One of Christmas's most beautiful experiences is available to most Canadians for the price of a short car trip. The traditional family Christmas light tour usually includes trips through favourite residential areas, but most Canadian cities have festive hotspots where residents and/or commercial districts go the extra mile for a memorable light display.Â
2004 Christmas Lights across Canada
If you live in a provincial capital, don't miss the Christmas Lights Across Canada program sponsored by Canada Post. In effect since 1985, this program officially kicks off the holiday season with each provincial and territorial capital hosting its own lighting ceremony.Â A total of more than a million lights will link capitals across the nation from early December 2004 until January 2005.
Click here for more information on the Christmas Lights Across Canada program.
Thousands of Christmas lights and decorations greet visitors to Victoria's famous Butchart Gardens from December 1 - January 6, when Butchart offers Christmas entertainment, shopping and dining on top of a brilliant Christmas display.Â This year caps the annual Twelve Days of Christmas display with a spectacular Twelve Drummers Drumming -- possibly Victoria's highlight Christmas display.Â For details, visit the Butchart Gardens web site.
Victoria's Oak Bay Avenue -- the so-called Tweed Curtain neighbourhood of English expats -- trips the light fantastic beginning November 28 with fabulous light displays and family friendly events as part of its Victorian Christmas. Visit the Victorian Christmas web site for more information.
A Calgarian Christmas should include the interactive light show Zoo Lights, at the Calgary Zoo.Â This event runs from December 3 - January 2, 2005, from 6 pm to 9 pm. Details are at the Calgary Zoo web site.
The Calgary Downtown Association holds a lights display on 8th Avenue from November 18 -December 31.Â All along this Christmas Trail storefronts are decorated and special seasonal events run. For a comprehensive listing see the Calgary downtown web site.
Winnipeggers and their visitors will enjoy Canad Inns Winter Wonderland, a three million watt drive-through light display that runs December 3 - January 8.Â While you drive, tune into a posted local FM station to listen to Christmas carols to add to the experience. There is a $15/vehicle charge.Â For more information: Canad Inns web site.
Winnipeg residents are enthusiastic about their light displays and many neighbourhoods band together to create themed Christmas displays. Director of Tourism for Destination Winnipeg, Penny McMillan, says there really isn't any corner of Winnipeg that doesn't decorate for Christmas.
Montreal light displays demand a get-out-and-walk-around approach. In downtown Montreal, tour shop windows with a notable stop at Ogilvy's Store on 1307 St-Catherine Street West to peek at a traditional Christmas through the “Enchanted Village” and “Mill in the Forest” displays.
A family visit to Montreal at Christmas wouldn't be complete without a trip to Complexe Desjardins where the Christmas delights extend to include a giant slide and a winter labyrinth.
Chow down on free BeaverTailÂ© pastries and hot chocolate at Ottawa's premier seasonal event at Parliament Hill, on December 2 at 6 p.m. The switch will be pulled on 16,000 lights for the annual Illumination ceremony and this display will run until January 9, 2005.
The National Arts Centre is also part of the program -- this year's light display is rich with warm yellow and orange colours.Â In the National Gallery of Canada, the 40-foot Christmas tree (about two tons in weight) is lit with 5,000 timed mini lights.
Byward Market, established in 1826 and Canada's oldest farmer's market, presents natural fur boughs decked in red ribbons and lights, and choirs busking on cobbled streets.
The two weekends before Christmas feature free horse-drawn carriages for weary shoppers to climb aboard, with song sheets and carols to experience a page out of Christmas past.Â Check it out at the Byward Market website.Â