Rail Trail by snowshoe. Wander into a steep, walled canyon, through two tunnels, and over 18 trestles while powder snow crunches under foot. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife along the way.

 

50th Parallel Estate Winery | @davidvassiliev

2. Sip at Winter Wineries

Kelowna is smack in the middle of the largest wine region in British Columbia, with more than 40 wineries surrounding the city. Come winter, sprawling vineyards are dusted in snow and cozy indoor tasting rooms offer the perfect reprieve from the cold. Book a tour that includes transportation and wine tastings with a local operator, and start sipping.

 

 

Kelowna | @marcusvoloshin_photography

3. Hike to Waterfalls

There are no shortage of hikes to wander in this city. Head for Knox Mountain for trails that reward with incredible views of Okanagan Lake or follow routes to frozen waterfalls just outside town at Bear Creek Provincial Park.

Visitors can fly in from Seattle, LA, San Francisco, and San Diego to the Kelowna International Airport. Up for a road trip? Drive from Seattle to Kelowna in five hours.

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