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by Santorini Dave • Updated: December 21, 2018
When is the best time to visit Vancouver?
- Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for walking the streets of Vancouver and the city’s beautiful parks, without bumping elbows with hordes of tourists, is in May and September. During these months, you’ll have a good chance for sunshine and pleasant temperatures, along with spectacular views from spots like Grouse Mountain, but the crowds have yet to arrive, or are beginning to dissipate with summer coming to an end. As with popular attractions in most major cities, to avoid the biggest crowds at attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium or Vancouver Art Gallery, no matter what time of year you visit, plan to arrive either early or late on a weekday rather than the weekend.
- Best Time for Whale Watching: One of the most popular activities in Vancouver and the surrounding region is whale watching. You’ll find a wide range of whale watching tours to choose from, and many offer a guarantee that if you don’t see whales on your first attempt, you’ll get a free trip aboard the same vessel you traveled on. For the best experience, include two days of whale watching in your itinerary just in case. Southern Resident orcas are frequently sighted between April and November, though sightings peak in July, August and September. If you hope to see humpback whales, your best bet is to go between late August and early December.
- Best Time for a Cruise: Getting out on the water by taking a boat cruise is a great way to see some of Vancouver’s most stunning sights from a completely different but wonderfully spectacular perspective. If you’re hoping for a sunny day, on which you can step out on the deck, capture a photo and admire the views, the best time to hop aboard is in July, August or early September. If a cruise is on the top of your must-do list, keep in mind that most cruises run only between May and October, although special holiday cruises for Christmas and New Year’s Eve are available to and provide the opportunity to see the city lit up in all its glory.
- Best Time for Skiing: Many people head to Vancouver for the opportunity to participate in snow sports, with Grouse Mountain just 20 minutes from downtown. The best time of the year for skiers is generally in the spring, particularly from mid-March through late April, though the mountain is often open from about mid-November through May, and sometimes even into June. Spring provides the best time for everyone from beginners to the most advance, with warmer temperatures, longer and sunnier days, incredible snow and awe-inspiring views.
Vancouver Travel Seasons
- High Season (June through August): The summer months are the most popular for visiting Vancouver, due to the warmer weather, festivals and opportunities for practically endless outdoor activities. If you go during this time, expect bigger crowds and higher accommodation rates along with mostly sunny skies, especially in July and August. You’ll also need to book your room well in advance as hotels fill quickly. While this season does have its downside, it’s usually an awesome time to be in Vancouver. Book the Best Family Hotels in Vancouver far in advance.
- Shoulder Season (April and May): Spring may be the very best time to be in Vancouver, when the city typically enjoys mild, pleasant weather with a mix of sunny and wet days, though the rain usually isn’t enough to put a damper on outdoor plans. As the temperatures rise, the flowers begin to bloom, and this is a great time to score better bargains on hotel rooms, before the summer tourists and cruisers begin to flood in.
- Low Season (September through March): The “low” season spans both autumn and winter, and for those who are hoping to find the biggest discounts on hotels along with fewer crowds, this is the best time to visit. September is a particularly fabulous month to be in Vancouver, with lots of beautiful, sunny days, though the temperatures gradually begin to drop as autumn officially kicks in. In the middle of winter, there were be lots of wet, gloomy days, though temperatures below freezing are fairly rare.
Vancouver Weather by Month
- Vancouver Weather in January: You can expect the weather in Vancouver in January to be chilly and wet as this is one of the coldest months of the year, though it doesn’t snow often and even when it does, it usually melts by the time it hits the ground and doesn’t accumulate. The average high temperature hovers around 5°C to 6°C, and with 140mm of rain this month, you’ll definitely want to bring your rain gear, including waterproof boots. It tends to be rather grey and cloudy in January, with fewer days of sunshine than any other month except to December, and daylight is at a premium too, with sunrise around 8am and sunset as early as 4:25pm at the beginning of the month. In addition to rain gear, bring warm clothing, including a warm jacket and gloves. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 140mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in February: Temperatures start to warm in February, with the average high increasing two decreases to 8°C, though there is more precipitation this month than there was in January, with 150mm falling over 16 days. Although it’s likely to be cool, wet and grey much of the time, the weather is quite mild compared to the rest of the country, and some years it does bring a fair amount of sunshine too. In fact, you might even begin to see blossoms later in the month. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 150mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in March: March brings blooming spring blossoms and warmer weather, with afternoon highs averaging around 10°C. It’s starting to rain less now, with 110mm this month, though you’ll still want to prepare for wet weather on any given day. The days are growing increasingly longer, with sunset at about 7:45pm by March 31st, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. This month, you’ll still want to pack warm, waterproof clothing and rain gear, but you should also bring some short-sleeved shirts and lighter clothing for more pleasant days when the sun makes an appearance. (Average Max Temperature: 10°C. Average Precipitation: 110mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in April: Although April is still wet, it’s also mild, with high temperatures averaging 12°C. The spring flowers are now in full bloom, and you’ll start to see more people outside in places like Stanley Park, hiking, biking and roller blading. The city sees an average of 8 hours of sunshine now, though April’s weather is inconsistent, bringing a full gamut from cool, rainy and dark to pleasant, sunny spring days. Be prepared by packing for a wide range of temperatures and conditions, particularly if you plan to be near the water. You’ll want a light jacket and some water-resistant clothing as well as summer wear light sandals, a hat and sunscreen. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in May: With summer now just around the corner, May can be one of the most pleasant months of the year in Vancouver. The days are long, the weather is getting warmer and the sun shines more often not. While it still rains, this month brings a significant drop in precipitation, with 60mm on average. Afternoon highs of 16°C, and sometimes warmer, means that more and more people are taking advantage of it to enjoy the great outdoors. Bring a range of clothing as you would for March, preparing for rain as well as the sun. You’ll still need a warm jacket as evenings can be quite cool, with overnight lows dropping to 9°C. (Average Max Temperature: 67°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in June: June is not much different than May, though high temperatures rise on average to 19°C. Some years, this month is characterized by lots of sun, but in others, it can be cooler and rainier than May. Summer here may or may not be like what you’re used to, as it’s rare for it to get very warm in Vancouver. As the days are fabulously long due to the city’s northern location, you’ll be able to enjoy sunlight until almost 9:30pm. Once again, pack for a range of temperatures and conditions so that you’ll be prepared. While the weather in June can be somewhat unpredictable, more often than not it’s a great time to be here. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 55mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in July: Along with August, July is typically the driest month of the year in the city. It has the fewest rainy days, the most hours of sunlight, and it’s comfortably warm with only moderate humidity levels. Now you’ll need mostly summer clothing, including short-sleeved shirts and sandals, though you’ll still need some long-sleeved shirts and a light jacket if you plan to spend an evening near the water. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are all appropriate too. If you prefer warmer weather and want to avoid the rain, July is usually the very best time to be in Vancouver. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in August: August is much like July, typically very dry, and you may not see any rain at all until later in the month, with 50mm of precipitation falling on average. Afternoon temperatures increase a degree to a very pleasant 22°C, with lots of comfortably warm, sun-filled days. Like July, you’ll need your summer attire along with a light jacket for evenings with lows averaging around 14°C. This is definitely the time to take advantage of the wealth of outdoor activities here, with 11 wonderful hours of sunshine a day. (Average Max Temperature: 22°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in September: September is another one of the best months to be in Vancouver. More often than not, you’ll have many consecutive days of warm sunny skies, although as the month progresses, it will start to feel cooler. On average, high temperatures reach 18°C, and although precipitation increases to 70mm over 10 days, much of it will fall later in the month. By visiting during the first half of September, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds, with many of the tourists exiting, and lots of beautiful sunny days. To be prepared for whatever comes, plan to dress in layers, and bring both lighter and heavy clothing for warm and cool days, along with generally cooler evenings as temperatures can dip as low as 11°C. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average precipitation: 70mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in October: With autumn now in full swing, temperatures are noticeably cooler, and its wetter too, though early in the month it can be just like September, mild and clear. The later in the month you plan to be here, the more you’ll want to be prepared for grey, dark skies and rain, with an average of 100mm coming down in October. Bringing an umbrella and/or rain gear becomes advisable once again, along with sweaters and a heavier jacket, and you’ll also want to be prepared for shorter days, with sunset just before 6pm on October 31. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in November: The wet, cold and dark season has now arrived. Expect rain, rain and more rain, with November typically a very wet month, even by Vancouver’s already soggy standards. On average, there is 200mm of precipitation and just four hours of sunshine each day, meaning lots of gloomy, grey days. The good news is that if you’re a skier or snowboarder, rain in the city means snow in the nearby mountains. With the average high temperature just 8°C, you’ll want to bring your warm weather clothing, including waterproof attire and rain gear. Boots, hats and gloves are recommended as well. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 200mm.)
- Vancouver Weather in December: December continues to be dark and gloomy, as it rains almost as much as it did last month, with 160mm on average. The days are even shorter, with sunset at about 4:15pm in mid-December. But the good news is there will likely be snow in the mountains and lots of dazzling holiday lights in the city to brighten things up. While snow in the city is unlikely, with overnight lows just above freezing at 1°C, be prepared for cold rain by bringing your warm, waterproof clothing and rain gear. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average precipitation: 160mm.)
Vancouver Events and Festivals
Vancouver in January
- New Year’s Day – New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Canada, which means many businesses will be closed, including the popular Granville Island Market, but there will be plenty of restaurants open along with a few attractions like the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Vancouver Aquarium. The most famous event for New Year’s Day is the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim, in which locals and visitors, many of which wear costumes, take a dip in the chilly water off English Bay Beach.
- PuSh International Performing Arts Festival – The PuSh Festival is one of the city’s signature events. Running over three weeks from mid-January through early February, it showcases acclaimed international, Canadian and local artists.
- Vancouver International Boat Show – Taking place over five days in late January at BC Place Stadium, this long-running annual event is the prime boating event in Western Canada, and the largest showcasing of the recreational boating industry in British Columbia. Hundreds of boats are for sale, as are all kinds of motors and marine equipment. There are fishing boats, yachts, jet skis, kayaks and all sorts of watercraft on display. Seminar speakers, boating and sport fishing seminars, cooking demonstrations and a Kids’ Zone are all hosted as well.
- Chinese New Year – As Vancouver is home to the second largest Chinatown in North America, Chinese New Year is a popular occasion with Chinese residents as well as the general population. Festivities include fireworks, a dragon parade, music, dancing, all kinds of fantastic food and more. In 2017, Chinese New Year will fall on January 28, though it often falls in February.
Vancouver in February
- 24 Hours of Winter – Grouse Mountain, just outside Vancouver, typically hosts this event during the first weekend of February, starting at 8am Saturday and running through 10pm Sunday. It includes all-night skiing, snowboarding and ice skating; midnight and sunrise snowshoe tours, a torch parade, zip-lining and more.
- BC Family Day – Family Day is observed on the second Monday of February in British Columbia and four other Canadian provinces. There are dozens of events that take place at various venues throughout the city over the long weekend, and many popular attractions offer discounts on the holiday too.
- Vancouver International Wine Festival – This festival held over a week in late February features more than 150 wines from over a dozen different countries. It offers the rare opportunity to meet owners, winemakers and senior representatives from wineries around the globe.
- Winterruption – This fun winter festival held over three days in mid-February features art, music, dance, theater, film, food, arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor activities and more.
Vancouver in March
- CelticFest – This annual event takes place over St. Patrick’s Day week, celebrating everything Irish, and Celtic. One of its highlights is the parade, which generally takes place on the holiday or the Sunday prior to March 17. Visitors can also enjoy street parties, whiskey tastings, Irish theater, live music and more.
- Coastal First Nations Dance Festival – This dance festival held annually over five days in early March is hosted by the Dancers of Damelahamid and the UBC Museum of Anthropology. It showcases First Nations dance and culture, including a dance around MOA totems.
- Vancouver Women in Film Festival – The annual WIFF as it’s also called, showcases films from established and up-and-coming female filmmakers and takes place over nearly a week in mid-March.
- Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival – Running for nearly a month starting in mid-March, this festival celebrates the cherry blossom with a wide array of events, including a concert, tree talks and walks, and the Sakura Days Japan Fair.
Vancouver in April
- Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade – This annual parade not only includes a spectacular procession that begins at the Sikh Temple, but lots of food, music, singing and dance.
- Vancouver Sun Run – This is the largest community 10k in the entire country, bringing together as many as 50,000 runners to the streets of downtown Vancouver.
- Earth Day Celebrations – Earth Day takes place annually on April 22, and there are numerous events throughout the region to celebrate. The largest of them all is typically the Party for the Planet, which features concerts and performances on three different stages throughout the day. It takes place just outside the City of Surrey’s City Hall, in the suburb located about a 40-minute drive southeast of downtown Vancouver.
- Vancouver ECO Fashion Week – This eco-friendly week in mid-April includes a panel talk with eco-conscious designers, a vintage catwalk show and other fashion events.
Vancouver in May
- Vancouver International Burlesque Festival – This annual three-day celebration in early May is the most prestigious and longest running burlesque festival in the country. It showcases some of the finest local and international performers, fashion shows, parties, workshops and more.
- Vancouver Marathon – Held on the first Sunday in May, the annual Vancouver Marathon, includes the marathon, a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon, as well as walking and wheelchair events.
- B.C. Spot Prawn Festival – This fun event held annually on a Saturday in mid-May kicks off the prawn season with a variety of festivities, including free entertainment, a prawn boil, celebrity chef cooking demos, kids’ activities and more.
- Vancouver International Children’s Festival – Taking place over the last week of May, this internationally-renowned festival focuses on performing arts for young audience through theater, music, dance, circus acts, puppetry, storytelling and more on Granville Island.
- Vancouver Craft Beer Week – This 10-day-long event starts in late May, running through early June, May 27 – June 5 in 2016 and features concerts along with great food and some of the finest lagers and ales.
Vancouver in June
- Vancouver Heritage Foundation Annual Heritage House Tour –The annual Vancouver Heritage House Tour is a one-day self-guided tour held on the first Sunday in June featuring 10 unique heritage homes in Vancouver.
- Vancouver International Jazz Festival – One of the best jazz festivals in the world, and the best according to The Seattle Times, is held throughout the second half of June, with 1,800 musicians and 400 concerts held at 40 venues across the city.
- Dragon Boat Festival – This annual multicultural event held over a weekend in mid-June, June 17-19 in 2016, attracts over 100,000 to enjoy boat racing, music, food and fun, along with more than 180 dragon boat teams from across the globe.
- Make Music Vancouver – Water Street, located in Gastown, is blocked off from traffic for this free music festival which features sidewalk stages, 150 bands and street dance.
Vancouver in July
- Carnaval del Sol – This annual festival held over a weekend in mid-July, celebrates Latin American culture including music, dance lessons, food, soccer and kids’ activities as well as Latin American and Native Canadian visual art displays, and traditional folk dancers from various countries performing different dance styles like folklore, Zumba, capoeira, belly dance and more.
- Harrison Festival of the Arts – This nine-day festival that will be held from July 9 through July 17 in 2016, features an art market and performing arts performances.
- Khatsahlano Street Party – This massive street party held on a Saturday in July, July 11 in 2016, showcases 50 of Vancouver’s top musical performers, artisans, street performers and special activities.
- Vancouver Folk Music Festival – This legendary folk music festival features three days of music at Jericho Beach Park around a weekend in mid-July, July 15-17 in 2016. There are eight stages, 70 hours of folk and world music, a market, food vendors and more.
- Caribbean Days Festival – Every July, the Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of BC presents this festival held in North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park. The weekend of carnival, culture, cuisine and tropical rhythm will take place over July 23-24 in 2016.
Vancouver in August
- Annual Powell Street Festival – This two-day festival over the first weekend in August is an annual celebration of Japanese Canadian arts, culture and heritage. It includes music, dance, film and video, visual arts, an amateur sumo tournament, martial arts demos, craft vendors, traditional displays, and plenty of tasty Japanese cuisine.
- Harmony Arts Festival – Taking place in West Vancouver around the first week of August, this festival showcases art displays, live music, outdoor movies and other entertainment.
- Vancouver Queer Film Festival – This annual festival features the best in queer independent cinema from Vancouver and across the globe.
- Abbotsford International Airshow – A three-day event that will be held over the weekend of August 12-14 in 2016 at the Abbotsford Airport, the Abbotsford International Airshow brings aircraft and spectators from around the world. It typically includes the Canadian Forces parachute teams, Canada’s Snowbirds, entries from the Canadian Museum of Flight and more.
- Pacific National Expedition – This annual fair has been a Vancouver tradition for more than a century. Taking place the last three weeks of summer, starting on August 20 in 2016, it includes a variety of amusement ride, live entertainment, fair food and more.
Vancouver in September
- TAIWANfest – One of the world’s largest Taiwanese arts and culture events outside of Taiwan, this annual three-day festival is held in early September and celebrates Taiwanese culture, including lots of live music, cinema, culinary demonstrations and more.
- Vancouver Zombiewalk – This zombie-focused event takes place every year, starting at the Vancouver Art Gallery on the first Saturday in September. You can join in or just watch the hundreds that participate, walking through downtown Vancouver dressed as creepy, bloody zombies.
- Vancouver International Fringe Festival – The largest theater festival in the province showcases more than 600 performances over 11 days in mid-September.
- Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival – This annual lantern festival is typically held on the last Saturday of September in the Renfrew-Collingwood area and features an evening of music, lantern installations, a parade and other festivities.
Vancouver in October
- Canada Thanksgiving – Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the second Monday in October, is a national holiday, which means government offices, banks and most BC liquor stores are closed. Most Canadians celebrate the day by sharing a meal with family. The majority of shops in big shopping districts like Robson Street downtown remain open.
- BC Craft Beer Month – The entire month of October is BC Craft Beer Month, which includes a variety of events at craft breweries and pubs.
- UBC Apple Festival – Held annually over a weekend in mid-October, October 15-16 in 2016, the UBC Apple Festival is the biggest fundraising event for the UBC Botanical Garden. It includes live entertainment along with a ton of apples to buy and taste.
- Vancouver Halloween Parade and Expo – This fun event held in downtown Vancouver over four days in mid-October, October 13-16 in 2016, features comics, anime, cosplay, games, makeup, arts and performances.
- Halloween – Halloween is celebrated in a big way in Vancouver, with haunted houses set up throughout the city as well as a Stanley Park Ghost Train, while multiple Halloween parties and costume contests are hosted at clubs and bars.
Vancouver in November
- Vancouver Diwali Fest – This “festival of lights” is an East Indian festival that takes place for nearly two weeks in November. It includes events throughout Vancouver, like workshops, dance performances and an all-day celebration, Diwali Downtown.
- Circle Craft Christmas Market – This annual Christmas market held over five days in mid-November attracts more than 250 Canadian artisans as the largest craft fair in Western Canada.
- Vancouver Christmas Market – Starting around the third weekend in November and running through Christmas Eve, this market in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza is an authentic outdoor German Christmas village complete with holiday music and entertainment, unique holiday gifts, activities for kids, traditional food and drinks.
- Candytown: A Yaletown Holiday Festival – Celebrating the winter holidays, this festival on the third Saturday of November includes a gift market, free horse carriage rides, Santa Claus and more.
- Bright Nights at Stanley Park – Beginning on the last Thursday of November and running through just after New Year’s, this annual Vancouver tradition in Stanley Park includes a million dazzling lights that transform the forest around the park’s famous miniature train into a winter wonderland.
Vancouver in December
- VanDusen Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights – Held throughout the month of December, this event transforms VanDusen Garden into a beautiful holiday spectacle with elaborate lights, a gingerbread walk, Santa’s workshop, a candy cane tree and more.
- Rogers Santa Clause Parade – This parade through downtown Vancouver on the first Sunday of December includes festive floats, more than 60 marching bands, dance troupes and community groups.
- Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – This annual event on December 21 celebrates the return of light after the year’s shortest day with lantern displays, live music and a variety of events in five Vancouver neighborhoods, including Chinatown.
- Christmas Day – Most Vancouver residents will be spending the Christmas holiday with family, and the majority of businesses will be closed, although some restaurants and attractions, like movie theaters, Vancouver Aquarium and the local ski hills will be open.
- New Year’s Eve – Vancouver hosts two fireworks shows on December 31st each year as part of its waterfront festival. One coincides with the midnight countdown on the east coast for families with young children, and the other is at midnight Pacific Time, when the fireworks are shot from a barge over Coal Harbour. Parties can be found throughout the city, and there are New Year’s Eve cruises as well.
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