If you are up for a great sightseeing experience, May and September are the most promising months to enjoy the streets and parks of Vancouver, as these months will give you the most pleasant weather. What’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about contending with large crowds or groups of tourists, since they have yet to arrive or are leaving already because of summer coming to an end. For a leisurely and comfortable experience, steer clear of fellow tourists and go out early or late on weekdays, which is applicable for any time throughout the year.
With these simple tips, you can better enjoy the main attractions, such as the Vancouver Aquarium or Grouse Mountain, as comfortably as you possibly can.
Best Time To Go For Whale Watching
Whale watching is one of the biggest highlights of Vancouver, so it should definitely be on top of your to-do list. You’ll find that there are many whale watching tours you can choose to participate in. If no whales show up on your tour, then organizers will gladly offer you another trip for free on the same vessel taken. With this, you can rest assured that you’ll get your money’s worth. If you want to see Humpback whales, then you would do well to go between late August to early December. If Southern Resident orcas are more your style, they are often seen between April and November, but July to September are their peak sighting season.
Best Time To Go For a Cruise
It simply isn’t enough to just enjoy Vancouver’s sights on the ground. You could try it on a boat cruise as well for a different perspective. There’s a shimmering blue sea waiting to give you a spectacular view of the city. If you’re interested in taking a cruise, then the sunny days of July to early September are the best time to view and take lots of snapshots of Vancouver’s breathtaking city sights. Take note that cruises will often be only between May and October, with the exception of special holiday cruises (like Christmas or New Year), so make sure to plan ahead.
Best Time To Go Skiing
If you’re already a seasoned skier or snowboarder, or even just a simple beginner looking for some casual, snowy fun, then you’ll want to try out the Grouse Mountain snow sports which is a short 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Spring will be the best time to try it out, specifically from mid-March to late April (but the mountain is mostly open throughout mid-November to May). The snow is perfect at that time, the weather is sunny and warm, and the view is incredible—the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable glide down the mountain.
travel seasons for Vancouver
September to March (Low Season)
If you’re looking for the least amount of crowds and the best bargains of Vancouver’s hotels, then the autumn and winter seasons from September to March are your best bet. Because of the cold and rainy weather, tourists are already ending their visit to Vancouver, which means there are smaller crowds to compete with during your outdoor visits. While September has a lot of bright and beautiful days, the temperature will start dropping as autumn starts and there will be numerous snowy days to deal with during the winter. Because of this, make sure to prepare the right outfits for the cold weather. Don’t worry about below freezing temperatures though, they’re quite rare anyway.
April to May (Shoulder Season)
If you’re not a huge fan of summers, then spring from April to May is the next best option to enjoy Vancouver. While you’ll still encounter some light rain here and there, it won’t interfere with your plans, and you’ll still likely enjoy pleasant weather for all your planned activities. The flowers will begin to bloom as temperatures start rising in May, so if you want to see those spring blossoms, this season is perfect. What might draw you in are hotels that offer great bargain prices during the spring, since this season is before all the busy summer tourists will start pouring in.
June to August (High Season)
Summertime from June to August will be the best time to travel to Vancouver. The warm weather and clear skies during summer are the perfect conditions for the wide variety of festivals and outdoor activities you can join in. Just make sure to plan your accommodations as early as possible since fellow tourists are most likely itching to go during this time too. Expect higher hotel prices as well due to the influx of booking tourists. Despite all the possible challenges, if you plan your Vancouver trip right during the summertime, then you might just get the most fulfilling experience you could possibly have.
Vancouver’s WEATHER MONTH BY MONTH
New Year’s Day – Since New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Canada, expect a lot of businesses, such as the well-known Granville Island Market, to be closed this day. Don’t worry, many restaurants will at least still be open, along with other popular destinations such as the Vancouver Aquarium or Capilano Suspension Bridge, for both locals and tourists.
Vancouver Polar Bear Swim — This is a favorite event during New Year’s Day for locals and visitors alike. On this day, you’ll find them wearing costumes and swimming in the chilly English Bay Beach.
Chinese New Year – January sees another new year’s celebration, this time for Chinese residents. It’s a notable occasion for them since Vancouver has the second-largest Chinatown in North America—though anyone can surely participate and enjoy. You’ll get to experience a variety of things that Chinese culture has to offer. There are fireworks, music, delicacies, and even a dragon parade.
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival – This three-week performing arts festival will showcase popular international Canadian and local artists starting from mid-January to early February, making this one of Vancouver’s most notable events.
Vancouver International Boat Show – This five-day annual boat show in BC Place Stadium is the most popular boating event in Western Canada and the biggest showcase of recreational boating in British Columbia. Up for sale are hundreds of different kinds of boats, ranging from fishing boats to kayaks, as well as motors and marine equipment—though just browsing and admiring them are completely fine as well. There are even boating talks, fishing seminars, and cooking shows for adults to learn from, and a kids’ zone for children to enjoy.
Weather: January is basically one of the coldest and rainy months with average high temperatures from 5° to 6°C and with 140mm of rain. At least it won’t snow that often—and even when it does, the snow won’t cover the streets that much. So make sure to bring your rain equipment and clothes, like raincoats, warm jackets, gloves, and boots. January has the second cloudiest days (beaten by December), with sunrise at 8 am and sunsets at 4:25 pm at the start of the month, so don’t expect to have many sunny trips outside at this time.
(Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 140mm.)
24 Hours of Winter – This is a must-attend for anyone interested in all kinds of snow activities. There are snowboarding, skiing, and ice skating events lasting the whole night, while there are zip-lining, snowshoe tours, and a torch parade from midnight to sunrise. It’s held right at the snow-covered Grouse Mountain during the first weekend of February from 8 am on Saturday to 10 pm on Sunday.
Vancouver International Wine Festival – If you’re a wine connoisseur, or someone who wants to try to look like one, then there are over 150 wines from different countries to enjoy at the Wine Festival. Plus, you’ll get to meet senior representatives of wineries and winemakers from all over the world.
Winterruption – For the artsy people, this winter festival features activities related to music, dance, film, theater, and art and crafts. It’s held in mid-February for over three days.
BC Family Day – If you have your family with you, then the BC Family Day is the perfect holiday to enjoy tons of family-friendly events and avail discounts for the popular attractions in Vancouver. This is held on the second Monday of February in British Columbia and other Canadian provinces.
Weather: It gets slightly warmer around this month, with temperatures rising up to 8°C, but expect slightly wetter days ahead with around 150mm of rain. It’s a lot like January, mostly cool, rainy, and cloudy, albeit with some improvement in the amount of sunshine you’ll get to see. If you’re lucky, you’ll see signs of blossoms already as early as late February.
(Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 150mm.)
CelticFest – The CelticFest festival is all about the Celtic and Irish cultures and is held annually during St. Patrick’s Day week. You can enjoy parties, whiskey, live music, theater, and the festival parade, the main attraction, which is usually held on the holiday itself or the Sunday before March 17.
Vancouver Women in Film Festival – For film aficionados, the WIFF, held for around a week in mid-March, is your chance to see films from renowned and budding female filmmakers.
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival – Cherry blossoms abound in this festival beginning in mid-March and lasting for around a month long. Here, Vancouver celebrates the blooming with the Sakura Days Japan Fair, a concert, and tree-related seminars.
Coastal First Nations Dance Festival – The UBC Museum of Anthropology and DAncers of Damelahamid holds this annual five-day dance festival in early March to showcase First Nations culture and dances around MOA totems.
Weather: The weather gets significantly better during March, especially with the advent of spring and warm weather. Compared to February, there are much less rainy days with a decrease of average rainfall down to 110mm, and more sunshine each day with temperatures peaking at 10°C. The days will also grow much longer due to Daylight Savings Time, and the sun sets at around 7:45 pm come March 31. Do pack some warm and waterproof gear for the rainy days early in the month, but pack some clothes suited for warm weather as well for when the sunnier days start coming in.
(Average Max Temperature: 10°C. Average Precipitation: 110mm.)
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade – Beginning at the Sikh Temple, the annual Vaisakhi parade features a cultural procession with a lot of good food, music, dance, and singing.
Earth Day Celebrations – The annual Earth Day in Vancouver features loads of events to celebrate our beautiful Mother Earth. The Party for the Planet is its biggest event, featuring performances and concerts on three separate stages the whole day. It’s held at April 22 around the City Hall of the City of Surrey, which is just 40 minutes of driving southeast from downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver ECO Fashion Week – For those passionate about saving mother earth and being fashionable, the ECO Fashion Week will showcase a catwalk show and various fashion events which include talks by eco-advocate designers.
Vancouver Sun Run – The Sun Run showcases a 10k run with the largest community in the country with over 50,000 runners in the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Weather: Expect the weather during April to still be a bit wet, but you’ll start seeing a lot more sun and temperatures averaging high as 12°C. The flowers are in full bloom so more people are out and about, such as those biking and rollerblading at Stanley Park. The weather can prove to be inconsistent at times, so be prepared with rain gear and warm clothes such as a light jacket and water-resistant clothing, and summer wear such as short-sleeved clothes and light clothing, to ensure that you can easily adapt to any weather that comes your way.
(Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
Vancouver Marathon – The annual marathon, held every first Sunday in May, holds a qualifier marathon for the New York and Boston Marathon, along with wheelchair and walking events.
Vancouver International Burlesque Festival – The festival holds the reputation for being Vancouver’s most popular burlesque festival. It’s also the longest-running one as well. There are all kinds of parties, fashion shows, workshops, and a mix of local and international performances to enjoy.
Vancouver Craft Beer Week – The Craft Beer Week will showcase great food, lagers, ales, and concerts throughout 10 days from late May to early June.
B.C. Spot Prawn Festival – If you’re a fan of prawns, then this annual event in the middle of May offers different kinds of prawn-related activities which include prawn boiling, kids’ events, celebrity cooking shows, and much more.
Vancouver International Children’s Festival – This one is for the children as they’ll get a chance to participate in all kinds of art events such as theater, dance, music, puppetry, circus shows, and storytelling. The festival is held on Granville Island throughout the last week of May.
Weather: May is going to be one of the most pleasant months in Vancouver, especially with summer so close. There may still be some slight rain and cold nights, but it’s a lot less compared to past months with only around 60mm of precipitation to deal with. The weather will be significantly warmer and sunnier more often with temperatures maxing out at 16°C. Like in April, come prepared with different attires for different weathers. Because of the more outdoor-friendly days, expect a lot more people and tourists outside enjoying Vancouver as well.
(Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
Vancouver International Jazz Festival – Crowned as the greatest jazz festival by The Seattle Times, jazz fans will want to visit this world-renowned jazz festival held in the latter half of June. The festival will showcase over 40 venues, 400 concerts, and almost 2,000 musicians, so you’re sure to get your fill of everything jazz.
Vancouver Heritage Foundation Annual Heritage House Tour – This annual house tour, held every first Sunday of June, features a tour of 10 heritage homes that are unique to Vancouver. Instead of being directed, you’ll be in full control of how you want your tour to go.
Make Music Vancouver – Whether you like making music or simply listening, you’ll enjoy this music festival featuring 150 bands, street dancers, and sidewalk stages. The festival is held at Gastown on Water Street, which is closed off just for this event. The best part is that all of it is free.
Dragon Boat Festival – There are dragon boat races, food, and music for you to enjoy with around 180 boat teams from around the world. More than a hundred thousand people flock to this annual multicultural event held in mid-June.
Weather: It’s pretty much the same with May with slightly higher temperatures. However, there may either be a lot of sunny days or cooler and rainy ones than May, depending on what the year may bring. Also, don’t expect this to be your usual summer; it’s difficult to find very warm days in Vancouver at this time with a maximum temperature of around 19°C. The days are exceptionally long though and the sun can be up for as long as 9:30 pm. Like the previous months, be prepared for different kinds of weather by packing both rainy and sunny attires, since it can get a bit inconsistent.
(Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 55mm.)
Carnaval del Sol – As a celebration of Latin American culture, the Carnaval del Sol is an exciting festival in mid-July that is held during a weekend. Here you will find dance lessons, music, and visual art Native Canadian and Latin American artists, along with various foods, sports, and kids’ activities. There are also cultural folk dancers that come from all over the world who will perform in numerous styles, a few of which are Zumba, folklore, capoeira, and belly dance.
Khatsahlano Street Party – The Khatsahlano Street Party is a unique event that will bring you special street activities. Here you will be joined by 50 of Vancouver’s favorite musical performers, street performers, and artisans. This huge party is held on a Saturday in early July.
Harrison Festival of the Arts – The nine-day long arts festival is held around mid-July and features an art market perfect for art lovers. There are also performing arts shows for people to watch and enjoy.
Caribbean Days Festival – Hosted by the Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of BC and found in North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park every July, this festival held in late July is a weekend of cuisine, rhythm, carnival, and culture.
Vancouver Folk Music Festival – Vancouver’s famous festival for folk music is definitely an event to check out if you’d like to enjoy 70 hours of folk and international music, all performed on eight stages. These are accompanied by various food and souvenir vendors.
Weather: July brings the least amount of rain with an average of 40mm, the most sunshine throughout the day, and moderate humidity levels, making it one of the driest times of the year. This time, you’ll need attire suited for summer wear to get ready for temperatures around 21°C, and maybe some warm clothing if you plan to spend your nights out by the water. If you’re not a fan of rain and would rather enjoy Vancouver in warm weather, then July is the best time for you.
(Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
Pacific National Expedition – As a century-long tradition, this annual Vancouver fair has been held every last three weeks of summer. The fair will feature amusement rides, live performances, food vendors, and much more.
Harmony Arts Festival – This event is held every first week of August in West Vancouver. Here you’ll find a festival of entertainment, including art displays, live music, and outdoor movies.
Annual Powell Street Festival – The Powell Street Festival is where you can get your fill of Japanese and Canadian art every first weekend of August. You’ll find music, film, dance, visual arts, craft vendors and traditional displays all over the streets, accompanied by cultural highlights such as a sumo tournament, martial arts shows, and tons of Japanese cuisine.
Abbotsford International Airshow – This huge annual airshow is a culmination held at the Abbotsford Airport which lasts for three days. Spectators from across the globe flock to see the beautiful aircraft to be featured in this event. Often among those are the Canadian Forces parachute teams, Canada’s Snowbirds, as well as entries from the Canadian Museum of Flight.
Vancouver Queer Film Festival – This festival celebrates queer independent filmmakers, locally and internationally. Here, popular and emerging artists in queer cinema will have the opportunity to showcase their films.
Weather: April is more of the same as July with dry days ahead and rain being sparse at around 50mm of average rainfall, which only increases until the latter part of the month. The afternoons here have just about the right amount of warmth and sunshine at a nice 22°C, while the nights here get as low as around 14°C, a comfortable amount of cold. At around 11 hours of sunshine per day, April can offer the perfect time to enjoy all the outdoor activities that Vancouver has.
(Average Max Temperature: 22°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
Vancouver Zombiewalk – The Zombiewalk is a unique community event held every first Saturday of September. You’ll be able to find Zombiewalk participants in blood-soaked zombie costumes starting from Vancouver Art Gallery toward the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival – This festival is a beautiful celebration of music, lantern installations, parades and more. This is held in the Renfrew-Collingwood area on the last Saturday of September.
TAIWANfest – This three-day festival is a celebration of Taiwanese music, cinema, cuisine, and culture. Held in early September, it is considered one of the world’s largest Taiwanese celebrations outside of Taiwan.
Vancouver International Fringe Festival – This 11-day festival is the largest theater festival in the area. It will showcase over 600 performances, and is a wonderful opportunity to get your fill of theater, up close and personal.
Weather: September is another great month for exploring Vancouver since you’ll have a lot of warm, sunny days to enjoy with temperatures peaking at 18°C. Later in the month, it will start getting colder with about 70mm of rain, so it’s best to plan your visit during or until the earlier part of September, especially since tourists are likely to be leaving to avoid the coming cooler and rainier months. As such, make sure to bring clothes for both cool and warm weather. Bring layers of clothes, and a combination of light and heavy attire to be prepared for either warm or cool days.
(Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average precipitation: 70mm.)
Canada Thanksgiving – Every second Monday of October, Canadians often celebrate Thanksgiving by spending the evening with family. Canada’s Thanksgiving is considered a national holiday, so government offices, banks, and most liquor stores will be closed, while shops in large shopping districts like Robson Street downtown will remain open.
Vancouver Halloween Parade and Expo – This four-day event in downtown Vancouver is full of comics, anime, cosplay, games, makeup, arts and performances. Halloween is full of haunted houses, Halloween parties, costume contests in bars, as well as a Stanley Park Ghost Train.
BC Craft Beer Month – This is a month-long celebration that features various events at local craft breweries and pubs.
UBC Apple Festival – The Apple Festival held annually in mid-October hosts a huge fundraising event for the UBC Botanical Garden. You’ll find live entertainment and tons of apples to taste and purchase.
Weather: The weather is now significantly cooler and rainier as autumn comes into full effect, with a max temperature of 13°C. If you plan on staying later in October, be prepared for more clouds and rainfall with an average of 100mm of rain. An umbrella and rain gear, together with a heavy jacket and warm sweater are essential for traversing the outdoors. The days are much shorter as well, with sunset now before 6 pm on October 31.
(Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
Vancouver Diwali Fest – The Diwali Festival is a two-week traditional East Indian festival. During this event, you will find workshops, dance performances, and the Diwali Downtown all-day celebration.
Candytown: A Yaletown Holiday Festival – On the third Saturday of November, this winter celebration features a gift market, Santa Claus, free carriage rides, and more.
Bright Nights at Stanley Park – This event transforms Stanley Park from a forest into a winter wonderland by hanging thousands of lights among the trees. You can visit the transformed park along with its famous miniature train on any day from the last Thursday of November until New Year’s.
Vancouver Christmas Market – You’ll find this market in the Queen Elizabeth Theater Plaza starting from late November and all the way until Christmas Eve. It’s set as an authentic German Christmas village, with holiday entertainment, gifts, activities, and traditional cuisine to set the mood.
Circle Craft Christmas Market – Considered the biggest craft fair in Western Canada, there is a five-day market of over 250 Canadians artisans for you to browse and purchase from.
Weather: If you’re planning a trip in December, get ready for a very cool, cloudy, and rainy stay as the cold and dark season arrives. There’s an average of 200mm of rain, with the average highest temperature being 8°C. On the bright side, if you plan on doing some snow sports, then there will be a lot of snow for you to enjoy in the nearby mountains. Just make sure to bring your rain and winter clothes, including waterproof attire, boots, hats, and gloves, so you can brave the rain and snow with ease.
(Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 200mm.)
Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – This festival features lantern displays, live music, and various events, all to celebrate the light returning after the year’s shortest day. These will be held in five different neighborhoods, including Chinatown, on December 21.
VanDusen Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights – The Festival of Lights, held throughout the entire month, is a holiday spectacle in VanDusen Garden. It features beautiful lights, Santa’s workshop, a gingerbread walk, a candy cane tree, and much more.
Rogers Santa Claus Parade – This parade is full of festive floats, over 60 marching bands, dance troupes, and community groups. This is held on the first Sunday of December, throughout downtown Vancouver.
Christmas Day – Considered a family holiday, most businesses will be closed on this day. However, some restaurants and movie theaters will remain open, as well as the Vancouver Aquarium and local ski hills.
New Year’s Eve – Every December 31, Vancouver launches a firework show with the midnight countdown on the east coast, and a second on at midnight Pacific time from Coal Harbour. The city will come alive covered in dazzling lights, with parties and cruises during the evening.
Weather: Expect the weather to be similar with November with max temperatures averaging at 6°C and with around 160mm of rainfall. There are shorter days too, with sunset at around 4:15 pm in mid-December. Like November, it’s also a good opportunity to enjoy the snow in the mountains for advanced and beginner snow sports. This time though, you’ll see the holiday season in full peak, so take advantage of all the lights and celebrations that make the city come alive every night.
(Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average precipitation: 160mm.)