Yesterday I was invited to the launch of Christmas at Canada Place for 2013, getting a chance to preview the free holiday activities. Aiden brought along one of his best buds for the event, plus we left the Dads at home with the younger kids, so it was quite the treat for them! It was so nice to be able to really give Aiden the attention of the night.
Christmas at Canada place is held ‘outdoors’, but in the covered parking area, so it was quite warm. We started our night with a little skating on the artificial ice, which kept our boys going for nearly a full hour. Both boys were up on their skates in minutes, neither having really skated before. The artificial ice was a great introduction to skating and really boosted their confidence. It was so cute to see them skate around, happily falling and crashing without getting wet or cold.
After dragging them off the ice, we went for a train ride on the mini train, noting the familiar face of the conductor who runs the Polar Express each year. We checked out the animatronics of the Woodward’s Windows, made a cute reindeer craft and lined up to meet Santa. Both kids balked at meeting Santa this time, but thankfully we have other scheduled Santa visits.
We had a fantastic night, though I do wish the hot chocolate had been closer to the skating area, since us moms could have enjoyed that during the skating! By the time we got to that area, it was too late to give the boys that kind of treat.
It is so great that this event is provided for free, as so many Christmas activities are not. Though they suggest a $2 donation for the skates and for the train rides, it is still one of the most frugal family-friendly Christmas activities in the Vancouver area. Check out the website for full details on hours and musical performances.
For the second year in a row, we boarded the Polar Express out of Squamish-based West Coast Railway Association. The experience was mostly the same, though 15-minutes longer on the train ride. The conductor on the ride was amazing this time around and they really upped the fantasy factor with small details such as the “spirit” walking the aisle. To draw out the experience, the cookie and hot chocolate were served separately this year, which I liked. We had both Oma and Babby there, which really made the experience fun for our boys.
Although I love the whole experience, it is still a little slow for the young ones since the train does a lot of track switching and doesn’t travel very far. Aiden was a little disappointed that the locomotive was not steam-powered and that it was not snowing, like in the book / movie. He would notice those things, right? We also made the mistake of not immediately lining up for Santa and then having to wait an hour for our visit. Oh well, it meant skipping the mall Santa visit.
Damien woke from a nap about 10 seconds before this photo was taken! Although I put them in PJs, as per the suggestion for the Polar Express adventure, I didn’t think about using the cute PJs for the photo. Oh well, next year!
I also think it’s crazy how different parenting a second child is! We never would have taken Aiden to The Polar Express at this age, or Squamish either. Damien actually is ok in his car seat during the day, so he stayed awake for all but the last 2 minutes of the trip (grr, we hoped he’d nap). He napped twice while we were at The Polar Express and we all went out for dinner before our trip home. Aiden fell asleep almost instantly at around 5:30 but Damien cried the whole way home. Boo for that.
For the second year in a row, we included a trip to Bright Nights in Stanley Park to ride the Stanley Park Christmas Train. Though Ianiv is right in calling it the “Gong Show Nights”, I consider Bright Nights to be a highlight of the holidays. I love walking around looking at Christmas lights and would, if our kids didn’t go to sleep so early, consider many more such outings during the holidays (Van Dusen, Trinity Street, etc). As it was, we had to book our train trip at 5pm and go home right after to get the kids in bed – Aiden fell asleep in the car.
2011 and 2012 Bright Nights in Stanley Park
We missed out on some of the Bright Nights festivities, like choirs, but we had a nice walk around to look at the lights and enjoyed some popcorn and chestnuts. Aiden was quite impatient to ride the train, as we expected, so there was a lot of whining too ;)
The train did not disappoint. I was surprised to notice that the train ride had been themed this year, with elements of the lights and the performances (as well as the synchronized music) altered since last year. I honestly thought it would be exactly the same. So, nice surprise.
Aiden loved the train ride (we got the front seat!) and Damien was mesmerized too – looking all over the place, taking it all in. Great night.
Back in July, we were given a trip up Grouse Mountain as part of a great contest that they were putting on. At the time, we were only able to spend about 3 hours up the mountain, having 2 young kids and nap / bedtime schedules to juggle. As such, we weren’t able to see everything. A couple of weeks later, Ianiv and I took Damien up the mountain for a second visit.
Although I still wasn’t able to do a helicopter ride (boo to the clouds), I did take a trip by myself up to the Eye of the Wind (what a treat, to be solo!). This wind turbine is the world’s first and only wind turbine with a viewing pod at the top of the tower. With 360-degree views of the mountains and Vancouver, you are in for quite a treat! To get to the Eye of the Wind, you have to take a chairlift and walk a short distance – there’s an elevator to the top. Even with the clouds, it was an amazing view (see more pics here):
While I was up the mountain, Ianiv took Damien on a long walk and we later took some great photos of the grizzly bears, who were more visible on this visit.
Yesterday, our little family of 4 headed up Grouse Mountain for an adventure at the top of Vancouver. We don’t often have a chance to go up Grouse, even though it’s just minutes away, so we jumped at the chance to head up as a family.
Aiden and I paid a visit to Grouse Mountain last year when we had family visiting from Argentina, since it’s one of Vancouver’s top tourist destinations, but it’s also great as a local family destination. As a local, we actually have the best rate with the Annual Local’s Pass at only $99 or $199 for the family (2 adults, 2 kids) – a great way to spend a few days a year up the mountain (including the great Christmas festivities they do each year).
We spent about 2.5 hours up the mountain (not bad with a toddler and a newborn!). I had Damien in the sling most of the time, taking Aiden first for lunch (pizza), then over to see the Grizzy bears in the wildlife refuge (we only saw one – first he was sleeping, but later playing in the water) and around to catch some action during the Birds in Motion show. We got to see a baby owl, just 18 weeks old – very cool.
Aiden enjoyed climbing on all the sculptures and enjoyed his first Beaver Tail as his snack:
After that, Aiden and I sat down for the Lumberjack show. Though the comedy went over the head of my nearly-3-year-old, there was still a lot to entertain him. He’s talked a lot since about how the lumberjacks fell in the water during one of the ‘competitions’. During the show, the lumberjack carved a little chair (aka the bunny that didn’t work) and it was given to the youngest member of the audience – Damien! As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, it was the perfect fit for him… it’s now proudly sitting in our garden.
During all this time, Ianiv was off for the adventure of a lifetime with the Zipline experience. He took part in the 2-hour, 5-line tour going all over the mountain, including the Peak Chair). Ianiv said the views from the zipline experience were breathtaking and his guides, Lee and Danny, were great fun. As you can see from this photo, Ianiv thoroughly enjoyed himself!
Once 5pm rolled around, Aiden was getting grumpy and Damien was getting tired, so we had to skip on any further adventures. I was hoping we’d be able to go up to the Eye of the Wind and maybe sit down for a video in the theatre – next time!
All said and done, Aiden’s favourite part of the day was the ride up and down in the skyride – a little scary on the bumps, but he was fascinated by the whole process! He’s been telling everyone all about it today :)
See all our photos from the day here.
Please vote for this post in the Unlimited Blogger Contest from Grouse Mountain and you could win an Annual Membership, a Zipline tour or an Eye of the Wind tour!
Disclosure: Grouse Mountain extended an invitation for us to visit the mountain. The opinions in this article are my own.