Christmas and the winter holidays are major celebrations in Vancouver. One of the top Vancouver Christmas attractions is the VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights, which is also one of Vancouver's best holiday light displays.
What to Expect at the VanDusen Festival of Lights
The VanDusen Botanical Garden is a gorgeous, landscaped garden in the center of Vancouver; it's located about 15 minutes south of downtown Vancouver (by car).
Every December, the annual VanDusen Festival of Lights transforms the garden from a serene botanical oasis into a winter wonderland. Millions of colorful lights are strewn around flower beds, trees, shrubs, and decorations, combining to create an awesome spectacle.
Visitors stroll through brightly-lit pathways--including the Gingerbread Walk and Candy Cane Lane--watch the Dancing Lights show (lights around Livingstone Lake "dance" to holiday music), enjoy hot chocolate and other snacks, and--most importantly for kids!--visit Santa and his elves.
VanDusen covers 22 hectares (55 acres); not all of the garden is lit up for the Festival. The lights are confined to the "front" of the garden, that is, the section easily accessible from the main entrance. Paths are wide enough for strollers and wheelchairs. A leisurely visit takes about an hour. (In other words, if it's very cold, you be outside too long.)
The VanDusen Festival of Lights is hugely popular in Vancouver, with many locals attending every year. Most people--especially kids--will love the over-abundance of decor; a small minority may find it garish. If you like holiday light displays, then you must see this one--it's quite exceptional.
Getting to the VanDusen Festival of Lights
VanDusen Botanical Garden is located at 5251 Oak St. in Vancouver. For drivers, there's a free parking lot at the garden entrance. Check out Translink for bus schedules and this map to VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Making the Most of Your Visit
For adults without kids, plan to spend about one to two hours at the Festival. That's enough time to walk through the displays and enjoy the Dancing Lights once or twice.
For kids, plan on about two hours (depending on their age)--they'll want plenty of time to run around, investigate all the paths and displays, and, of course, visit Santa.