Twinkling Lights and Festive Markets: Where to Find Holiday Cheer in BC

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There’s nothing like thousands of twinkling lights to make you feel like a kid again. Seasonal markets and events? They’re bound to take the bah-humbug out of any holiday curmudgeon. Here, three of our contributors share where you can check out dazzling displays and festive fineryand even satisfy your holiday sweet tooth. 

 

 

Festive lights | Courtesy of The Butchart Gardens

Victoria

The Butchart Gardens is decked out in seasonal cheer with wreaths, garlands, scenes from the 12 Days of Christmas, an outdoor ice rink, and hundreds of thousands of lights from December 1 – January 6. A carousel, hot chocolate and gingerbread, holiday dining options, carollers, and brass performances add to the lively atmosphere.

In the city, explore Christmas at the Victoria Public Market, wander through a Gingerbread Showcase, enjoy Christmas at Craigdarroch Castle, sip festive afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress, or stroll along the Harbour for views of the BC Parliament Buildings in seasonal finery.

—Michelle Pentz Glave

Garden stroll | VanDusen Botanical Garden

Vancouver

VanDusen Festival of Lights might just be the most spectacular because of the setting. More than a million lights adorn six hectares (15 acres) of the rolling 22-hectare (55-acre) green oasis, reflecting off lakes and ponds like a fairy garden from December 1 – January 6.

Hop on the carousel, take a photo with Santa, check out the dancing lights show on Livingstone Lake, and warm up with a specialty beverage at the fireside lounge. Tip: purchase your tickets online to save and skip the lineup.

—Michelle Pentz Glave

 

Aurora Winter Festival | Aurora Winter Festival

At the Aurora Winter Festival, Vancouver’s Concord Pacific along False Creek is transformed into a snowy, hidden village by the North Pole from November 23 – December 30. Captivating light displays, magical characters, and Santa’s Workshop anchor the all-ages draw that will see visitors lacing up skates for spins on a “Frozen River.” Market huts, amusement rides, and live entertainment round out the fun.

Have a sweet tooth? All ages will love the city’s annual CandyTown festivities on November 24, where visits from Saint Nick are punctuated by roaming holiday characters (think dancing gingerbread men and an Ice Queen), holiday crafts, carolling, and the signature candy kebob-making workshop in the Candy Hut. This free event, presented by the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, raises funds for the B.C. Children’s Hospital, Starlight Children’s Foundation, and the Rotary Club.

—Carla Mont

 

Vancouver Christmas Market | Lindsay Elliott

Jack Poole Plaza is best known as the home of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron. However,  from November 21 through December 24, this scenic gathering place will be transformed into the Vancouver Christmas Market. Meander along quaint alleys lined with more than 80 huts and sample authentic German treats. Take a spin on a glittering carousel; be dazzled by the 30-foot-tall Walk-In Christmas Tree decorated with 36,000 lights. Linger and enjoy entertainment performed on the Christmas Pyramid’s Flying Stage, as well as special activities for all ages at this German-inspired market.

—Jane Zatylny 

The Peak of Christmas | Grouse Mountain

If you need snow to get into the holiday spirit, Grouse Mountain is the place. Ride the Skyride to The Peak of Christmas where the North Pole-ish scene includes ice skating on the 8,000-square-foot frozen pond, a magical Light Walk through the woods, Santa’s Workshop and two of his reindeer, sleigh rides on the mountaintop, and a Gingerbread Village. Also, be sure to check out Grouse Mountain’s Sliding Zone and Mountain Zipline Tours.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park is the city’s traditional go-to, ideal for tots (and a charitable fundraiser for burn victims). A miniature train chugs through three million twinkle-lights sparkling on evergreens and illuminating old-style Christmas scenes. There’s also live entertainment and visits with Santa.

—Michelle Pentz Glave

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park | Capilano Suspension Bridge

In North Vancouver, Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park feels like a magical enchanted forest during its annual winter light display. Bundle up the family and take in the extraordinary spectacle along the suspension bridge, Cliffwalk, and Treetops Adventure. With scenery that is all aglow, you’ll also enjoy festive live music, interactive light displays, and outdoor activities like the Snowy Owl Prowl scavenger hunt.

—Michelle Pentz Glave

Whistler Village | Tourism Whistler

Whistler

Whistler gets plenty of love as a premier North American ski resort, but its charming, pedestrian-only Village Stroll is just as press-worthy—especially when the winding walkways are dusted in snow and the whole place is lit up like a Christmas tree. Join a free holiday event, peruse an artisan market, or take a seat at an outdoor heated patio to people-watch. Tubing, snowshoeing, skating, and ziplining are all nearby, too.

—Michelle Pentz Glave

Rendering of the first annual Lights on the Lake | Tourism Harrison

Harrison Hot Springs

The local Sts’ailes people have long shared stories of Sasquatch (or Saqets), a hulking creature covered in thick hair that can vanish into the spirit realm at will. Its elusive nature has captivated residents in Harrison Hot Springs—so much so that the town has a dedicated Sasquatch Trail (sightings have been recorded over the years) and a Sasquatch Days summer fest. The first annual Lights on the Lake, November 23 – January 28, will add a seasonal nod to Saqets, with colourful displays throughout town. (More holiday-themed displays are on hand, too.) When night falls, bundle up, grab a peppermint mocha, and stroll at leisure.

—Carla Mont

Holiday festivities | Thomas Drasdauskis

Barkerville Historic Town & Park

Step back to 1862—before the invention of the iPhone—and experience an authentic Victorian Christmas in Barkerville Historic Town & Park. The national historic site will offer a special Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas from December 8 to 10. Have your photo taken with Father Christmas, glide through the town’s snowy streets on a sleigh, taste baked goods in the Wendle House, and enjoy a special reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

—Jane Zatylny 

The holidays are a time to both celebrate and reflect. So take in some lights, make some special memories, and get back in touch with what it’s all about: charity, goodwill and giving, feasting and family—with a dash of Santa magic.

 

Header image: Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park | Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

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