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Your itinerary for a perfect festive family staycation in downtown Vancouver

Skip the travel hassles and head right for the heart of the city to enjoy the spirit of the season

For those resisting the urge to hop a flight to a warmer climate - and out of the country - during the holidays, a downtown Vancouver staycation is one way to get some serious vacation vibes without setting foot in an airport or border line-up.

Vancouver has turned on its cheery twinkling lights for 2021, and so many of the city's beloved festive traditions are back on after a pandemic pause, which means a stay in the heart of downtown has you steps - or a shuttle ride - from heaps of festive fun for the whole family.

Here's our guide to a festive family-friendly staycation in downtown Vancouver this holiday season.

Stay: The Westin Bayshore

Situated on picturesque Coal Harbour, The Westin Bayshore has decked its halls spectacularly for the holidays. Sit atop a massive present throne for a perfect holiday photo op, or get cozy in the fire-lit H Tasting Lounge to tuck into a seasonal Afternoon Tea. Outside on the waterfront patio you can book a table inside the Bayshore's beautiful Winterlust domes for an unforgettable meal service - and if Mother Nature doesn't provide, the hotel staff might have a trick up their sleeve to make a little snow fall for you.

In addition to comfy, modern rooms and suites, the Westin Bayshore has some great on-site amenities, in particular an indoor pool with a hot tub that has really fun (and comfortable) beach-club style lounging areas set up for guests. However, if you are feeling brave, the hotel's lovely circular outdoor pool is fully heated and is open year-round, so you can take a dip in the brisk wintry air by the shore. Keep your eyes peeled for some unregistered hotel guests of the animal kind while at the pool; apparently there are some otters who have been known to also like to do some morning laps at the Bayshore outdoor pool.

Do: Festive fun just footsteps away

With the Bayshore as your base, you're within easy reach of tons of holiday merriment. Over at Jack Poole Plaza by Convention Centre West you'll find the Vancouver Christmas Market, complete with carousel, artisan vendor huts, and tons to eat and drink. Head a bit more east to Canada Place, where the sails will be aglow in the colours of the season and you can enjoy Christmas at Canada Place, or experience FlyOver Canada's special "Soar With Santa" experience

Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza. Photo: vanchristmas / Instagram

From Canada Place you can catch the shuttle bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to check out the stunning Canyon Lights, or you can catch the SeaBus from Waterfront Station and head to North Vancouver's lively Shipyards district. There you can lace up skates and hit the ice at Metro Vancouver's biggest outdoor rink, shop, eat, and enjoy the festive scenery. 

Of course in Coal Harbour you're right next to historic Stanley Park, which is also brimming with holiday cheer right now. The Vancouver Aquarium is holding its "Holiday Splash" event featuring Scuba Claus and 4D screenings of The Polar Express. There's also the enchanting Bright Nights Stanley Park Christmas Train, chugging merrily for the season with daytime and nighttime hours. 

And if all that isn't enough, there's all the shopping and decorations to enjoy on the streets of downtown Vancouver, just blocks away from your hotel.

Eat: Holiday tea, drinks, and terrific eats

The Westin Bayshore's holiday offerings are bountiful when it comes to special seasonal food and drink. Everyone will love the elegant Festive Afternoon Tea at H Tasting Lounge, which takes the traditional tea menu and shakes it up with some wintry flavours, like a spiced scone with cream and pear butter, savoury sandwiches, and holiday sweets. Seasonal teas are on the menu, like Sugar Plum Fairy for a sweet herbal sipper, and the cotton candy "tree" will delight the kids and the kids-at-heart.

Festive Afternoon Tea at H Tasting Lounge. Lindsay William-Ross / Vancouver Is Awesome

For the grown-ups, the "12 Cocktails of Christmas Movies," also at H Tasting Lounge, offer a spirited way to raise a glass to the season. Featuring familiar films and lots of festive flavours, the imaginative line-up of boozy (and some not-boozy versions) bevs were dreamed up by H Tasting Lounge's bartender Andrew Kong. Enjoy libations inspired by Love ActuallyScrooged, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Kids will love the hot chocolate or the bright blue bubblegum drink inspired by Elf. Stick around for dinner and enjoy a menu that features things like finger-licking delicious sticky fish sauce chicken wings and a stunning cold seafood tower, and more. 

Though your pursuit of Christmassy fun in downtown Vancouver may include stops for snacks and treats, you can also plan to eat at the hotel's H2 Rotisserie & Bar restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If your stay coincides with Christmas Eve or Day itself, the restaurant will have special holiday feasts to enjoy as well. 

Thanks to the Westin Bayshore for providing one night's stay and meals; all opinions and inclusions are those of the author’s and were not guided or influenced in any way, and the business was not granted any previews of the story prior to publication.