Being an international student during the holidays is difficult, especially if you're situated halfway across the world from home (which makes calculating the time difference so much more confusing). Not only that, but with the short and cramped amount of time UBC students are given (AKA barely a holiday in comparison to UK kids), sometimes the cost of the trip might be better for another time. 

What does that mean? You're alone for the holidays, brilliant. But don't fret, there's absolutely no reason to stay in a slump when there's so much to do here in Vancouver. From light mazes to shopping downtown, it's time to treat yourself after that harrowing experience we call finals.

1. Light Mazes and Parks

VanDusen Lights

3dpete on Flickr

This year, Vancouver is bombarded with light attractions. The most highlighted light event would have to be the incredible Enchant Light Maze. But the light attractions don't stop here, check out Bright Nights at Stanley Park, Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden, or even Canyon Lights up on the Capilano Suspension Bridge. What's more, nothing beats walking through the lights with a nice cup of hot chocolate from your favorite coffee shop.

2. Grouse Mountain


Image from WikiCommons

Traditionally, Grouse Mountain has always transformed itself into a winter wonderland over the holidays. Travel to the top for Breakfast with Santa, SOS Children's Gingerbread Village, or Skate Under the Stars.

3. Vancouver Art Gallery

Douglas Coupland Gumhead @ Vancouver Art Gallery

GoToVan on Flickr

For the bunch with a more artsy palette, drop by the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown. Stroll through some of the current exhibitions showcased at the gallery and immerse yourself into the abstract world of art and expression. The Robson Square Ice Rink is right next door, and you can check out these restaurants that are nearby.

4. Vancouver Christmas Market

Vancouver Christmas Market

theforeignflash on Flickr

Another recent holiday tradition is the opening of the Vancouver Christmas Market. This year they've moved to the Jack Poole Plaza, and you can get 50% off adult admission tickets if you go during lunch time. They've got all sorts of stalls and activities to do here, so indulge yourself at the Barvarian Beer & Pretzel Haus, or buy a warm tuque from ALMA Knitwear.

5. Cypress Mountain

Night View of Vancouver from Cypress Mountain

GoToVan on Flickr

For all those adrenaline junkies, hit the slopes at Cypress Mountain– a more student-friendly alternative than Whistler. Spend your holidays swishing down the mountain while admiring a gorgeous view of Vancouver. Check out these tips for what to eat the next time you're up on the slopes.

6. Vancouver Aquarium


Hub☺ on Flickr

Personally, I think the aquarium is often underrated. There are a ton of exhibitions, activities, and shows available which are really beautiful and fun. They also have a student rate, and if you show your compass card, you save $2 on admission as well– score. 

7. Downtown

Last but not least, nothing beats the glorious feeling of shopping for yourself. Spend your money downtown on that little something you've always wanted but never really bought. But let's be real, we're not made out of money. There are free activities and events that you can do downtown such as checking out the Gingerbread Lane at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver hotel, or the Light Dome in front of Pacific Centre, or even sit in for Winter's Dance on Robson Street.

Of course, all of these activities can also be done in a pair or a group– the more the merrier! Who knows, perhaps you'll bump into someone who's also spending this winter alone. Maybe this is the snowy love story that you've always been waiting for? 

Or maybe, more realistically, you'll discover that you can have fun by yourself (because you're one heck of a person). Most of the time, we forget that we have to look after our own body the same way we look after others. So take up all the time you have to spoil yourself silly this winter, happy holidays!