Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Brilliant Christmas

The Dancing Lights at Livingstone Lake in VanDusen Garden
VanDusen Botanical Garden is a gorgeous place in the summer months, but to keep visitors coming particularly in the winter, the Festival of Lights is definitely a draw and I finally checked out this Vancouver institution this evening.

The new reception area with its undulating wooden roof
For this year it is held from December 7 to January 1 from 4.30pm to 9pm every evening, weather permitting. Admission is $14.25 for adults, $10.50 for seniors and youth (13-18 years), $7.75 for children.

As it's Christmas Eve here (well it's technically Christmas now that it's midnight that I'm writing this) and the weather held up, many people came out to the garden to see the amazing display of lights.

While streams of people arrived, the line went quickly thanks to five cashiers on hand to help sort out tickets quickly; apparently two years ago when my parents went there was only one cashier which made the line painfully slow.

Reflection of the colourful Christmas lights
Also the reception area is newly built with a wonderfully undulating wood roof that's warm and inviting, as well as very apt for a place that's about nature.

Once we were through that building we were inundated with thousands upon thousands of lights in various colours and shapes. There were lights wrapped around bushes and trees, while metal conical trees were created in some places. We were also impressed with the plastic tulips which were in fact plastic water bottles cut into petals and lights stuck where the screw top used to be. That's a lot of plastic tulips, but a good use of plastic!

Then every half hour there was the Dancing Lights on Livingstone Lake, which is actually a pond with an island where lights on bushes and trees burst into colours synchronized with the music which was very neat.

Plastic water bottles turned into brightly-lit tulips
The garden is normally divided into sections, and for the Festival of Lights there were sections like Gingerbread Wood, Sparkling Spruce, Gnome Home, and Lovers' Lookout... which perhaps had some mistletoe around?

There was also the Make-A-Wish Grotto, where for a small donation, visitors can make a wish and then light a candle.

And to keep visitors warm and sated, there were stations periodically placed in the garden offering foods like waffles, hot chocolate and pop corn and soup, or visit the cafeteria or the garden's restaurant called Truffles Cafe.

Apparently the staff already start preparing for the Festival of Lights during Canadian Thanksgiving in mid October, checking the tens of thousands of lights they have to make sure they are working properly and then carefully decorate the gardens.

Christmas trees strung with lights with a colorful background
"This is a more complicated job than you might imagine," says garden director Harry Jongerden. "As a botanic garden, our plants are precious to us, so it takes knowledgeable gardening staff to delicately string the lights without damaging any thing. The weeks and hours of hard work are worth it when you see the joy the show gives our guests."

We definitely appreciate it, and just before Christmas, everyone was in a jovial mood and of course taking lots of pictures.

How can you resist?

Festival of Lights
December 7, 2012 - January 1, 2013
VanDusen Botanical Gardens
5251 Oak Street

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