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Winter Festivals and Events in BC

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Winter is upon us, bringing in seasonal festivities and unique events worth travelling for around the province. Change up your annual winter tradition this season. Celebrate the holiday spirit, wander winter’s wonderland, explore our cities’ cultural landscape, and more.

Rossland | Steve Ogle

Wander Winter's Wonderland

Experience the quirky spirit of the Kootenays this winter in the historic mountain community of Rossland. The Rossland Winter Carnival (January 23-26, 2020) is Canada’s longest-running winter carnival and is, according to Tourism Rossland, as “offbeat and unpredictable as our locals”. Catch the custom-made bobsleds flying down the centre of town, discover what it’s like to go dogsledding, or take in the live music with some local, seasonal brews. For something completely different, the team at Rossland’s RED Mountain Resort will teach you how to luge.

Near Kamloops, indulge in food, wine, and winter adventure at Sun Peaks Resort. The second annual Savour the Sun Mountain Wine Festival (December 5-8, 2019) brings five different events focusing on regional food and wine. You’ll hear from chefs and sommeliers alike about what makes this area of the world special, all the while taking in the charming ambiance of Sun Peaks village in the snow.

For a taste of true Canadian north, you won’t want to miss the High On Ice Winter Festival (February 14-17, 2020) in Fort St. John. Immerse yourself in winter sports and culture at this annual Northern BC event. Enjoy the snowy landscapes on an a horse-drawn sleigh ride, catch a good ol’ hockey game, and admire intricate ice carvings the festival is famous for. With higher latitudes come longer nights, and if the geomagnetic activity’s high, you may even see some northern lights!

High on Ice Festival in Fort St. John | Christos Sagiorgis
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Barkerville | Thomas Drasdauskis

Celebrate the Holiday Spirit

Visit BC’s largest historic site at the most magical time of the year. Barkerville’s Old Fashioned Victorian Christmas (December 14-16, 2019) is a unique way to experience this beloved Cariboo gold rush town. For this one weekend only, Barkerville comes alive with carolers, revelers, sleigh rides, and stores selling Christmas wares. After taking in the Christmas festivities, head up the the hill and enjoy the Shamrock Tube Run for for some well-deserved playtime in the snow. Tip: Fly into Williams Lake or Prince George with Pacific Coastal Airlines for a shorter drive.

On Vancouver Island’s west coast, the Tofino Winter Lights Festival (November 29 – January 5, 2020) is a celebration of art, entertainment, and holiday lights, which happens at the end of the road in Tofino’s famous botanical gardens. Stroll through the gardens and surrounding temperate rainforest in all of its holiday splendor.  Carolers and artists will be on hand throughout the entirety of the festival to add ambiance to the experience. Be sure to grab a winter warmer before your stroll at Darwin’s Cafe.

In BC’s cities, the holiday season comes alive with many beloved annual traditions. In Victoria, Butchart Gardens celebrates The Magic of Christmas (December 1 2019 – January 6, 2020) with colourful lights, carollers, ice skating and festive fare.

In the rainforests of North Vancouver, Canyon Lights (November 22, 2019 – January 26, 2020) brings a whole new magical ambiance to Capilano Suspension Bridge.

In Downtown Vancouver, the German-inspired Vancouver Christmas Market (November 20 – December 24, 2019) celebrates its 10th year and provides opportunities to sip mulled wine while perusing the jovial environment of unique vendors and authentic German food.

For something new, head out to Vancouver’s Hastings Park/PNE to experience the largest Christmas festival in Canada. The Aurora Winter Festival (November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020) is the one-stop shop for celebrating the holiday spirit, which includes its own Christmas market, a tube park, an ice skating rink, amusement rides, massive light displays, and more.

Victoria | Reuben Krabbe

Immerse Yourself in City Culture

Kick off the new decade with a city getaway to our province’s capital for the annual Dine Around  & Stay in Town Victoria (January 16 – February 2, 2020). Experience Victoria’s thriving, diverse culinary scene and enjoy special offerings from more than 50 restaurants with set-price, three course menus. Victoria’s hotels also will join in the fun and offer accommodations at reduced prices.

In Vancouver, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (Jan 21 – Feb 9, 2020) is both a signature event and a best-kept secret. For three weeks, PuSh Festival expands the horizons of artists and audiences with work that is visionary, genre-bending, multi-disciplined, startling and original. Attracting the very best contemporary and non-traditional performers from around the world, it’s an excellent way to experience the vibrancy of the city’s arts community.

Experience the snowy dreamscape of Whistler right before the Christmas rush. The Whistler Film Festival (December 4 – 8, 2019) provides the perfect opportunity for a cozy getaway immersed in captivating, thought-provoking films. Watch premieres from independent and A-list filmmakers before the films hit the theatres, enjoy keynote speeches and workshops, or simply take in the atmosphere of Whistler when it’s at its most electric.

In Richmond, celebrate Lunar New Year (January 25, 2020) where a diversity of festivities take place. Considered to have the best Asian food in North America according to the New York Times, sample xiao long bao along the Dumpling Trail or venture to the Asian shopping malls of Aberdeen Centre, Richmond Public Market, Yaohan Centre, and Parker Place to indulge in unexpected finds at the food courts. Don’t miss the Lunar New Year festivities at the International Buddhist Temple, one of Richmond’s best-kept secrets, for late night celebrations, including food, art, and an unforgettable ambiance unlike any Chinese New Year you’ve ever experienced in BC.

Header image: Vancouver | Jordan Manley

POSTED BY: Robyn Hanson

Robyn was raised along the Fraser River near the historic fishing village of Steveston. Surrounded by BC’s fishing heritage, rich ecosystems, and diverse Indigenous and settler cultures, it was here on Canada’s west coast where Robyn developed her love of nature, history, culture, and a deep sense of place.

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