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, 

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Playland Adventures with 2 Kids

A couple of weeks ago, we braved the sun and the long-lines to spend the day at PNE / Playland. I was really on the fence about it this year. I took Aiden last year on his own and he had a great time… until he had a migraine. This year, I was on the fence about whether to go during the week or weekend, to go during PNE or not, or to take just Aiden or both kids. I knew Damien would enjoy it, but he’s too short for all the rides and he still naps, so that’s more complicated. In the end, we took both boys during the PNE craziness. 

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We arrived right at the Playland entrance at 11am when the gates opened, which is my first tip for any family going to the PNE. Kids always want to go on the rides, but if you start at the PNE end, it will be way too busy at the rides when you get there. This way, we were able to spend more than an hour going on the rides without line-ups, so that was incredibly helpful. Sadly, Damien was too short for some of the rides that a parent couldn’t go on, which was silly since they were such simple rides. He loved the rides, especially the fast ones like the tea cups and the carousel. 

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Aiden was much less nervous on the rides this year, and is really gaining confidence with things that are “fast” or wobbly. It’s great to see him enjoy the rides now. Next year, we plan to start with the kids roller coaster, since that line-up gets really long quite quickly. I think having a plan of which rides you want to go on first is a great way to make sure you aren’t stuck in line-ups all day.

I’m actually considering skipping the PNE altogether next year and just doing Playland. My kids have little interest in the shows at the PNE and, though the barn activities are fun, we can just go to Maplewood Farm. The only downside is that during the PNE, more kid-sized rides are brought into the Playland area, so we would miss out on some rides. 

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So, was Playland fun with 2 kids under age 5? YES! We had a great day! Damien walked so much and rarely complained, which is amazing. I tried to give him a nap in the Ergo, which I had in my backpack, but it was so hot that he only slept 5-10 minutes in it. He still did great for the rest of the day, even without a proper nap, but he definitely wasn’t old enough to simply skip it altogether. 

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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!