Simply put, Vancouver is lush. It’s a truly stunning city abundant with green spaces, parkland and dense forest. The temperate rainforests in this region are home to some of the tallest cedars in the world. But, with all that lush green growth comes a fair amount of rain.
It means that the weather in Vancouver can be changeable. But don’t let that stop you getting out and about to explore the city and its surrounds. As long as you are prepared and dress for the weather, you can enjoy everything from skiing to boat tours to hiking. So, plan your flight, hire a car and swot up on Vancouver’s seasons:
Winter – January to March
Vancouver tends to be warmer and wetter than many places in Canada, and doesn’t have the deep freeze seen in places like Banff, Edmonton and Toronto. However, in cooler years it could drop as low as -10°C. In warmer years during the El Nino cycle, winter is usually around 0°C – 8°C. If you prepare for temperatures similar to the average UK winter, you won’t go far wrong. Winter in Vancouver usually sees a fair amount of rain, too!
Spring – April to June
Spring brings the best of both worlds! When it rains in the city, it means it’s snowing in the mountains. Thanks to the higher elevations, there is a good ski season on nearby Grouse Mountain while the city stays warm. April average temperatures are around 13°C rising to 19°C in June.
Summer – July to September
Summer is the driest season in Vancouver and the temperatures are lovely. Towards the interior of BC and Canada, temperatures can climb uncomfortably hot. However, Vancouver’s coastal position keeps it balmy and breezy between 20°C and 30°C. You can do every activity this season bar snow sports. Think whale watching, bear watching and hiking,
Autumn – October to December
The temperature cools from 13°C in October down to around 8°C in December. Autumn – or Fall, as the locals call it – is the rainiest season in Vancouver.
Now that you’re familiar with Vancouver’s seasons, check out our favourite all-weather activities in Vancouver. These are things you can enjoy no matter the season.
All weather activities in Vancouver
Explore Grouse Mountain
Just 15-minutes from downtown Vancouver you’ll find Grouse Mountain. This fantastic little mountain is part of the North Shore range and cements Vancouver’s status as an outdoor-lover’s dream. The mountain is open all year round and offers activities to suit all weather.
In the winter, snow-sports are king. Grouse has great skiing and snowboarding as well as tubing, snow-shoeing, sledding and more. You can even take part in the Grouse Grind on snowshoes! The Grind is a challenging walk from the base to the summit of Grouse which can be hiked in summer or winter – providing you have the right footwear!
At the peak you’ll find ziplines, dining options and even a wildlife reserve. It’s perfect for all ages and all seasons!
Getting here: It’s a short drive from downtown Vancouver to Grouse Mountain. The Mountain regularly offers a shuttle bus service and you can check whether this is running on their website. You can also catch a Translink bus to the summit: Bus 232 from Phibbs Exchange or Bus 236 from Lonsdale Quay.
Shop in Downtown
Vancouver is famous for its shopping, and rightly so. The quality of shops in its downtown core and boutique neighbourhoods is fantastic. Plus, you can escape from any rainy weather by popping indoors!
The CF Pacific Centre and Waterfront Centre are two of the biggest downtown malls. They offer an underground network which links the shops together through various buildings in the downtown core – keeping you warm and dry! There is also the Park Royal Shopping Mall on the North Shore and a McArthurGlen Designer Outlet by the airport.
The downtown core offers a fantastic selection of high end, high street and boutique shops. If you want to venture a little further out, Granville Island is perfect for arts and crafts, while Commerical Drive is known as “Little Italy”. Fashionable Gastown is a hot spot for trendy boutiques – and cocktail bars!
Getting here: Vancouver is compact, taking just 30 minutes to get from one side of downtown to the other, so walking is a great option. There is also an extensive bus network, or you can hop on the public transit SkyTrain to take you further out to Commercial Drive or the airport.
Brave the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Over on Vancouver’s North Shore you’ll find one of the city’s best-loved attractions – the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge stretches 137m across the Capilano River at 70 metres high. The views are amazing, and the heights are not for the faint-hearted!
The bridge is open year-round. It is particularly special in winter thanks to the “canyon lights” attraction, which illuminates the bridge with glittering fairy lights. There is also a curved canyon walkway which offers similar heights and lights.
The bridge is found in the larger Capilano Suspension Bridge Park which is full of treetop walkways through the towering cedars. There are interpretive talks by First Nations people who explain the culture and history of Kia’palano, including using the cedars to make totem poles and accessories.
Getting here: The park is just 10 minutes from downtown over the Lions Gate Bridge. You can take a Seabus from downtown or hop on the park’s shuttle bus.
Indulge in Vancouver’s culture
Vancouver is a city full to the brim with world-class arts and cultural centres. It would be a shame to visit the city and not pay a call to some of its stunning galleries – plus, it could be the perfect rainy-day activity.
For art, the Vancouver Art Gallery should be top of your list. It showcases more than 10,000 works of art, including paintings by celebrated BC artist Emily Carr. Next on your list should be the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. Bill has created over 1500 artworks and has devoted much of his life to promoting his Haida Gwaii First Nations heritage.
The UBC Museum of Anthropology is a must-see culture stop. The architect-designed building is a destination in itself, and inside you’ll find carvings, weavings and sculpture. Last on our list but not least is the Telus World of Science. The iconic dome houses interactive exhibits and an OMNIMAX® theatre.
Getting here: Vancouver is blessed to have so many arts and galleries in its downtown core. Walk between them or make use of the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses in the city.
Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
45 minutes outside Vancouver is the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. It sits on the Sea to Sky Highway – Highway 99 between Vancouver and Whistler – one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. Stop off along the highway to climb into the famed gondola for unbeatable views.
The gondola operates in all seasons and provides an ever-changing but always spectacular view. It takes you from the valley floor at Howe Sound up to the peaks of the Coast Mountains with a view of the mighty Stawamus Chief.
At the top you’ll find the Summit Lodge and the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. It’s the perfect place to get envy-inspiring photos and a spot of lunch or dinner. Winter activities include walking, snow-shoeing and tubing, while summer offers rock climbing, via ferrata, yoga and hiking.
Getting here: Our favourite way to get here is to hire a car. That way, you get to drive one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of road and stop as many times as you like to take photos of the amazing views.