Travel

20 fun family activities to do after dusk

Author: Canadian Living

Travel

20 fun family activities to do after dusk

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. But don't kick off your flip-flops and call it a night when the sun goes down. The fun is just beginning coast-to-coast with these 20 after-dark activities.

1.  Trip the light fantastic
Watch the sky light up with fireworks displays across the country. In Montmorency Falls Park near Quebec City, an 83-metre wall of water becomes a dramatic backdrop for an international fireworks display set to music (quebecfireworks.com) –  enhance the effects with a pair of 3D glasses. Or light up a few Roman candles and sparklers in your own backyard (keep a bucket of water handy). For safety tips, visit the Canada Safety Council's website (safety-council.org).

2.  Scare yourself silly
For a night of thrills and chills, head out on a spook-tacular haunted hike. The Sinners and Spirits Tour in St. John's, Nfld., highlights the murderous history of the city, while the Ghosties and Ghoulies Tour (hauntedhike.com/tour.htm) through the downtown is more family friendly. For other ghost walks in Canada, check out ghosttoursofcanada.com.

3.  Tee off under the midnight sun
Golf all night long at more than 25 courses north of the 60th parallel, including the Yellowknife Golf Club (yellowknifegolf.com), where the course is carved out of the Canadian Shield, and Ulukhaktok Golf  Course – the world's most northern course – located right on the tundra of the Northwest Territories (arctic charinn.com/arctic-golfing.htm).

4.  Howl with wolves
Take a moonlight stroll through a city, provincial or national park and learn about owls, bats and other mysterious creatures of the night. In Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park (algonquinpark.on.ca), you can take part in the ever-popular Wolf Howl Prowl. There's nothing quite as spine-tingling as the chorus of a wolf pack on a starry night.

5.  Track dinosaurs
Hunt for fossilized dinosaur tracks by lantern light in northern British Columbia at the only guided tour of its kind in the world (trmf.ca/dinosaurtrackwaytours.html). The angle of the light from the lantern highlights prehistoric footprints that are hardly visible by day, and sound effects heighten the experience.

6.  Enjoy your own Night at the Museum
At Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum (rom.on.ca), you can bunk down with the dinosaurs on family overnights. Even if your local museum doesn't come to life after dark, there's still lots to see and do in the evening (and fewer crowds to get in your way).

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7.  Paddle by moonlight
In Gibsons, B.C., you can kayak through the light of the setting sun, then circle back to catch the moon rising above the surrounding mountains (sunshinekayaking.com). On the opposite coast, enjoy the moonlit magic of the majestic Bras d'Or Lake in Cape Breton, N.S. (kayakcapebreton.com).

8.  Practise sun(set) salutations
As the sun sinks, unwind with an outdoor yoga class at a nearby park or beach. If you're in P.E.I., perfect your postures in the sand by the seaside at Brackley Beach (breathprint.com).

9.  Raise money for charity
No need to work up too much of a sweat over a good cause. Sign the family up for a 12- or 24-hour fund- raising relay, such as the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life (cancer.ca; search "relay for life") or the Money Mart Easter Seals 24-Hour Relay (24hourrelay.org), and stay cool while you help make a difference.

10.  Find your favourite constellation
For the best star gazing, grab the binoculars and get as far away as you can from city lights on a cloudless summer night. Or visit a dark sky preserve, such as Grasslands National Park of Canada in southwestern Saskatchewan or Elk Island National Park just outside Edmonton, for an unparalleled view of the Milky Way. For a list of dark sky preserves and urban star parks, visit the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's website at rasc.ca (search for "dark sky preserves").

11.  Sleep outdoors
Snuggle into a teepee in Head- Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alta. (legendarytravels.net), or bunk down prospector-style in the Klondike Gold Fields of Dawson Creek, Yukon (eurekagoldpanning.com). To camp closer to home, check out provincial park campsites at the Parks Canada website (pc.gc.ca).  Or just pitch a tent in your own backyard, grill hotdogs, make s'mores and sing campfire songs around the chiminea.  

12.  Catch an outdoor flick
If you're lucky enough to have a drive-in nearby, bundle the kids into the car and relive the fun of an earlier era. The 5 Drive-In in Oakville, Ont., is the largest in the country, with a capacity of  1,100 cars. If not, stretch out under the stars with a bag of popcorn and watch a family flick at one of the many outdoor film festivals across the country.

13.  Plant a moon garden
White, cream, and pale pink and purple flowers reflect the moonlight, and some blooms, such as moonflowers and four-o'clocks, open only at night. If you don't have a plot of your own, take an evening stroll through a botanical garden.

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14.  Take 'em out to the ball game
Major-league games are great, but you can also get your sports fix by biking down to the local sports field to root for the boys and girls of summer under the night lights. 

15.  Splish, splash and slurp
Stay cool with an evening dip at your local pool (many stay open on hot summer nights) or run through your backyard sprinkler. Keep on chillin' with an ice-cream cone after you've dried off.

16.  Picnic with the Bard
Summer offers no shortage of Shakespeare festivals performed on outdoor stages. Pack a hamper and savour an evening's entertainment at your local park. Shakespeare by the Sea in Halifax's historic Point Pleasant Park (pointpleasantpark.ca) is popular for its stunning views of the Atlantic.

17.  Boogie through the night
Strap on your dancing shoes and head out to a dance hall, such as Danceland in Manitou Beach, Sask., where you can strut your stuff on the world-famous horsehair dance floor. If country or folk is more your style, kick up your heels at the Music Barn in Sackville, N.B. (themusicbarn. webs.com), a smaller version of the Grand Ole Opry.

18.  Check out the carnival
Ride the ferris wheel when the sun goes down – midways are always more exciting at night. Participate in a lobster-eating contest at the Shediac Lobster Festival in Shediac, N.B. (shediac.worldweb.com), or stick with those fairground faves, cotton candy and snow cones.

19.  Go fishing
Dangle a rod as the sun sets and most anglers pack it in. Some fish are more active at night, but if you don't land one, you can still enjoy the solitude. If you want bigger fish to fry, Nunavut is home to some of the world's best fishing (and in the summer you can fish by the all-night sun), ranging from lake trout to its famous arctic char (arcticfishing.com). Don't forget to check local fishing regulations.

20.  Read by starlight
Snuggle up in a hammock, blanket or porch swing with someone you love and read a book by starlight (or flashlight). Capture the mood with Goodnight Moon – it works for kids, and adults, too.

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This story was originally titled "Make a Night of It" in the July 2010 issue.

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20 fun family activities to do after dusk

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