Hit the slopes, take in the city's festive lights, and leave the meals to the locals for this ideal holiday plan.

Grouse Mountain, Vancouver, at Christmas
Credit: Courtesy Grouse Mountain

Christmas may be about gathering and celebrating family, but the festivities don't necessarily have to take place at home. A holiday vacation can strengthen the ties that bind, as well as open new horizons. You can spend a perfect Christmas Day in Vancouver by leaving the meals to the professionals and hitting the slopes for outdoor adventure.

Power Up

Treat the family to an upscale brunch at ARC restaurant, located at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel at Canada Place, with panoramic views of the water and mountains in Coal Harbour. The Happy Christmas Morning Buffet Brunch features a wide variety of offerings, including a cured and dried meat platter, omelets made with organic eggs, Fraser Valley roasted turkey, and British Columbia oysters.

Hit the Slopes

Vancouver is surrounded by mountains, and Grouse, fully operational on Christmas Day until 5 p.m., is only about 15 minutes from downtown. It's where NBC's "Today" show set up camp while broadcasting during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The top of Grouse is decorated to look like the North Pole as part of the "Peak of Christmas" holiday-long celebration. The ski season is already underway, and the mountain offers runs for all skill levels, from beginner to back-country. The most popular, and longest, run is "The Cut."

Snack and Sleigh Ride

Grouse's cafes and restaurants will be open on Christmas, which will be a welcome fallback after you work up an appetite on the slopes. You can take a break for coffee and a snack at the Grind Coffee Bar. After you've warmed up, it's well worth heading back out again for a holiday sleigh ride. These rides run every 20 minutes and follow a loop through alpine forest. If you'd like an even more festive touch, you can arrange to have hot cocoa during your trip.

Drinks and Dinner

For an après-ski aperitif, come back downtown and get comfortable at Market by Jean-Georges, a restaurant of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten located at the Shangri-La Hotel. Order the Market Mochaccino, an original Christmas cocktail made with Jamaican black rum and chocolate mole bitters. With your appetite stimulated, savor a four-course Christmas dinner with the family, courtesy of Ken Nakano, Market's new executive chef, featuring heirloom tomato and burrata, seared Pacific scallops, roasted Rossdown Farms turkey, and the restaurant's candy cane cheesecake to finish.

Light Show

After dinner, take a stroll to view the city's impressive array of Christmas lights. You can see them at Stanley Park and Canada Place, but if you're looking for something more unique, check out the Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival, taking place on blocks 2400 through 2900. This annual residential light show has become so popular, visitors are encouraged to walk instead of drive to minimize road traffic. The bright displays of multi-colored lights and other Christmas decor, such as giant snowmen and candy canes, are inviting and entertaining for all.

Aileen Torres-Bennett covers the Vancouver beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her blog at: abttorres.wordpress.com.