Aurora Winter Festival
We were excited to be involved in the Sneak Peek of Aurora Winter Festival last weekend. Many stood in anticipation of what this newest winter festival would hold for themselves and their families. Aurora has transformed a corner of Vancouver, into a magical, mystical, winter wonderland.
Only a short five minute walk from the Stadium/Chinatown SkyTrain station, its entrance is just off Pacific Blvd. at the south end of Abbott Street. It takes place at Vancouver’s Concord Pacific place; the official address is 811 Carrall Street. If you choose to drive down, there are some parkades nearby. There is also an app available so you can check out the attraction before you head down and join in the Quest for prizes in the Mystical Worlds once you arrive.
Heavy rains did not deter the festive crowd as we waited for the gates to open. As you walk into the event, the Aurora sign lit up the dreary night. You were no longer inside a dark, metropolitan city, but transported to a bright, festive otherworldly wonderland. There are outdoor and indoor venues but be sure to dress for the weather! Aurora Winter Festival boasts a number of different zones to explore, within their borders. The Main Street Market, Mystical Worlds, a Frozen River, three Amusement Rides, along with Food Gardens, a Tube Ride, Santa’s Workshop and the Entertainment Tent which round out the areas you must visit.
The Main Street Market has over fifty vendors and you will find many unique and enchanting gifts for those hard to buy for friends and relatives on your shopping list. Each vendor labored many hours to supply their little shops on Main Street and are excited to share the process with you. You will see jewelry, honey, art, Christmas decorations, boutique clothing, pastries, and even face painting! Or, maybe some Christmas themed pajamas or temporary tattoos are more along the lines of something you may gift yourself.
Throughout the Mystical Worlds, you can visit the Disco Den where you can dance with Yin the Yeti on the LED dance floor. Take a walk through the Arctic Retreat maze as the ‘snow’ floats gently from the sky where you can check out ice sculptures, and electric orbs. The Luminous Gardens is where you’ll find Thyra and Rivera who live in the large white palace. They are ornately adorned and love to have their photos taken with the youngsters in your group. As you walk through the Whimsical Forest be sure to rub the giant gnome’s toque for good luck! The Mystical Gardens are brightly lit with many glowing lights, making even the darkest of nights a little lighter.
On your way to the Frozen River you can rent skates for $7 or bring your own and your skate time is included in the price of admission. There are helmets for those under the age of 12 (mandatory) and for those wishing to keep the original shape of their heads, should they fall. You can skate around the giant lit tree or under the light dome while taking in all the festive light displays of the Mystical Worlds.
The festival has a number of rides for the visitors, but you must purchase tokens in order to ride ($4/ride, $10/3 rides or $20/10 rides). There is a small Choo-Choo Train, the Berry Go Round and a ferris wheel. The ferris wheel gives you spectacular views of the city at night, the festival lights down below and of the tube park with the sliders screaming and hollering their way down the hill.
The Tube Park stands at over 20 feet tall and 200 feet long. You must be 6 years of age or older to ride on the tubes. These tubes are sturdy and well pumped for a fast, but comfortable ride to the bottom. Fair warning though as you do get up to speed and the padded wall is your impromptu breaking mechanism. It is the perfect activity for the older kids in your party.
Grab a bite to eat at one of the many food trucks in the Food Garden. There is a wide variety of food choices and the trucks are staffed with friendly and energetic servers. Once your tummies are full, head on over to Santa’s Workshop where children can make crafts and hear Santa tell stories in front of a giant 24 hour clock and his decorative throne. Story time with Santa runs approximately every 40 minutes starting at 4:30pm. If it’s a busy night, reserve your seat at Santa’s Workshop hut when you arrive, to secure a spot.
In the beautifully decorated, heated Entertainment tent, rows of picnic tables are lined up while there are two bars, one to the left and one to the right as you walk into the tent. Here you can warm up with some mulled wine, Bailey’s and coffee, or possibly just a whiskey on the rocks. For the younger set there is always some hot chocolate to sip on. Enjoy some musical interludes from the live music bands slated to play each night. We sat and listened to The Gentlemen’s Club perform some great Christmas tunes.
(Photo of The Gentlemen’s Club Band)
After experiencing the Aurora Winter Festival, we realized that it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and we wish you and your families the same. The event is opened to the public from November 23rd to December 30th.
(All photos by Melinda Gill unless otherwise stated)