Accessibility at Vancouver Holiday Attractions

Photo: Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

As a time of togetherness and celebration, the holidays should be accessible to everyone who wishes to participate in its events and activities. In Vancouver, popular holiday attractions are working hard to further accessibility and inclusion.

Below are three Vancouver holiday attractions and what they’re doing to improve accessibility and inclusion:

VanDusen Festival of Lights

VanDusen Festival of Lights; Photo: City of Vancouver

One of the most wondrous holiday attractions is the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden, running from now until January 2. More than one million lights are found throughout the 15 acres of the Garden, making it truly a captivating experience. Favourites such as the Dancing Lights at Livingston Lake (a show involving lights on trees and greenery that are choreographed to holidays tunes), the romance of the Rose Garden, and themed areas throughout the Garden return. Holiday music and lots of food options, including The Garden Café, Fireside Fondue, Shaughnessy Wine Patio and Restaurant, and the Cocoa Chateau, make for a very festive visit.

New this year is a Tree Hugs neon light display, a Glacial Passage in the halls, and Wisteria Court, an outdoor seating area for snacking on drinks and bites from food vendors, who range from Japadog to Ay! Mamacita.

Taylor Shewfelt, Senior Marking Specialist with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, says, “All of the main pathways at Festival of Lights are accessible to ensure that those with a wheelchair are able to visit and enjoy the show.” Extra accessible parking is available during the Festival of Lights (parking lot on West 37th Avenue), and there is an accessible drop-off area, situated in the C-Drive (off Oak Street). Attendants for those with a disability receive complimentary access to the attraction. And, all portable toilets will be accessible for those with wheelchairs (there are also full-service washrooms in the Visitor Centre). Finally, working guide and service dogs are welcome.

For financial accessibility, the Park Board runs a Leisure Access Program, which provides residents with low income to access Park Board facilities for free or at reduced cost. Those with the pass get a 50% discount for the Festival of Lights. Shewfelt says that the Festival also donates tickets to local charities.

Another way that the Festival helps out is through the Scottish Shelter where visitors can light a candle and donate to Make-A-Wish (debit and credit only). This is the 21st year that Make-A-Wish has been part of the Festival.

Shewfelt says that every year, the Festival of Lights tries to improve their accessibility. “We continue to have ongoing discussions about how we can provide more accessibility to the event and hope to offer more ways in the future,” she says.

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Kia’palano at Canyon Lights; Photo: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

The popular Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has transformed into a holiday wonderland—Canyon Lights—from now until January 22, 2023 (closed Christmas Day). The suspension bridge, located above the rushing waters of the Capilano River, is lit up. The Treetops Adventure with its seven bridges suspended between trees is illuminated, and the Cliffwalk features the “Arc de Lumina” light tunnel.

Although the Bridge, Treetops Adventure, and Cliffwalk are, unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park aims to offers a magical experience for everyone who visits the attraction. Stacy Chala, Communications Manager, says that all visitors in wheelchairs or on crutches receive complimentary admission. Not only will they be able to enjoy scenic views of the Canyon and the many sparkling lights, but they also can partake in a host of other activities and programming. The Story Centre spans 130 years of history, and features photos, photomurals, and artifacts and antiques that tell the story of the Park. Meanwhile, Kia’palano, a centre that educates about Indigenous peoples in the area, is also worth visiting.

Meanwhile, the Trading Post Gift Shop has numerous items that would be great for browsing for holiday gifts. Or, a meal at the Cliff House Restaurant or Loggers’ Grill is a good option before or after admiring the lights. A cup of Pedro’s Hot Chocolate at Loggers’ Grill is particularly fitting for the wintry weather. There will also be live festival entertainment, such as holiday singing, that will take place at the Park.

In order to help with financial accessibility, Canyon Lights hosts the Twelve Nights of Christmas, which involves donating thousands of passes to local charities so that they can distribute the passes to people who might not otherwise be able to visit the attraction during the holidays.

“The Canyon Lights event does allow our business to give back,” says Chala. One big way of doing so is through Canyon Lights’ support of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. Partial proceeds from admissions go to this fund in order to support education about fire and burns in the province. Over $410,000 has been donated to date.

Finally, in order to provide as much value as possible, a regular one-day admission is actually an annual pass, which allows visitors to take part in the many seasonal events throughout the year, including Love Lights and Canyon Frights.

Chala says that work on accessibility is ongoing since the Park takes its responsibilities seriously. “Capilano Suspension Bridge Park believes in being good corporate citizens for the community, environment, and the tourism industry. We do this by volunteering in local committees, supporting community organizations and charities with resources, sponsoring local festivals and events, and donating scholarships,” she says. So far, all their charitable work totals more than a million dollars.

Vancouver Christmas Market

Vancouver Christmas Market Pyramid; Photo: Lindsay Elliott

The Vancouver Christmas Market has returned, operating from now until December 24, 2022, at downtown’s Jacke Poole Plaza. This German-themed market is particularly loved for its authentic German food and drink offerings, such as schnitzel and glühwein, as well as its wide range of international eats, such as perogies, Transylvanian chimney cakes, and Spanish churros.

Popular activities in the Market include browsing the many artisan vendors in the Kaufmannsgasse (Merchant Alley), enjoying a ride on the HolidayLife Carousel, watching and listening to the live entertainment on the Flying Stage on the Christmas Pyramid, and relaxing at the enclosed and heated Alpen Haus. This year, there are a bunch of new and exciting features: an augmented reality experience with QR codes posted onsite; a Schwibbogen, a giant German decorative candle, at the entrance; and a Sky Curtain of 22,000 Lights draped across the Tannenbaum Terrace.

The Plaza is fully wheelchair accessible, and there are wheelchair accessible toilets. Seating is available via benches located throughout the site. As well, the heated Alpen Haus and the Winterdeck area are other ideal spots for resting during a visit to the Market.

Service dogs are welcome. Registered caregivers receive complimentary admission (a Registered Caregiver Card is required).

While the HolidayLife carousel is free, visitors are encouraged to donate to Make-A-Wish Canada using Interac, with Interac matching all donations up to $50,000.

Tagged: , , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

Comments are closed.