The holidays are officially in full swing. Decorations are going up, cookies are being baked, and there are little twinkly lights all over the place – from sky-high city cranes to the rooflines of homes across the city. With the long, dark nights, it’s no wonder that light displays have become one of the most-loved signs of the season – and checking out some of the best and brightest one of the most enjoyable activities.
There’s some spectacular choices in the Vancouver area. Find your scarf and mittens, get some hot chocolate in a travel mug, and light up the holiday nights with some of the local highlights:
The Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens
On now, till January 5th, VanDusen gardens will host their annual popular festive light display. Featuring more than a million lights, this display allows visitors to walk through the beautiful gardens after dark, with lights of all colours lining the walkways and adorning the trees, plants and buildings. The event features music, treats and more, and frequently sells out, especially in the days leading up to Christmas. The display is closed on December 25. Tickets and more information are available online at vancouver.ca.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Canyon Lights
Explore one of Vancouver’s landmark attractions with a festive twist during the Canyon Lights event at Capilano Suspension Bridge, running now until January 26. The bridge, Cliffwalk, Treetops Adventure, the rainforest and the canyon are all transformed with thousands of lights. Treetops Adventure is a series of seven suspension bridges attached to eight 250-year-old Douglas Firs with viewing platforms, as much as 110 feet above the forest floor. The event also includes the Snowy Owl Prowl children’s activities, by donation, and sing-alongs. Visit capbridge.com for location and tickets.
St. Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope
A familiar sight in downtown Vancouver, the brilliant display at the St. Paul’s Lights of Hope attraction isn’t just pretty to look at – it’s all for a good cause. As a way to honour donors and to help awareness around hospital funding needs, the holiday display has run every year since 1998. The event includes the Living Light, an interactive art piece that shines brightly when visitors make a donation and fades if it goes too long without support. The display is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of giving at the holidays and throughout the year. Check out lightsofhope.helpstpauls.com for location and details.
The Lights at Lake Lafarge
This free light display has become a family favourite in Coquitlam, drawing people from throughout the region. Running now until January 19, the display runs the perimeter of Lafarge Lake, and the city-sponsored event includes a variety of different events throughout the season, such as themed nights (including a Frozen evening, and another with carnival games), as well as food trucks and entertainment. Check out the city’s website for specifics as the schedule rotates throughout the season.
Bright Nights in Stanley Park
This iconic event has become synonymous with the holiday season in Vancouver. The Stanley Park train plaza and the train route through the forest are lit up with more than three million twinkling lights. And it’s all for a good cause: the donations at the front gate and a portion of train ride ticket sales go to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. More than $1.4 million has been raised in the 20 years since this event first began. Make a night of it with a stop in Gastown on the way to Stanley Park for dinner or hot chocolate – or simply a walk along the streets to enjoy some holiday shopping.
Lights by the Lake in Harrison
Until mid-January, the cozy community of Harrison Hot Springs will host the Lights by the Lake, a free attraction that transforms the Harrison lakefront into a magical world of lights highlighting our local wildlife and the elusive Sasquatch. Enjoy a walk along the promenade and enjoy the dazzling displays along the edge of the lagoon, including the “weeping” Christmas trees, with a hint of Who-ville. This year, the event features an ice skating rink and a trail walk. Harrison is about 90 minutes east of Vancouver, making it an ideal day trip to check out this unique community, enjoy some shopping and dinner, and take in the lights. Check out Lights by the Lake for more information.
Carol Ships: Parade of Light
A long-standing tradition in many coastal communities, Carol Ships are a unique celebration of the holiday season. All manner of boats – from fishing to commercial to private – get covered in lights and then take to the water throughout the holiday season. Originally a pre-organized event held on certain days of the season, the Carol Ships parade has become a unique event in which a number of local private charter companies offer decorated boats for people interested in taking their own holiday cruise, sometimes complete with dinner and dancing. A number of local companies host carol ship events, including vancouvercruises.com. And keep an eye on the water if you’re strolling on shore for a sparkling display at sea.
Karaoke Christmas Lights Trolley Tour
Too hard to decide which display to check out? Why not several – and let someone else do the driving, too. Hop on one of the Vancouver Karaoke Christmas Lights trolleys for a holiday tour around the city. Visit Bright Lights at Stanley Park, drive past Hycroft Manor and Canuck Place, and then finish the evening off with the lights of VanDusen Gardens. It’s a little bit of all the best that the city has to offer. Visit westcoastsightseeing.com for details (and an online discount coupon.)
The best part of the holiday light displays is that they’re all as much for grown-ups as they are for kids, making them a perfect holiday tradition to continue – or start this year – no matter the ages of your family and friends.