A woman playing in the snow in Cowichan, BC

The holiday season means many things to many people. It’s a time to share with loved ones, a time for good food and good company, a time to celebrate a new year and reflect on the last, and it’s also a time for rest and relaxation.

Whatever your style, there’s something magical about the holiday season in Cowichan! From the quaint shops along Cowichan Bay, to the beautiful views along the trails at Quarry Nature Park, you’ll find the perfect getaway among the unhurried pace and warmer temperatures.

To help you along, we’ve put together a list of the must-do activities in Cowichan over the holidays!

  • Duncan Farmer’s Market
A dog at the Duncan Farmers Market in Cowichan, BC
You’ll find amazing produce and artisan goods at the Duncan Farmers Market!

Cowichan literally translates to “land warmed by the sun.” So named by the Coast Salish peoples who named the area Quw’utsun’ or ‘Cowichan’. The average temperature here during the winter months is 6 degrees, and the area boasts Canada’s only maritime Mediterranean climate, giving way to the longest growing season in the country.

Which means *drumroll* a year-round outdoor farmers market! With over 150 vendors and only locally grown and produced products, the Duncan Farmer’s Market is a must at any time of the year. During the holiday season, you’ll find seasonal products, baked goods, and produce along with holiday crafts and decorations. Grab a coffee and a homemade scone and peruse the tables or stock up on goodies to take home.

After spending the morning getting acquainted with all things local, why not keep it going with a visit to Westholme Tea Farm, Canada’s only commercial team farm, open all year round. Try one of the home-grown blends with a cheese plate pairing featuring bread from neighbouring restaurant Hudson’s on First.
*Private guided tours of the farm are available in the winter months for groups of 10 or more*

Finish your day with dinner at Farm Table Inn, where farm-to-table influences everything they do. Owners Evelyn Koops and George Gates have created a menu and space that takes the Tourism Cowichan motto of “slow down. Savour life” to new heights with rotating seasonal dishes based around available produce grown right on site!

  • Ladysmith Lightup
The Ladysmith Lightup Holiday event in Cowichan, BC
The Ladysmith Lightup Kinsmen Parade rolls down First Avenue to Aggie Hall

In the mood for something more festive? The 32nd annual Ladysmith Light Up returns Thursday, November 28 to kick off the 6-week Festival of Lights that takes place in the region every year!

Trust us when we say, this is a can’t miss holiday event and brings people of all ages from all over the province to experience the “Light Up Capital of Vancouver Island”.

The full 2019 schedule has not been released yet, but here’s what visitors can expect. This is a very popular event so we recommend getting there early.
*Note: roads around Aggie Hall will be closed from 2:30pm onward – keep an eye on the Festival website for maps and traffic updates*

  • 3:00 pm: Community Spaghetti Dinner @ Eagles Hall (adults are $8; children under 8 are $5)
  • 3:00 pm: Christmas Craft Fair at Aggie Hall (north end of First Avenue)
  • 4:00 pm: Street entertainment and food concessions
  • 4:00 pm to 6:15 pm: Entertainment on stage in downtown Ladysmith and in front of Aggie Hall
  • 6:30 pm: Santa arrives downtown to Light-Up Ladysmith!
  • 6:45 pm: Kinsmen Parade along First Avenue to Aggie Hall

After the Parade, at Aggie Hall…

  • Bob Stuart Park and Aggie Hall light up
  • Chuck Perrin Christmas Tree presented by the Nanaimo Airport Commission
  • Spectacular fireworks presented by the Ladysmith & District Credit Union

Can’t make the kickoff? Don’t worry! The Festival of Lights goes until the second Sunday in January along First Avenue. Plan a day trip and explore the many shops along the route adorned with festive displays. Stop in for lunch at one of the many top-rated restaurants along the way, such as Wild Poppy Bistro for amazing breakfast and lunch options, or Maya Norte for incredible Mexican fare with a Spanish infusion.

Finally, be sure to take a stroll down Ladysmith’s heritage route – also along First Avenue. Here you’ll find buildings and artifacts that highlight the region’s iconic streetscape. Pick up a brochure from the Visitor Centre or City Hall and get exploring!

  • Christmas Express Train
The Christmas Express train in Cowichan, BC

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The Christmas Express passes over the Somenos Lake Trestle. Photo courtesy of @dragonflydreams88 on Flickr

No holiday season in Cowichan would be complete without a visit to the BC Forestry Centre for a ride on the iconic Christmas Express! This 100-acre property transforms into a winter wonderland during December, with twinkling lights, displays, and tons to do for the whole family. Explore the current museum features and then hop on the train for a sunset ride. This 1901 steam locomotive takes visitors on a 20-minute trip through the centre’s grounds – be sure to get the cameras out for the trip across the Somenos Lake trestle. The views are unreal!

2019 Schedule

Friday Dec 6, Saturday Dec 7, & Sunday Dec 8, 2019
4:00 pm – 9:00 pm (train leaves every 20 minutes from 4:30 to 8:30).

Friday Dec 13, Saturday Dec 14, & Sunday Dec 15, 2019
4:00 pm – 9:00 pm (train leaves every 20 minutes from 4:30 to 8:30).

Wednesday Dec 18 to Monday Dec 23, 2019
4:00 pm – 9:00 pm (train leaves every 20 minutes from 4:30 to 8:30).

  • Malahat
A view of the Malahat during the holidays in Cowichan, BC
The view from the Malahat is amazing anytime of year, but the winter fog gives the scenery an almost mystical feel

You know the saying, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”? The scenic drive along the Malahat from Victoria to Cowichan is all about the journey. Considered one of the most scenic roadways in Canada, the drive offers some breathtaking views of the Saanich Inlet and surrounding gulf islands at several lookout points along the way. During the holiday season, the fog rolls in late in the day and creates a mystical scene along the inlet. See if you can spot Victoria, Brentwood Bay and Salt Spring Island!

Stop off at Moon Water Lodge or Alpina Restaurant at Villa Eyire for afternoon drinks with a view.

The 25km portion of the Trans Canada Highway stretches from just north of Goldstream Provincial Park all the way to Mill Bay and reaches a summit of 1,156 feet. Tack on a trip aboard the Brentwood Bay Ferry that runs between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay to make a day of it.

  • Wine Tours
Holiday wine tours in Cowichan, BC
Cowichan is home to 14 unique wineries, earning it the nickname “Napa of the North”

Deep reds and fruity whites dot the holiday wine offerings in Cowichan. While in Duncan, book a tasting with Emandare Vineyard or Averill Creek Vineyard to experience locally-grown wines from family-run vineyards. At Emandare, you’ll be greeted by the vineyard cat as well. Nearby Vigneti Zanatta is Vancouver Island first estate winery.

In Cobble Hill? Unsworth Vineyards is not only home to an impressive vineyard (home of the Charme De L’ile – Vancouver Island’s own regional sparkling wine), they also house a heritage house restaurant that is sure to impress! From there, check out Blue Grouse Estate Winery for their Estate Pinot Gris…and mark a stay in Grouse House, their 2-bedroom suite overlooking the vineyard with a private kitchen and patio.

In the mood to hit a couple wineries? Check out Cheers Cowichan and Tesla Tours for group or private bookings.

  • Chemainus Theatre & Murals
Holiday mural display in Cowichan
Chemainus is home to over four dozen murals, the world’s leading community-driven art tourism experience.

A Cowichan staple year-round, the Chemainus Theatre is a perfect winter evening activity. Since 1993, the theatre has offered regional and internationally acclaimed performances. Throughout November and December, catch their rendition of Miracle on 34th Street Wednesday through Sunday. Come early to relax before the show in the Playbill Dining Room with a drink or a meal and browse the Gallery Gift Shop, where you’ll find local artists offerings.

Make a day of it and spend the morning checking out the famous Chemainus Murals, the world’s leading community-driven art tourism project, started in 1981. Find the footprints along the sidewalks to follow the route or use this handy map to view the 40+ murals by local and international artists that adorn the downtown centre.

For a full list of events in the Cowichan region, visit our calendar HERE!

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