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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Saturday Summer Sessions at the Shipyards

Last Saturday kicked off the first of the Saturday Summer Sessions art & music festival at The Shipyards at the foot of Lonsdale. For those of you (like me) who love the outdoor concert scene, but not the time at which most of the concerts take place, this is a great alternative. We got there so early on Saturday, the kids actually got to help test out the drum sets (translation: Damien was in heaven).

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Right now, there are Summer Concert Series taking place all over North Vancouver, most of which are held on Fridays from 7-9pm. The concerts at Cates Park are the exception, but I’ve had too many bad parking experiences there for me to consider this a regular option. 

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The new Summer Sessions concert series runs from 3-10pm, offering children’s art and activities and sometimes music and shows in the earlier hours, with adult-focused concerts starting after 7pm. So, YAY!

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Last week, we sat in for some of the Celtic Ensemble and Irish Dancers as the Summer Sessions kicked off and had a great time. Don’t expect it to be as busy as the Friday Night Market, or have as many booths or food trucks, but come check it out if you’re looking to add some more music to your family lives!

North Vancouver Night Market A Hit in 2014

Every Friday night that isn’t raining, we head down to the Shipyards / Shipbuilders Square in Lower Lonsdale for the Night Market. This has been our tradition since the Night Market first came to North Vancouver. This year, though? It has been the best year by far. 

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Aside from the awesomeness of having older kids who are more easy going and adaptable, the night market itself is WAY better this year. 

In previous years, we’d arrive early to the Night Market and everything would be behind schedule. Food trucks not there, food trucks not opening by 5, music delayed, etc. Since my kids eat at 5, this was always kind of stressful for us, and annoying when we had to leave before the music started. 

This year? It’s like a whole different market. With over 30 food trucks now, there is at the start a lot more variety. We still arrive early, but this year everyone is ready. Many food trucks are open before 5 and the music has (mostly) been on time. The beer garden is larger (not that we use it) and we have really been enjoying the whole experience. 

If you haven’t yet experienced the North Shore Green Market’s Night Market, come out tomorrow. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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Vancouver International Children’s Festival

We went to our first Children’s Festival on Granville Island this year. In the past, I wasn’t sure I was up for a whole day at Granville Island with 1 or 2 kids, but now my kids are much “easier,” most of the time, and the day is not so tiring for me. We met up with one grandma (Babby) and aunt (Tia) on a Friday around 10am, choosing to use the festival site activities only, no shows, and we managed to stay there until nearly 4pm. 

We made music, we added string to the dinosaur sculpture, Aiden had his face painted at the most well-organized face painting tent ever and made crafts, we played for a long time in the amazing and well-staffed preschool tent, we played at the playground many times, we had lunch and too many sweets, and I even gave Damien a brief nap in the carrier. It was all-in-all a great day, and surprisingly more relaxing than I anticipated!

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I highly recommend a visit next year, particularly on a weekday when it wasn’t as busy. We may even check out a show next year!

A View into the Circus with the Kaleidoscope Show

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This past weekend, Aiden and I had a chance to sit down and watch the CircusWest Kaleidoscope show, a 4-day-only production featuring the teen performers from the Performance and Centre Stage programs of CirKids. 

The performance featured an hour and a half of circus acts, from aerial work to unicycles to tumbling and juggling, all set to music and a story of a boy taking a journey from one colourful land to another. 

I thought the production was very well done, featuring some amazing young talent. It was clear how hard they worked to learn so many different things. 

Although the performance audience seemed mostly made up of family or friends of the performers, I would encourage families to consider taking your kids next year. Just as we’ve found with live theatre productions by the Carousel Theatre, CircusWest gave us an opportunity to showcase youth learning and achieving amazing things. 

Although there are far more female performers than male, and their roles were definitely more varied, I was proud to show Aiden what can be accomplished by youth who work hard. Aiden loved the whole performance and was definitely surprised by some of the acts, as we kept up a whispered dialogue through the show!

I hope we can continue to take him to a variety of experiences like these – theatre, sport, music – in the future. Of course, the day will come soon when he starts to ask to pursue more of these activities himself too!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket to attend the show. All opinions are my own.