Timberline Country Christmas: A Beautiful Tradition

Our Christmas festivities have begun! As part of our Christmas Traditions for 2015, we’ve been out and about as a family visiting many cherished and new festive spots. We’ve made a visit to the Aquarium to see Scuba Claus and to the Burnaby Village Museum to complete the scavenger hunt for the 12 Days of Christmas in their Heritage Christmas celebration, and this weekend we drove out to Maple Ridge to visit the Timberline Ranch for the Timberline Country Christmas

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Held at the scenic 73-acre horse ranch, Timberline Country Christmas aims to deliver what we all seek at this time of year: a simple and relaxing Christmas wonderland! Secured through a time-based reservation system, you avoid lines and crowds during most of your stay. You start at your pre-reserved time, but can spend as long as you like on the ranch: visiting the petting zoo, taking a hay ride, playing in the game area, making ornaments, taking a hay ride, listening to stories, or riding a pony (extra ticket required, but still reasonable)! There’s even an assortment of snacks and food available, if you want to extend your stay.

Compared to many Christmas events, this is both reasonably priced as well as more laid back. I felt like we truly enjoyed our two hours at the ranch – no rushing or dealing with impatient kids! We were welcomed with cookie decorating (hooray, no gingerbread! We all get gingerbread-ed out this time of year!), then took the short hay ride to the petting zoo / pony ride / hay maze barn. The whole event is either indoors or covered, so weather isn’t really an issue, but we lucked out with a mild day. Our kids loved interacting with the assortment of animals (goats, llamas, cows and more!), and we were impressed with how immaculate the entire barn was. The highlight, of course, was the pony ride! Both boys had huge smiles on their faces to be riding the large horses!! I was so impressed with them. 

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Every inch of the ranch, including the animal areas, was kept pristine and each person who we interacted with actually seemed to care for their job. Nobody seemed frazzled or annoyed or overwhelmed with their roles interacting with so many people. I was especially impressed in the barn, where I didn’t feel overwhelmed by animal poo!, and in the craft area, where I commended the assistant for keeping all the craft supplies so tidy! I know that can be a daunting task with kids!

Our boys loved the snowball fight area!! We spent a lot of time there and freely let the boys play and play and play. Eventually we coaxed Aiden away by suggesting he set a goal for how many targets he wanted to hit / go through – his final score was 40 hits / hoops!

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Scuba Claus at the Vancouver Aquarium

If you are looking for a unique Christmas experience, try a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium! Although Christmas is not the central aspect of any visit to the aquarium, the special touches all around the aquarium do make it an extra special time of year. 

From trees covered in jellyfish and sea stars (each one incredibly stunning) to the appearance of Scuba Claus at set times, it’s a real treat to pay a visit at this time of year. 

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Scuba Claus pays a visit to the aquarium to seek out some bells he has lost. My kids (5 and 2) were mesmerized by the experience, and loved the opportunity to go up to the tank and give Santa a high five after the little show. It was such a fun time! They talked about it for days after. 

Have you been to the Vancouver Aquarium during Christmas? We can’t wait to go again this year! 

Update: we went and it was lovely! Also fun was the 4D Experience of the Polar Express!! Great integration of sounds and smells and even some snow!

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Family Christmas Traditions in Vancouver for 2015

Christmas is a very special time of year for me, a time I look forward to all year. Since I shop all year round, I don’t often feel the “madness” side of Christmas. Instead, I focus on creating memories and making people feel special. I do more crafts, I spend hours wrapping presents with special ribbons and decorations, I watch movies, and we do many special outings as a family. There are more than 200 Christmas-related events in Vancouver this year, and that can be overwhelming. I’ll share with you the events we have planned for this year, including the ones we visit every year and some new ideas we plan to try. 

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Timberline Country Christmas

New to our Christmas line-up this year is a visit to the Timberline Ranch for their Country Christmas event, running from December 2-20. This is the second-annual Country Christmas for Timberline Ranch, a horse ranch located in Maple Ridge, and features cookie decorating, a Christmas ornament craft, a wagon ride, an indoor hay maze, a petting zoo, a photobooth, a snowball themed ball pit, Storyland, and even pony rides (for an extra fee). It sounds like a very unique event, so stay tuned for our review in early December! If you do want to attend, reservations are required

The Polar Express

Every year, we trek out to Squamish for the West Coast Railway Heritage Park’s exhibition of The Polar Express. As Aiden’s most favourite movie, this event has always had the most special meaning for us. We must have watched the movie dozens of times and, when it comes to the magic of Christmas, for us it’s all about the Polar Express. The event has evolved over the years and now involves a more elaborate “North Pole” experience, with a visit with Santa, a mini train ride, crafts & cookie decorating and many great displays. 

Bright Nights in Stanley Park

Adding to our train-themed event, we visit Bright Nights in Stanley Park to view the three million light display and ride the train through the ever-changing themed displays. This is often an event that people do in large groups, with extended family or friends, and it’s great that a portion of donations and ticket sales go to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. This year, a “Grinch” stole a lot of materials from the venue, so we plan to give a larger donation in recognition of our support.

Canyon Lights 

As annual members (one visit pays for itself for BC residents!), we often visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge for their seasonal displays. While lovely for Halloween, the park truly shines at Christmas. Canyon Lights features the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, thousands of lights throughout the park and on the bridge, plus events including live music and cookie decorating. As this event is nestled close to Grouse, be sure to dress extra warm! Holiday activities begin daily at 4pm. 

Park & Tilford Hi-Light Festival

Local to North Vancouver, the Hi-Light Festival at the Park & Tilford Gardens is a favourite for it’s close-knit community feel. We are frequent visitors to the gardens, so that makes the Christmas event so much more special. On Family Friday Nights, there are Santa visits, hot chocolate, live entertainment, face painting and more! This is an annual tradition for us to do with many of our friends.

Christmas Markets

Last year we were frequent visitors to the Shipyards for their Christmas market and events. This year it’s not as frequent, but there is a Christmas Festival on December 5th and the Christmas Market on December 18-20th. Not to be outdone is of course the Vancouver Christmas Market, which we attended for the first time last year. Be prepared that this event is very busy and crowded, so it can be overwhelming for kids. The highlight for us was the carousel!

You may wonder, are we missing out on major events here? And yes, of course we are. The two biggest events we never seem to get to are:

Rogers Santa Clause Parade

Who doesn’t love a parade? Up until now, it’s never seemed reasonable to attend given the age of our kids, and even this year we can’t make it because of a scheduling conflict. Miracle on 34th Street is my favourite holiday movie, so a Christmas parade is a magical idea to me. Hopefully next year we can include it in our plans!

The Peak of Christmas

Top on my wish list is a visit to the Peak of Christmas where you can take a sleigh-ride, go skating, visit Santa and his reindeer and so much more. It sounds like a beautiful Winter wonderland. The age of our kids and their dislike for cold has kept us away so far, but one year! Plus, if you do every major event, it does get costly (and this is a very costly one).

Other holiday ideas we’ve tried are the VanDusen Botanical Garden display, which is beautiful but similar to our local Hi-Light festival, 

Cirque and the Sexual Objectification of Men

On Friday, I went to Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. I have been dreaming of going to a Cirque show for years, but something always got in the way of us going. So I was very excited to go. What I didn’t expect, however, was to feel utterly disgusted by the end of the show. I couldn’t believe that the show would include such base comedy nor that it would go nearly to the point of sexually harassing male audience members. But it did. And I want to share my shock of the experience.

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I went to the show expecting the majesty and beauty that I’ve come to know from Cirque. And there was that. The costumes and music were beautiful, the acts stunning to perfection. But the show itself left something to be desired.

During the intermission, I actually went back to the website for Varekai. Did I miss something? What was going on? The show is described as “A captivating forest inhabited by whimsical and enchanted creatures.” Ok, check. Looking more closely, I see a mention of “both the absurd and the extraordinary” and a tribute to the “circus tradition.”

First, the character of The Skywatcher. This character spends half the time on stage grunting or making obscene faces. Like a caveman meets a dunce. A dunce who “comically” makes rude and inappropriate gestures. Here is how he is described online:

“Mad scientist and ingenious inventor, collector of the world’s memories and interpreter of signs, this is a man who receives signals, transforms sounds and forewarns of trials and tribulations.”

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Ok, sounds ok? I can see a little bit of comedy in there, but the level of base rudeness presupposes that the audience is uneducated and only capable of laughs through the most crude grunts and gestures. So I found that insulting. Take those elements of “interpretation” (I’m being generous here) out, and the character would have more value. Particularly as he’s supposed to be “ingenious,” not an idiot. 

So let’s move on. If you thought that was it for comedy relief, however, you’d be wrong. Included in the show, but hidden from the main page, are “Clown Acts”:

“No circus show would be complete without clowns! Joanna and Steven amuse the audience with an act that’s simply absurd.”

And yes, absurd it is. I can forgive this as an intermission piece, but it’s woven throughout the story, removing all sense of fluidity and grace from the actual Cirque performance. What’s more, I felt actually offended by the content of the show. During the show, the act singles out audience members to “interact” with. They make men take their arms off of girlfriends, or pick pocket some men, or interact in other ways. There were two incidents, though, that spoke of more than just comedy.

In one incident, the performer isolated a boyfriend from his girlfriend. The male in the act went to sit with the girl (haha, I’ve stolen your girlfriend!), which would have been ok, had not the woman in the act thrown herself in front of the man, holding onto his chair while covering his body. Now, imagine a man doing this to a woman. Would you be ok with a woman being physically restrained in this way? No? Me neither. But I also wasn’t ok with this being done to a man. I didn’t find it funny. 

Next was the more serious incident. A man was pulled onto stage to be a part of a disappearing act. During the course of the act, the woman in the show was seen to throw her body onto his and pretend to kiss him. The whole act was about her sexually fawning over this audience member. So, while I object to the way she’s sexualizing herself, what really threw me was how everyone was laughing while this was happening. If a woman were on that stage and a man pretended to grope her, would that be ok? It’s NOT OK. 

I don’t know what happens in these circus acts at other shows. This is not, and has never been, my style of comedy. But if this is the norm for circus acts, it’s NOT OK. Just because men are the centre of the act, not women, does not mean we have a right to sexually objectify them. If I were on that stage, I would have felt abused. That is sexual harassment and it is NOT OK. 

Cirque, what are you doing?!?!

WIN 4 Tickets to the BC Home + Garden Show

The BC Home + Garden Show is returning to Vancouver this February with a great line-up of seminars, demos and more than 425 exhibitors. While it’s been a few years since we have attended ourselves (think pre-kids), renovations are high priority for us this year. We bought a cottage a few months ago with the knowledge that it would need some renovations this Summer. Though we kind-of know what needs to be done, I am looking for inspiration for the rooms, particularly in terms of decor and storage solutions, and in landscaping as well. On the homefront, we are also considering some small (and maybe large) renovations, so this is a great year for us to revisit the show for some inspiration and contacts. 

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If you too have renovations or design on the mind, this show could be for you! Better yet, I have a set of BC Home & Garden Show tickets to giveaway here on ActiveMama!

Prize

A family pack of 4 tickets to the BC Home + Garden Show, held Feb 18-22, 2015 at BC Place Stadium. 

How to Enter

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