Let there be light! Winter is upon us and switches are flipping across the country on some beautiful light shows in Canada. Parks, bridges, roadsides and attractions are lighting up in the spirit of the season, so pull on your warmest clothes and take a walk or a drive in a winter wonderland all aglow.
To kick off my own festive season, I took my family through the Gift of Lights in Kitchener, where I heard plenty of ooohs and aahs from my boys in the back seat. Slowly driving under leaping reindeer and arches of snowflakes, then winding our way through scenes of North Pole antics and a Christmas candyland, we were all entranced. I knew there must be similar displays in other communities – and I was right. Best of all, each one is a bit different and many use the local landscape to their advantage. These light displays are a very festive way to see or enjoy a new place (or an old favourite!)
Light Displays In Eastern Canada
What pairs better with twinkling lights than classic holiday tunes? Splendour in the Park is a daily interactive music and light show dominating more than half of Halifax’s Cornwallis Park. It’s part of the Halifax Lights Festival and is more than just a series of pretty decorations; it’s an experience.
If you’re in Moncton this holiday season, head straight to the Magnetic Hill Zoo, which is celebrating the Year of the Wolf. The 40-acre park is decked out in hundreds of thousands of holiday lights for its Wild Lights display and the spotlight is on – you guessed it – those quirky little penguins! You can learn about the birds and check out the penguin-themed displays then warm up at a bonfire with a hot drink.
All Lit Up In Quebec
As if Quebec City in winter isn’t gorgeous enough – it’s a draw for lights and holiday charm in itself – the Quebec Aquarium runs Festilumières, an outdoor walking circuit featuring its marine animals, festive music and activities for kids. Pass through the enchanted forest to explore different glowing projections in a storybook setting. After you’ve explored those displays, head to Old Quebec to see the cobblestone streets and storefronts aglow. It’s so perfect, you might just feel like you’re in a snow globe.
On the other hand, one Montreal homeowner undertakes a massive show in his own yard every year. Dream Land by Sami Hajjar is a passion project and is a reminder that you don’t always have to travel far for a good show. Dream Land will combine over 250,000 lights, a long list of cartoon characters and music in an hourly evening show. If you’re looking for holiday overload à la National Lampoon, this is the place for you! (Update: this event has been cencelled for 2019, and will return in 2020)
Pack your kids into their pajamas, load them into the car and tune into the designated holiday station to set the perfect tone for a drive-through light display like the two-kilometre Gift of Lights tour in Kitchener or the Magic of Lights display at the Wesley Clover Parks Campground in Ottawa. Both feature drive-through lights tunnels, cheery vignettes and themed areas to admire on your cruise.
On the other hand, everything in Niagara Falls is a little over-the-top, including how the city gets festive. The Winter Festival of Lights is massive, with eight kilometres of displays using millions of LED lights. The entire landscape is lit up with stunning 3D sculptural displays, trees done up to the nines, interactive light displays and, of course, the piece de resistance: the falls themselves are lit up.
The Prairies get Bright
Get ready for a tour of a million lights (literally!) in Winnipeg. Manitoba’s longest drive-through lights show, Canad Inns Winter Wonderland at Red River Exhibition Park, has 26 different themed areas spread out over a 2.5 km route. It’s the perfect outing when the temperature drops in Winnipeg because you never have to leave the comfort of your warm and cozy car.
Similarly, give yourself about half an hour to drive through Saskatoon’s Enchanted Forest. Twenty years strong, it keeps growing every year and there’s always a new display to look out for. Located at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park, this drive-through display has become an annual tradition for many families.
Just outside of Edmonton, in St. Albert, a massive indoor light experience awaits explorers. Glow combines the best of a Christmas market (shopping, food and drink, a playground for kids and photos with the big man in red, himself) with a variety of lit up displays. Stroll around glowing paths, walk under a tunnel featuring 50,000 lights or take a few selfies in the interactive displays. Glow is another option for people who don’t want to go outside – you can spend as long as you like gazing at the lights without freezing!
Radiant British Columbia
If you’re in Vancouver, head just out of town to immerse yourself in the festivities. Grouse Mountain is home to a shimmering Light Walk which begins with a glowing tunnel just off its mountaintop skating pond. And how do you get there? By taking a gondola to the top of the mountain – hello fairytale! Past the tunnel you’ll find more installations against an unbeatable mountain backdrop.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge, a draw for visitors any time of the year, also ups the ante in winter. Its Canyon Lights Winter Festival runs through to the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to see the bridge – and its surrounding landscape – all aglow.