Every year, I take part in a series of Vancouver Christmas traditions (the list keeps on growing). The one I look forward to particularly is Bright Nights in Stanley Park (running until January 1, 2017, closed December 25), now in its nineteenth season.
Over three million sparkly lights await in the Train Plaza and during a fourteen minute train journey through Stanley Park. Depending on who your date is, it can be incredibly romantic (and bring out the kid in you, regardless of your age).
This year, for the first time, I took the matinee train (10am to 2:30pm) and had a wonderful experience.
Our train ride adventure began on a Sunday morning. Advanced tickets are available on-line; however, most of the prime spots are sold out by this point. That being said, a portion of each day’s tickets are kept back for sale on the actual day, starting at 10am. We had every intention of going on the train in the evening, but when we arrived, we suddenly changed our minds.
It was a crisp, but gorgeous morning in the Park. The Train Plaza was fairly deserted, save for a few people lining up to buy tickets for the day. Usually, at night time, the place is packed and happily buzzing, and there’s a significant line-up to get on board the train. However, at this time of day, there was no one waiting to take the train. It could be practically all ours.
It was a snap decision. We bought tickets (discounted at $ 6 for all ages) for the 10-10:30am slot, and spent the time until the next train (for the matinee, it comes every 15 minutes) walking leisurely around the Train Plaza.
There, we saw all sorts of charming Christmas displays, from gingerbread houses, to Winnie the Pooh, to Santa and Mrs. Claus relaxing before the big day.
It’s all the tireless handiwork of countless volunteers and BC Professional Fire Fighters, with partial proceeds from ticket sales going to the BC Professional Figher Fighters’ Burn Fund, which aids burn victims and their families ($ 1.4 million raised thus far).
When we heard the whistle of the incoming train, we headed over to board. There were a few other people who also joined us, but otherwise, we basically got to pick where we wanted to sit. Excitement was growing!
The next fourteen minutes were every bit as magical as previous years, with one slight difference.
There were the twinkly lights, the displays of all sorts (dancing Christmas trees, the Grinch, Rudolph, Santa, etc), and Christmas carols and other festive music, but during the day, instead of being enveloped in darkness, I got to marvel at the beauty of the forest as we wended our way through the park.
I often take for granted the wonder of this temperate coastal rainforest in our city, but the train ride reminded me of its splendour.
There are no live performers for the matinee train, but it certainly didn’t affect our enjoyment of the ride.
Unfortunately, the ride eventually had to come to an end. We hopped off and said goodbye to all the displays in the Plaza area. With the rest of the day still before us, we had time to take in more of the forest on a wintry morning before Christmas.