Bright Nights Stanley Park 2014
The Vancouver Park Board and BC Professional Firefighter's Burn Fund work in unison to put together what is now a 16 year running Christmas tradition for the whole family that shows no sign of slowing down. Every year more lights and decorations are added to BC's very own rainforest and every year more and more people show up in mitts, earmuffs, scarves and toques with steaming hot chocolate cupped close in hand.
Entry only requires a much appreciated donation to this very worthy cause and once through the "gates", your vision will be dazzled as lights on the treetops appear akin to multi-colored fireflies dancing up high about the brisk nighttime air. Christmas themed dioramas line the grounds along the pathway towards the center of the Bright Nights "village" as parents find themselves holding back their little ones who attempt to duck under the ropes or hop the gates to get a closer look at the likes of their favorite holiday character displayed on the frosted lawn. Crowds huddle near the various food stands with arms outstretched to grab a warm snack and beverage before continuing the tour. A cozy little dim lit version of Santa's Toy Shop nestles against the back gates and beckons you to come in for a photo with St. Nick as he sits perched on his large plush chair with arms serving as a welcoming seat if there is no room for you on his nap. Next door is the highlight of the show, the Bright Nights train that is a blown up musical version of a battery powered one you imagine circling the base of a heartily decorated tree on Christmas Eve. This approximate 12 minute railed journey takes you through the park to see both traditional and unique holiday displays lit up and tucked in amidst the forest in such a manner that it can feel that you are in the middle of a game of "hide and seek" with the mini exhibitions as they turn up unexpected within the nooks and crannies of the woods. If you don't swivel your vision from time to time you may miss a few. However, excited little voices forming "oohs" and "aahs" around each corner, as if overheard during a fireworks display, let you know ahead of time that something is coming. Children are always one up on us with respect to this type of thing.
Give yourself enough time while attending this annual event as the lines can be longer than one would expect, which is a testament to the popularity. Depending on the day and hour of your arrival, you may find yourself in queue for tickets, train ride, and for photos with Santa. The best remedy for this is to plan your visit during the late afternoon or early evening hours of a week day, if your schedule allows. Dress in layered warmth as the near water grounds can drop the temperature quickly. Again, there are plenty of food and drink options available so feel free to pack light with respect to snacking. Parking is located on site and for those opting for transit, the frequent #19 bus will take you to and from Bright Nights with ease.
With all of the big holiday events taking place in Greater Vancouver it can be tricky for those with a limited schedule and/or budget to pencil in which ones take priority. There may be bigger, brighter and more glamorous displays and events to attend in the area and it would be great of we could see them all, but when it comes to the one with the most heart, Bright Nights at Stanley Park takes the cake, or candy cane.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!