By Brittany Tiplady
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, why not take a stroll through a gorgeous display of lights? Treat your family, your significant other, or maybe just yourself to some Yuletide cheer! Metro Vancouver sure knows how to get into the holiday spirit with a vast selection of holiday light festivals popping up from Vancouver’s North Shore all the way to Langley. The artistry and brilliance of these events are bound to dissolve any Grinch-like feelings.
The holidays are for feasting and you know that here at WestCoastFood we’ve got you covered in the food department. Grab a bite before or after with one of our recommendations below. Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden
5251 Oak St, Vancouver
The annual Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Garden is arguably one of the most beloved holiday events in Vancouver proper, boasting over one million lights around the grounds and garden. Lighting up Vancouver from November 30 – January 5, VanDusen draws an impressive crowd every year, so grab your tickets early! The City of Vancouver website already predicts that the festival will be sold out from December 14-24. Head on over to Instagram and follow the hashtag #VanDusenFOL
What to eat: Warm-up post or pre garden stroll and head on over to the Truffles Kitchen at VanDusen Gardens and take advantage of their late Festival of Lights hours. Located right onsite, Truffles offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding gardens, serving Fair Trade coffees, “lovingly handcrafted hot and cold beverages, locally-inspired epicurean entrees, flavourful lunch and snacks, all freshly prepared on-site from the highest quality ingredients”. The Truffles artisan sandwiches are divine and suitable for carnivores and veggies alike! Try the roast beef and Swiss on ciabatta or the vegan Vietnamese banh mi with marinated tofu, vegan sriracha mayo, pickled carrots and daikon and cilantro.
Truffles Kitchen at VanDusen Gardens is open in December from 9 AM to 3 PM and then open from 4:30 PM to 9 PM for Festival of Lights guests.
Aurora Winter Festival
Hastings Park/PNE, 2901 E Hastings Street, Vancouver
Get immersed in Canada’s largest and without a doubt most elaborate winter festivals! The folks behind Aurora Winter Festival have thought of everything: check out the hidden village paired with a beautiful skating rink, go for a ride in the tube park, and marvel at the massive light displays. Shop ‘til you drop at the Christmas market, and enjoy amusement rides, food gardens, magical characters, and so much more.
What to eat: Aurora is packed with some of Vancouver’s most beloved food vendors: Meat and Bread, REEL Mac and Cheese, The Praguery, and The Buddha Bus to name a few. However, you feel like dining out before or after the festival, consider popping into Nonna’s Kitchen. Located in the iconic Waldorf Hotel, Nonna’s Table features Italian inspired comfort food just like grandma used to make … perfect for hunkering down after a an evening of Christmas-ing. We highly recommend sticking with the classics and ordering an authentic wood oven-fired pizza like the Napoletana, with white anchovies, capers, olives, fior di latte and tangy tomato sauce.
Check out Nonna’s menu here.
3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
The Capilano Suspension Bridge annual holiday event– Canyon Lights– is most definitely a must for the holiday season. Catering to all ages (but definitely a guaranteed delight for your little ones), Canyon Lights will launch you right into the holiday spirit. The suspension bridge is adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, as well as lights decorating the Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk and throughout the grounds. Bonus: Canyon Lights guests will also see the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, standing at 153 feet tall and growing.
Your ticket to Canyon Lights includes, “admission to the park, a Snowy Owl Prowl, gingerbread cookie decorating (by donation), and sing-along carols with the Christmas band.” Grab your tickets for Canyon Lights here; this event runs from November 22 until January 26, so if you don’t get around to attending before the holidays you can still enjoy it for the month to follow!
What to eat: After your suspension bridge stroll, pop into The Cliff House Restaurant on-site! The Canyon Lights experience doesn’t have to end once you head indoors–The Cliff House boasts an impressive view of the suspension bridge so you can continue to marvel at its beauty with a hot meal in tow. Our menu recommendation: the seafood chowder! Seating is first come first serve; no rezzies available!
The Cliff House Restaurant is open daily from 12 PM to 9 PM; last seating is at 9 PM (must depart by 9:45 PM) so don’t miss your chance at a table!
Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum
6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC
It’s “a season of old-fashioned fun and spectacular light displays.” Take a stroll through the Burnaby Village streets and take in some good old fashioned holiday decor: wreaths, cedar swags and vintage-themed displays.
Special entertainment is scheduled throughout the season including theatre performances, carolers, street characters and live music. Bring your littles, as Heritage Christmas is also offering family-friendly activities like the 12 Days of Christmas Scavenger Hunt, crafts, baking in the Farmhouse, and visits with Father Christmas!
Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum is open daily from November 23 – January 5, with free gate admission. Carousel rides are $2.65 each. Check out the Heritage Christmas hours of operation here.
Where to eat: Make it a celebratory occasion and dine at The Hart House at Burnaby Lake. Located only steps away from the Burnaby Village Museum (two minutes by foot!) the Hart House is an iconic spot for a fabulous, albeit upscale, meal. Enjoy Sunday brunch, daily lunch and dinner with your loved ones after a holiday stroll through the Heritage Christmas events. If you’re heading into the Hart House for dinner, you must order the rich, decadent, and gorgeous seafood spaghettini; $20, $28 for entrée size: Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, saffron cream, pangrattato.
The Hart House is open Tuesday- Sunday. For hours and menu offerings look here.
Richmond’s idyllic Steveston Village gets some extra pep during the holiday season! Check out the array of Christmas-themed events, activities, and attractions that Steveston has to offer. During the holiday season the village transforms into a one-stop-shop for all things festive: “From carolling and artisan markets to richly decorated National Historic Sites—and even appearances from Santa himself—there’s a glittering array of free or low-cost holiday happenings.” If you’re wanting to shop local this year, The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site will be hosting its sparkling Festival of Trees event and Cannery Farmers Market, so you can snag your Christmas presents, stocking stuffers, and holiday cheer all-in-one!
Where to eat: There are so many wonderful restaurants in Steveston it’s hard to pick just one. However, Britannia Brewing is most definitely one of our favourites. Pop in post or pre-holiday stroll for a bite and a beer. Great for solo dining, and even better for families, Britannia Brewing caters to all palates offering–along with house craft brews–mouth-watering juicy burgers, decadent risotto, wild sockeye salmon, and of course, fish and chips.
Check out the hours of operation at Britannia, the craft beer tap list, and abundant menu here.
Lights at Lafarge
Located only 140 metres from the Lafarge Lake-Douglas Evergreen line station, the Lights at Lafarge is lauded as the largest free outdoor lights display in the lower mainland. Free, being the magic word. Enjoy the display after dusk while going for a light stroll around the LaFarge Lake – a wonderful outing for families, couples, and dog owners. Learn more about this fantastic community event here!
Where to eat: Well worth the drive from Lafarge lake is Coquitlam’s first and so far, only craft brewery, Mariner Brewing. This nautical-themed tasting room is a sweet spot to grab a quality brew, gourmet hotdog, or hot spinach dip after a jaunt around Lafarge Lake. Highly recommended: Order the Northeast IPA, a tropical, juicy IPA with a bold (and not too bitter!) finish.
Mariner Brewing is open Monday-Sunday, get the kitchen and tasting room hours here.
Check out our interview with Mariner Brewing here.
White Rock Festival of Lights
Memorial Park, White Rock
White Rock’s inaugural Festival of Lights transforms Memorial Park with a free lighted display. Illuminated after dusk from December 7 to January 5, enjoy a stroll along the seaside and take in the lighted displays, including a 30-foot stylized ‘tree’ of lights near the White Rock Museum, lighted living trees, a “meadow” of lanterns and “seahorse” lighting displays. Warm-up after enjoying the lights at one of White Rock’s cozy waterfront eateries.
Where to eat: The choices for dining along Marine Drive are endless, but if it’s dining with a view of the lights you’re looking for, Charlie Don’t Surf has some of the best seats in town. Warm-up with the Fisherman’s Hot Pot, chock full of mussels, clams, prawns, shrimp, wild salmon and halibut in a house-made fish broth and wash it down with Charlie’s selection of craft beer and cocktails.