Real reindeer. Giant gingerbread men. Kris Kringle. Ice skating. These are all good reasons to be nice, not naughty this December. Here are Vancouver’s 5 best family-friendly Christmas attractions. Wrangle the kiddos and hit up as many as you possibly can.
Top 5 Family-Friendly Holiday Activities
1) Free Ice Skating at Robson Square Ice Rink, ongoing through Feb. 2013
Robson Square’s free ice rink is beloved by families and local schools, who make up most of the 8,300 weekly visitors. Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the city-sponsored rink only charges for rentals. So BYOS (Bring Your Own Skates) or pay $4 (cash) for blades. Helmets and ice cleats are $2. The rink is open 9:00am and 9:00pm Sunday to Thursday, and 9:00am to 11:00pm Friday and Saturday.
2) Bright Nights at Stanley Park, ongoing through Jan. 1
Parents of small kiddos consider Bright Nights to be one of the most enjoyable Vancouver holiday traditions. But make no mistake, grown-ups will melt like frosty in summer over the view of 2 million twinkly lights illuminating Vancouver’s 1000-acre Stanley Park, visible as you ride the park’s Mini Train. So come on. It’s lovely weather for a train ride together. Don’t forget to finish with cocoa, roasted nuts, and Christmas carols in the plaza. Rides run 3pm – 10pm (11pm. on Fridays and Saturdays). Afternoon matinees are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 11am – 3pm. It’s closed Christmas. Adults are $10, children and seniors are $7. Matinee train tickets are $5.50.
3) Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden , ongoing Dec. 7-Jan. 1
Vancouver’s award-winning botanical garden transforms into sparkly eye candy every year as gardeners deck the boughs with thousands of strings of coloured lights. The big visual draws for children include “Dancing Lights” on Livingstone Lake, which burst into action every 30 minutes, Gingerbread Walk and Candy Cane Lane. Parents can also make their VanDusen trip into a Santa encounter – the big man is hanging out in his living room at VanDusen. Svend and Jens, the festive Scandie Christmas gnomes, will roam around offering serenades and high fives. For refreshments, Mrs Claus’ Kitchen next to The Gnome Home sells kid-friendly hot dogs, smokies, fresh-popped kettle corn, chicken fingers, fresh-baked apple cranberry turnovers, cider and cocoa. Open 4:30pm – 9pm. It’s closed Christmas. Adults are $14.25; Seniors and Youth are $10.50; Children are $7.75.
4) Vancouver Christmas Market, ongoing through Dec. 24
For adults, Vancouver’s German-style Christmas Market is romantic, aromatic and twinkly. For kids, it’s just plain fun. Inside the rustic village, families will find a soaring Tannenbaum and Vancouver’s only downtown carousel. Holly and Jolly, the giant gingerbread mascots, are there for family photos as well as dancing. A kids activity station offers gingerbread and chocolate lollipop decorating. When parents partake in festive food (Glühwein, dunkel, stollen, brats etc.) they’ll find many vendors serving the kids’ version (stollen kebabs, mini brats) of their favourite treats. The market is in Queen Elizabeth Sq. Plaza in downtown Van. Tickets are $5 for adults, except weekdays 11am-4pm, when it drops to $2. Youth (7-12) are $2. Kids (0-6) are free. Find opening hours here.
5) Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas, ongoing through Dec. 24
Ascend to winter wonderland 1000-metres above the city. Grouse’s annual holiday celebration, Peak of Christmas, includes Santa’s workshop, an 8,000-square-foot outdoor skating pond, sleigh rides, Christmas choirs and REAL reindeer. If you want to take it up a notch, nice kids can breakfast with Santa. The meal includes a sing-a-long and reindeer crafts. The Peak of Christmas is included in the price of an Alpine Experience Ticket ($39.95 for adults, $35.95 for seniors, $23.95 for youth 13-18, $13.95 for children 5-12). Find hours here.
What’s your favourite family holiday tradition? Share by commenting below.
Want more updates on Vancouver fun? Follow me on Twitter @TJerven