A Definitive Guide to the Best Times to Visit Vancouver
While summer remains the most popular time for tourists to visit Vancouver, it's not necessarily the best.
Depending on what your reasoning is for a trip to Vancouver, perhaps a family event, the holidays, or simply to tour the beautiful west coast of British Columbia, you'll find that there's so much more to the city than just the summer months (plus traveling during the off-season means way better deals and rates on accommodations, attractions, and pretty much everything else too).
Here is a guide to the city, month by month, to help you choose the right time for your next trip to Vancouver.
A note on Visiting Vancouver
To begin, there is never a truly bad time to visit Vancouver. The city has defined seasons, plenty to do year round, and if you pack the right clothing, you can enjoy a visit at any time. However, here you'll find a month by month breakdown of happenings and important info for traveling to Vancouver.
In my opinion, Vancouver on a crisp yet clear, sunny day where you can see the snowy North Shore mountains is just as beautiful as Vancouver in the summer. A visit to the city in January means you'll have the benefit of off-season prices and a relatively quiet city since the holidays are over.
If you love the outdoors and winter sports, February is an ideal month to come to Vancouver. The weather remains cold and nearby ski resorts usually benefit from fresh snow during this time. As the end of the ski season is approaching, you might be able to find some deals online for getaways in Whistler. Some worthwhile events this month also include the annual Chinese New Year Festival and Parade.
Cherry blossom season is here (plus a festival celebrating the bloom to go with it). After many wet and dark months, the blossoming of cherry trees all over the city is a welcome respite from winter and the first signs of spring. March is generally a good month to visit, with the city remaining relatively tourist free and the temperatures slowly creeping back up, although there may still be many rainy days. Be sure to bring along a travel umbrella in your suitcase.
April showers bring May flowers...
By April, many locals are itching for signs of warmer weather, but generally the month brings a lot of rain with it. Temperatures average around 15ºC during the daytime, with nights remaining cold. While the weather can be somewhat unpredictable, it's best to pack for a bit of everything. Some essential items include a waterproof jacket, rain boots, t-shirts, sweaters, and (of course) an umbrella.
By May, spring is definitely in the air. Temperatures are pleasantly warm during the day, the sun is shining more, and suddenly it seems more and more people are in Vancouver. This month can be considered as the pre-tourist season, where the city certainly does start to get more visitors but you'll still have a good chance of finding a deal for accommodations or tours if you book early enough (whale watching is well underway by this time and completely worth it in my books - some local companies start their tour from downtown or False Creek).
Patios are open, the sun is out, flowers are in full bloom, and tourist season has set in. Arguably one of the best months to visit Vancouver, in June the city feels alive and there are plenty of festivals and activities happening from the annual Dragon Boat Festival to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which usually begins at the end of the month.
In July, Vancouver hardly gets any rain. The days are sunny and warm - perfect for bicycling around Stanley Park, going to Jericho Beach, or exploring one of the many mountain trails around the city (the Grouse Grind is especially popular, but it's worth heading out of town for some other scenic hikes - check out Joffre Lakes Provincial Park and Garibaldi Provincial Park). July is also one of the best times for a weekend or week-long trip to Vancouver Island. Just be sure to book your ferry tickets in advance online as they usually sell out quickly during the summer months.
There's never a dull moment in August. From the Vancouver Pride Parade to the Celebration of Light, this month is full of events all of the city. It's also one of the busiest months in regards to tourism. Expect hotel prices to be high and many places sold out months in advance.
(My favorite time to visit Vancouver.)
Warm sunny days remain yet there's a slight chill in the air and it's entirely appropriate to pack a sweater or two. After the September long weekend at the start of the month, most tourists have left and you can feel the city breathing again at a slower, enjoyable pace. It's a beautiful time to still explore the natural attractions like the parks and beaches, but there's also plenty going on for those more interested in arts and culture (get your tickets to the Vancouver International Film Festival for first-time screenings of Canadian and international movies or head to the Vancouver Fringe Festival for theater shows and plays).
By October, it's time to bust out the umbrella again. Rain is back, generally for much of the month. On the rare sunny days, the foliage around the city is admirable in yellows, oranges, and reds. Local farmer's markets are winding down, but you'll still find lots of seasonal events and activities like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and haunted houses scattered around Vancouver.
Well into the off-season, November is a perfect time to visit if you're looking for travel deals. While the weather might not be ideal, if you pack the right clothing there are still plenty of rainy day activities for you to do. For a complete breakdown of things, check out this travel guide to Vancouver's neighborhoods.
While it's not as busy as the summer months, December does see an increase in visitors and prices towards the holidays, like most elsewhere. That being said, it's a festive month and worthwhile a visit.
There are countless winter activities in the ski resorts as well as popular attractions in the city including the Van Dusen Garden Festival of Lights, outdoor public skating at Robson Square Ice Rink, a tour through Stanley Park on the Bright Nights Christmas Train, a walk through the Canyon Lights, a winter festival at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and my personal favorite, the Vancouver Christmas Market.
Looking for more Vancouver inspiration?
For other British Columbia sites and attractions you can combine with a trip to Vancouver, start with these articles: Nk'Mip: An Ode to the Okanagan Countryside, The Winter Wonders of Tofino: A Visitor's Guide, Out and About: The Penticton Only Locals Know, and Sparkling Hill Resort: the Ultimate Spa and Wellness Retreat in British Columbia, Canada.