I’ll admit it to you right now, I hate winter; It’s cold, snowy, and icy. However, I really miss getting outside and being active in the winter in fear of the cold, then I discovered Vancouver. The temperature in Vancouver hovers around or just above zero, so to most Canadians, it’s lovely, balmy weather. Now we’re talking.
To make that wonderful, warmer winter even more magical, I headed out to Stanley Park just on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver. Not only is it the largest city-operated park in all of Canada, making it easily accessible but it has the Bright Lights Celebration every December. The event is hosted by the Vancouver Park Board and BC Professional Fire Fighter’s Burn Fund. Together, they string more than one million Christmas lights through the trees and bushes of Stanley Park, lighting up the wilderness like a childhood dream of the North Pole.
Entrance to the park is based on a donation to the Burn Fund. It’s inexpensive but what you do pay goes directly to an awesome cause. Wander through the paths and admire everything from simple strings of lights to antique Christmas displays for jolly old St. Nick and Mrs. Claus to fields of cheerful reindeer and elves. And if that isn’t enough, line up and take a ride on the Bright Nights Train. The miniature engine takes you on a short tour through the forest that is also decorated. The most beautiful scene I remember was a faux snowy scene with the silhouettes of deer illuminated in the trees.
The train is sure to please all ages as there were comical scenes like the bouncing bumble for the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” cartoon, to serene images of the nativity scene. Another thing I found really interesting was how the lights didn’t strictly adhere to Christmas. December holidays from all cultures like Hanukah to Kwanza to Eid Al-Adha found their place in the woods of Stanley Park. Although I’m not too educated in cultural traditions, I always love to learn about them and it was amazing to see them lined up with those already familiar to me.
Once you’ve stepped off the train, cheerful as a child on Christmas morning, you can continue to stroll through the lit trail. Maybe take a trip down to the petting zoo and meet Stanley Park’s goat, chickens and bunnies. Beware though, the goat tried to eat the buttons right off my coat.
And after all this adventuring, you must be getting hungry; head to one of the nearest food stalls for a bag of roasted chestnuts or pistachios and hot chocolate. You can’t get much more festive than that. I left Stanley Park feeling warm, content and in the highest holiday spirit since my childhood days of Santa Claus.
One other thing I’ve discovered about the Bright Lights since going is that you can drop off old Christmas lights. BC Hydro will recycle them, saving energy and promises to donate two dollars for every string of lights donated to the Burn Fund. If you’re a Vancouver local, here’s an excellent opportunity to get rid of old, inefficient lights and give back to the community in more than one way. Just another way to get into the holiday swing.