Ask Vancouverites about their favourite childhood memories from the holidays and one activity almost always pops up: the Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park.
There’s just something about chugging into the forest on a cold night in a tiny train, millions of lights twinkling overhead, that gets burned into your memory banks. And, to be honest, it’s probably not just the kids that get a kick out of it.
The Bright Nights Christmas Train is back for another run in Stanley Park, Dec. 5-Jan. 5. Passengers can hop onboard at the park’s miniature train plaza, not far from the Vancouver Aquarium and Lumberman’s Arch (map). The plaza itself is free to visit (suggested donation $4) and decorated with literally millions of lights. Santa is usually on hand in his living room, and seasonal choirs add to the holiday cheer. Meanwhile, free hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts and even organic popcorn keep visitors warm and toasty.
Of course, the highlight is the train ride itself ($11 adults; $7 kids and seniors; free for under age 3). The festively decorated miniature train chugs ever-so-slowly into the park on its two-kilometre circuit. The conductor guides the locomotive – a replica of the first transcontinental train to pull into Vancouver in the 1880s – over trestles and into tunnels, past lakes and deeper into the twinkling forest. Expect brilliant holiday displays and even live actors along the way to add to the magic.
It’s an enchanted, low-cost, low-stress holiday evening in Vancouver. The only tricky part can be getting tickets, which tend to sell out fast. The best bet is to book ahead using Ticketmaster. However, half of each day’s tickets are also held back for on-site sale starting at 11 a.m. Be prepared for lines, especially on weekends and during Christmas week. Special matinee trains ($6) also run in the afternoon on Wednesday and Friday-Sunday. The train is closed Christmas Day.
The Bright Nights Christmas Train also supports a good cause. To date, it has raised more than $1.4 million for the BC Professional Firefighters’ burn fund.
For the complete schedule and additional details, visit the official Bright Nights website.
Have fond childhood memories of the Bright Nights Christmas Train? Let us know below.
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