Are you visiting Vancouver in the fall? Or would you like to get some new ideas about fun fall activities in Vancouver as a local? In both cases, this post is written for you, offering a wide variety of places and events in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a summer child – literally and figuratively -, and I can’t help being sad about saying goodbye to yet another summer. Especially in Vancouver where fall is the beginning of the long rainy season. While I expected the rain, I didn’t expect the glorious fall colors in Vancouver and its surroundings. Pockets of orange, red and golden leaves stand out from the blanket of evergreen trees – and they are impressive!
In addition to the colors, fall also brings harvest time, pumpkin patches, Thanksgiving, Halloween and some exciting annual fall events.
How is the weather in Vancouver in the fall?
Vancouver has mild winters (especially compared to the rest of Canada), and the months of fall are mild, too. Average daily temperature in September tends to be between 10 and 16°C (50 and 60°F), while in November it ranges from 3 to 7°C (37 to 44°F). There can be fluctuations, with some T-shirt days, but also some surprisingly chilly ones. But there will certainly be rainy days.
The annual average rainfall in Vancouver is 1455 mm (57.3 inches) – pretty rainy! And most of that rain falls between October and March, the months of October and November being the wettest. I remember several weeks in the fall when it was constantly raining, with only a few hour breaks in between. But if you get lucky, you might enjoy several weeks of sunshine, with very little rain. Or it will be overcast skies, with a gloomy atmosphere and the occasional shower.
When is the best time to see fall colors in Vancouver?
First of all, Vancouver (or the West Coast) is not known for fall foliage, and it can’t compete with the traditional fall destinations on the East Coast or in Europe. The coastal forests are mostly evergreen, with a few deciduous trees. But Vancouver’s parks and streets have plenty of deciduous trees, so you can actually experience fall foliage in the city. But when?
It depends on the elevation. Change of colors start around mid-September at higher elevations, like Burnaby Mountain. Areas at lower elevation, like urban parks and botanical gardens, or areas closer to the ocean coast change colors later in the season, maybe as late as the second half of October. Deciduous trees usually shed their leaves by mid-November.
In the meantime, the higher mountains around the city might get the first snowfall as early as October. If you’re lucky, you can enjoy the view of golden, red and orange parks, backed up by snow-capped mountains. It’s a unique sight we’ll never forget.
Best things to do in Vancouver in the fall
The most common advice we got after we moved to Vancouver was to spend time outdoors, no matter the weather. That’s what we recommend for a fall visit, too: pack your rain gear and don’t let wet weather stop you from exploring. And fingers crossed for at least a few sunny days.
Now let’s see the best fall things to do in Vancouver:
Sign up for a “Lost Souls” Gastown walking tour
Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver, with cobbled streets and Victorian buildings, and it has its place on any Vancouver itinerary, no matter the season. The “Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour” is a special way to get to know Gastown. The tales of the city’s darkest days, the Great Fire, smallpox and gold dust fever fit with the foggy, damp, mystic vibe of the fall months in Vancouver.
This tour takes you to the iconic landmarks of the neighborhood, as well as some back streets, alleyways and secret spaces in Gastown.
Marvel at the fall colors in the parks in Vancouver
One of the best things to do in Vancouver in October is taking a walk in the parks. The parks have a wide variety of deciduous trees, and Vancouver has plenty of urban parks. It means an impressive red and golden display in the fall, mainly from mid-October.
Which parks are the most colorful? Let me show you some of our favorites:
Walking the seawall between Stanley Park and Canada Place is very scenic any time of the year, with views of Stanley Park, downtown Vancouver, Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains. In the fall, the trees along this walkway change colors, making it even more special.
Stanley Park is one of the coolest urban parks in the world. It’s located on a peninsula surrounded by ocean waters of the Burrard Inlet and English Bay, with a scenic 10 km seawall running around it. You can walk or bike this loop and explore the rainforests, beaches, lakes and cultural landmarks on the way, enjoy the stunning views of both Downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains, keep your eyes open for wildlife (but don’t approach or feed them, please).
Beautiful fall leaves are yet another reason to visit Stanley Park, as it has plenty of colorful trees along the Stanley Park Seawall.
Families with kids can ride the Stanley Park Ghost Train. It has a low spook factor, but offers plenty of fun, which makes it suitable for young kids, too. It runs through a mystical, magical, Halloween themed route in the park each year. It was cancelled for 2022 due to mechanical issues – you can check the most up to date info on this website.
David Lam Park
David Lam Park is also along the seawall, opposite of Coal Harbour, in Yaletown. Its trees put on a colorful display in the fall, and it’s a great park to take a break on a sightseeing day in downtown Vancouver.
Ron Basford Park
Granville Island is a peninsula connected to Vancouver, and it’s a quirky, lively neighborhood. Once an old industrial district, they turned it into a colorful neighborhood with dozens of restaurants and shops, the Granville Island Public Market, and nice parks with skyline views. Ron Basford Park is on the southern tip of Granville Island, offering a wonderful mix of red, orange and yellow colors in the fall.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park is further from downtown Vancouver, but it’s well-worth a visit in any season. Being the highest point within the city of Vancouver, it treats you with stunning views – and also stunning fall colors throughout the park. Find the ginkgo trees with their dark amber leaves, and you won’t be able to resist taking a few dozens of photos.
Trout Lake Park
Trout Lake Park is actually called John Hendry Park, and it includes Trout Lake and quite a variety of deciduous trees, like maples, weeping willow, oak, birch or cherry, resulting in a feast of colors in the fall. There’s an easy walking path around the lake, two playgrounds, a dog park and views of the North Shore mountains behind the lake.
Nitobe Memorial Garden
Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC is like a piece of Japan. It’s designed to highlight the change of seasons, and it has a wonderful fall color display. This is not a public park though, you need to buy tickets to visit the garden.
UBC Botanical Garden
UBC Botanical Garden is large and offers tons of pretty fall scenes. Walk in the Carolinian forest or the Asian garden to find the most picturesque spots.
Aberdeen Park is a small, lesser-known park near Central Park. It surprises you with lovely cherry blossoms in spring and beautiful fall foliage in October.
view of Third Beach in Stanley Park
Enjoy fall colors and Halloween lights in VanDusen Botanical Garden
Vancouver’s botanical garden is fabulous in every season. Heathers, autumn crocus and hydrangeas bloom in the fall, Japanese maples turn fiery red and ginkgo trees turn golden. Beautiful ponds, lily pads and wooden bridges make the fall scenes even prettier in the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
There’s an entrance fee to visit the botanical gardens, but it drops slightly in October. And the last week of October is about Halloween fun. The Glow in the Garden is a family-friendly event that usually involves carved pumpkins, glowing lights and a magical story theme. However, it’s not hosted every year. In 2020 and 2021 it was cancelled due to we-all-know-what, and in 2022 there was a Harvest Days event instead. But surely, VanDusen Botanical Garden offers some fun things to do in Vancouver in October.
Find fall colors on the streets of Vancouver
One of the simplest and cheapest (it’s free) fall activities in Vancouver is walking on the streets. Not all streets are the same though, of course, so let’s see where to walk.
English Bay will charm you with amber and crimson trees along the beach. English Bay Beach is one of the nicest ones in Vancouver, anyway, and it has a magical vibe in the fall, especially in the golden hour lights (if you’re lucky to have a clear day).
The most Insta-famous location for fall colors in Vancouver is Sylvia Hotel on Beach Avenue in the West End, right behind English Bay Beach. The exterior of this hotel is covered in Virginia creeper that impresses with the mixture of amber, gold, crimson and green each fall.
As you go from downtown to Stanley Park, West Georgia Street has some stunning red leaves on display.
Robson Square has a colorful view, as well, it’s the best if you walk up to the viewing terraces in the middle of the square.
We also liked walking on the leafy streets of Kitsilano, right behind Kitsilano Beach. These are quiet residential streets (make sure it stays that way), covered in shades of yellow and orange.
Another good neighborhood for fall walks is Mount Pleasant. You find the prettiest colors at the crossings of West 10th Avenue and Alberta Street, and West 10th Avenue and Yukon Street. The latter is at the junction of two bicycle routes, making it a great stop on a fall foliage bike tour in Mount Pleasant.
The crimson maple trees along Cambridge Street are quite popular. And they are right next to the PNE grounds, which hosts an annual 15-day summer fair, and also a shorter winter fair.
Visit a museum
Visiting a museum is always a good idea in the fall months in Vancouver. It’s also a fun way to spend a rainy day – which you’re guaranteed to have.
The Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vanier Park is a family-friendly one that educates visitors about the maritime history of Vancouver, British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic. Its free outdoor exhibition, the Heritage Harbour, features a collection of vintage wooden vessels.
The Museum of Vancouver is also in Vanier Park, and it’s about the history of Vancouver from 1900 to 1970, broken down by decades. It has exciting temporary exhibitions, too. The third museum in Vanier Park is a planetarium: H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
Our favorite though? Science World, at the end of False Creek, is a family-friendly, interactive science museum. It has both indoor and outdoor exhibits, interactive play areas (from age 1), live science shows and even documentaries in the OMNIMAX theater. Any age group – with or without kids – can find something interesting here.
Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is an indoor glass-domed tropical garden, offering an escape to lush tropical forests and thousands of colorful butterflies. Buy your ticket here.
Visit pumpkin patches
But one of the best (and very North American) things to do in the fall in Vancouver is visiting pumpkin patches. Apparently, Canadians don’t just go to the shop and buy a few pumpkins to carve out at home, at least lots of them don’t. Making a visit to a pumpkin patch, enjoying the Halloween or farm themed attractions, taking fun pictures, picking and buying pumpkins together is the way to do this.
It’s a fun family activity – and something we haven’t ever experienced in Europe. Just like North America can’t do Christmas markets the real way, Europe can’t do Halloween the real way. No offense to anyone here, I simply recommend you get a taste of Halloween in Vancouver if you visit that time of the year, because it’ll be a unique experience (unless you’re from the USA or Canada, but then you know it’s fun and not to be missed).
Some of the best pumpkin patches in Vancouver, including the Metro Vancouver area, are:
- Southlands Heritage Farms, Vancouver: a small, family-run farm, with a pumpkin patch, pony rides and farm animals, ideal for the youngest kids
- Bose Farms, Surrey: pumpkin patch, corn maze and a small market, open only during the October weekends
- Hazelmere Pumpkin Patch, Surrey: this one has been around for decades, and has a pumpkin patch, wagon rides, petting zoo, mini corn maze and play areas for kids
- Richmond Country Farms, Richmond: an exciting farm for both kids and adults, with a pumpkin patch, wagon rides, live entertainment, an animal farm and a miniature train, a highly rated produce market and a winery
- Laity Pumpkin Patch, Maple Ridge: great family-friendly pumpkin patch with two different locations, the North location (the original one) designed for younger kids, while the South location is for older children
- Peteys Pumpkin Patch, Chilliwack: family-friendly pumpkin patch in the Fraser Valley, with train ride, petting zoo, indoor and outdoor play areas; it’s about 1.5 hours drive from Vancouver
Pumpkin patches usually have entrance fees, but they tend to be cheaper (and less crowded) on weekdays – if they are open on weekdays, because not all of them are. Check their official website for the most up to date info about opening hours and attractions.
If you are planning on buying a pumpkin, think of protecting your car. Pumpkins are fresh from the field, so they are usually coated with dust and dirt.
Watch the Halloween-themed movie at FlyOver Canada
FlyOver Canada is a 4D simulation that takes you on a “plane” over Canada, from the east coast to the west coast. It usually has a Halloween themed movie in the days leading up to October 31st.
March on the Vancouver Halloween Parade
October offers lots of Halloween fun, and this is yet another – I mean, when it’s not cancelled, like it has been in the past few years. Vancouver’s annual Halloween Parade takes place on Granville Street in mid-October. It’s a fun event for dressing up and marching about 2.4 km through the city.
2023 dates: unfortunately, 2023 Vancouver Halloween Parade & Expo has been cancelled due to upcoming construction works.
Visit the Vancouver International Film Festival
Did you know that Vancouver is home to one of North America’s biggest film festivals? I didn’t, before we moved there.
Each year from late September to early October the Vancouver International Film Festival takes you to more than 80 countries via the screen. It’s not mainly about celebrities parading on the red carpet, but about movie lovers, offering 350+ movies.
2023 dates: September 28 – October 8, 2023
Get impressed by the colors in Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown is a traditionally constructed Chinese Garden, the first one built outside of China, opened just in time for the Expo in 1986.
After purchasing your ticket, take a self-guided tour and learn about the traditional techniques used to build the garden, and also about the history and lifestyle of the people who used the Chinese gardens. The fall foliage looks fabulous here, especially the Japanese maples.
See the salmon run in the Capilano River Hatchery in North Vancouver
The salmon run is a natural part of fall in British Columbia, but it was such a unique experience to us. I didn’t even know before that while salmon lives in the oceans, it spawns in freshwater. It makes its journey up the rivers each fall, to their birthing grounds (while bears are waiting by the river, catching them). And it’s an incredible sight as salmon swims up and jumps up as it’s making its way in those wild mountain rivers upstream.
You can witness it in the wilderness if you’re lucky, mostly in October. But you can also visit some of the salmon hatcheries in Vancouver, like the Capilano Hatchery in Capilano River Regional Park. Lesser known are the Little Campbell Hatchery, Tynehead Hatchery and Hoy Creek Fish Hatchery. They’re exciting places to watch the salmon migration, and also learn about it. Capilano Hatchery has a great exhibition – and it’s free to visit.
Go hiking before the first snowfall
Hiking in Vancouver is a good idea any time of the year, you only need to choose the suitable trails. Early fall is a perfect time to tackle most of the higher elevation trails, because they’re less busy than in the summer, but still snow-free. Well, they might get the first heavy snowfall in early October, so you need some luck with the timing.
We loved hiking up to St Marks Summit, Mount Strachan or the three peaks of Mount Seymour in the North Shore Mountains, and also to Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge, Rainbow Lake and Wedgemount Lake in September and early October. Most of them offer at least a bit of fall foliage, but they are amazing, anyway. And if you ever tried to tackle them in early or mid-summer, just after snowmelt, you’ll appreciate fall even more, because all the mosquitos are dead by then.
Go hiking and enjoy the fall colors
If you’d like to hike so that you can see more fall colors, I recommend the lower elevation trails near Vancouver. Like the Goldie Lake Loop (3 km loop) in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, with blueberry and heather bushes, or Hollyburn Mountain (7 km return hike) in Cypress Provincial Park, with black huckleberry bushes. Their golden colors light up the landscape.
On your way up to Mount Strachan in Cypress Provincial Park, you can marvel at the alpine meadows changing color, turning golden, orange or vibrant red.
The Maplewood Flats Conservation Area is a lovely little woodland in North Vancouver. It’s a great spot for bird watching, and it has lots of deciduous trees, like maples and alders, turning bright orange and red in the fall. The trails are flat, easy and short, a few kilometers altogether.
The short and steep Velodrome Trail (3 km return) in Burnaby Mountain climbs over 500 stairs to the top of Burnaby Mountain. It passes through a deciduous forest, having a fabulous red and golden display each fall.
Further outside of Vancouver, the Flood Falls hike near Hope has gorgeous colors in the fall. It’s an easy 1 km return hike, ending at a pretty waterfall – prettiest after heavy rainfall.
Manning Provincial Park is about 2.5 hours drive from Vancouver, but it has its own set of larch trees on Frosty Mountain. Larches are a coniferous tree with needles similar to a pine. However, they aren’t green all year, they turn beautifully golden for the fall, then drop their needles off. Frosty Mountain is the highest peak in Manning Park, and conquering it is an adventure on its own. It’s a 22 km round-trip trail that usually takes 8-10 hours to complete.
Go hiking after a fresh snowfall
Finally, if the snow has already fallen, you might as well go hiking, too. I told you, you end up hiking quite often when in Vancouver. You only need to pick the suitable trail. But we’ve done enough research and testing to bring you 30 fabulous winter hikes in Vancouver.
If it’s raining in the city, and it’s cold enough at higher elevations, you have a chance to enjoy a fresh snowfall if you drive up to Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour. (Check their webcams whether it really snows up there.)
Visit Langley’s haunted house: Brinkworth Dungeon
One of the best Halloween attractions in the Metro Vancouver area is Brinkworth Dungeon, the haunted house of Langley. It usually runs in the last three weeks of October, and it takes place in a residential house. Most of the things you find inside are custom and handmade, and they run different tours.
There’s an entrance fee to visit, but it’s mostly to offset the costs. See the most up to date info on their website.
Get impressed by Pumpkins After Dark in Burnaby
This is a new tradition in Burnaby, and it’s likely one of the coolest outdoor Halloween events in Canada. Walk through the pathway of more than 6,000 hand-carved, lit pumpkin sculptures and displays, while enjoying the music, special effects and meeting your favorite Halloween characters.
It’s a family-friendly event, located at Swangard Stadium and Central Park. Tickets can only be purchased online – see here.
2023 dates: October 6 – October 31, 2023
Hunt for fall colors in Metro Vancouver
frosty October morning in Broadview Park, Burnaby – my local park for morning jogging 🙂
We’ve seen wonderful fall colors in many parks in the Metro Vancouver area. They’re further from the touristy attractions of Vancouver and more for locals. With that said, I like exploring these kinds of places as a tourist, exactly because they feel local.
North Vancouver is famous for its stunning temperate rainforests, and evergreen trees usually dominate its parks, too. Mosquito Creek Park has a nice amount of deciduous trees though, and you can enjoy them while walking on the winding forest trail along the western bank of Mosquito Creek.
Burnaby Mountain Park, Barnet Marine Park and Deer Lake Park are beautiful to visit in Burnaby. In Richmond you can walk or bike the West Dyke Trail, and there’s Bear Creek Park, Hawthorne Park and Fleetwood Park in Surrey.
Rocky Point Park in Port Moody has some really nice colors, and also Lafarge Lake Park and Coquitlam River Park in Coquitlam.
Visit the Cranberry Festival in Historic Fort Langley
Fort Langley Cranberry Festival is a free event. It has a market , food trucks, live entertainment and some family-friendly activities on Thanksgiving Weekend. Fort Langley is a nice neighborhood to visit, anyway, with historical houses, vintage shops, galleries, breweries and eateries, and this festival is yet another merry excuse not to miss it.
What to wear in the fall months in Vancouver?
Layers. Lots of layers, including a waterproof layer. In addition to all the basics, like your underwear and thick socks and scarves, here are some things that are essential to pack for your Vancouver visit in the fall:
- long-sleeve tops: you might pack some short sleeves for September, but October and November doesn’t have T-shirt weather, even sunny days are crisp
- fleece-lined leggings: they are a versatile piece in your wardrobe and keep you warm; you can wear them with an elegant dress, but also under your jeans or hiking pants as a warm base layer on cold days
- cardigans and warmer sweaters
- waterproof and windproof jacket: you don’t want to cancel all your outside activities because of rainy days, but also, wind can be quite chilly in the fall, especially on the coast
- waterproof boots: if you only plan to do casual walks and easy hikes, choose one that fits both city walks and easy trails, like this one; however, if you plan to do longer mountain trails, definitely bring your waterproof hiking boots, too
- down jacket: mornings and evenings can be biting cold in the fall, and if you plan to go hiking at higher elevations, you definitely need a warm down jacket in addition to a waterproof outer layer (down jackets are water-resistant at best, suitable for a few snowflakes or drizzling, but not for heavy rain or snow)