Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Gardens

Photo: VanDusen Botanical Garden

Another holiday tradition is about the get underway in Vancouver – the spectacular Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden.   Every year during December, the manicured grounds of the lush garden are transformed into a winter wonderland glowing with more than a million twinkling lights.

The centrepiece of the festival is the Dancing Lights exhibit.  Every half hour, the strands of coloured lights strung on the trees and shrubs around Livingstone Lake flash and sparkle in time with the music in a brilliant choreographed display.  The glow of all the lights reflected in the lake makes for one of the most memorable holiday scenes in Vancouver.


At the same time, brightly lit walkways – including the elaborately decorated Gingerbread Wood and Candy Cane Lane – connect different sections of the garden, allowing visitors to wander and admire the magical park after dark.

As spectacular as the lights are, it’s the people that really make the Festival of Lights special.  Every night leading up to Christmas, community choirs sing carols to spread the holiday cheer.  You’re also likely to run into Svend and Jens, the popular Scandinavian elves known to make the rounds at this time of year.  Of course, no visit to VanDusen would be complete without stopping inside Santa’s Living Room, where St. Nick himself wiles away the cold winter nights.

And conveniently located just next store is Mrs. Claus’ kitchen.  The holiday classics on offer include fresh-popped kettle corn, apple-and-cranberry turnovers and hot cider and hot chocolate.  If you’re in the mood for a full holiday meal, the Shaughnessy Restaurant right in the park serves up a West Coast menu nightly in a casually elegant atmosphere.  And if you’re feeling really indulgent,  you can stop by afterward at Dr. Waffle for homemade waffles or perhaps Mr. Doughnut for those incredibly addictive mini doughnuts.

The VanDusen Festival of Lights, a true Vancouver tradition, runs every night from Dec. 10-Jan. 2, except Christmas, from 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.   You can buy tickets in advance at TicketsTonight or the Garden Shop at the park or just get your tickets at the gate.  Adults are $13, seniors and youth are $9.50, children 6-12 are $7.25 and kids under 6 are free.

Has anyone attended the VanDusen Festival of Lights before?  What’s your favourite part?

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