Winter visitors to Vancouver, B.C., should check out one of the region's largest and most spectacular Christmas lighting shows, at VanDusen Botanical Garden, an easy stop off Highway 99 (Oak Street) as you drive into the city.
Every evening at 4:30 the 55-acre public garden turns a large section over to animated lighting, community choirs, and other entertainment until 9 p.m., through Jan. 3 (no show on Christmas Day). Lighting is arranged around several ponds and foot bridges.
Our favorite is the Dancing Lights on Livingstone Lake, two choreographed light shows, beginning at 4:30 and continuing through the evening, making full use of the garden's assortment of trees and shrubs; lights are set to music. The Festival of Lights web site has a selection of videos and photos from previous years that give an impression of how the lighting is displayed. Community choirs also entertain, with shows each night at 6:30 and 7:30.
Santa will appear through Dec. 24, and a pair of Scandinavian elves will help entertain nightly. Food is available (cash only), including fresh waffles, cider, and chocolate, and hot dogs and pastries. VanDusen's full-service restaurant, Shaughnessey's, will be open for dinner. Festival of Lights adult tickets are $13 (Canadian), seniors $9.50, youth $9.50, child $7.50, under age six free.
For those who enjoy the diversity of Vancouver, the light show works will with a visit to Granville Island, the Museum of Anthropology, Stanley Park, or the Vancouver Art Museum, with an early dinner at one of the city's many ethnic restaurants.