Guide: VanDusen Festival of Lights

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The Festival of Lights, an annual VanDusen Gardens tradition, has ramped up once again on Oak and 37th. Driving by, you can only glimpse sparkling lights in the darkness, but once you get past the lengthy lines patrolled by cheery elves and security guards, you’re hit by hundreds of trees and garden trails coated in over 1.4 million multi-coloured Christmas lights.

This year more than ever, the gardens have been overcome by Christmas glamour. Since the recent renovation of the garden’s pavilion building, the light shows have grown both in attendance and commercialization. Now easily accessible for everyone, the Festival of Lights is not solely for those who crave crisp air and numb fingers.

Not to be missed is the Dancing Lights show, by the entrance each half hour, with changing lights reflecting on ice covered lakes in sync with music. Though there is an array of modern Christmas songs, the light show also has the traditional light show carols that both new and returning patrons will adore.

There is nothing like a group of people, bundled in their warmest toques and scarves, all standing amongst glowing lights in the darkness, listening to carolers. It’s the epitome of a holiday feeling.

If the flurries of small children and camera toting tourists are too much for you, keep in mind that the entrance is deceiving—there are several spots in the garden to sit in silence and admire the view. Escaping from the hoards of people and omnipresent music, you may find yourself wandering over to the floating bridge. One of the best spots during the summer months, this time of year it is decorated with red lights that illuminate the spidery trees above and shimmer on the black ice below. Venturing further into the garden, you’re able to stroll in crisp silence and enjoy the more traditionally lit gardens. Eventually, you’ll get to paths where the lights disappear completely except for golden chains lining the walkways.

Whether you’re with someone or walking alone, “Lover’s Lookout” is the best place to get a view of the gardens. A gazebo at the highest point, with a ceiling strung with white lights, it’s the perfect place to sit with a mug of warm apple cider.

True, in the past, the Festival had a distinctive charm created by the community of people all stuck out in the fresh air. But even with the merchandise and food stands scattered throughout, this year’s festival still stays true to the heart of the event: bringing people together in the love and admiration of what keeps us all going in the winter months: a little bit of light.

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