Tap into the magic of the holidays at Canyon Lights
This original 2019 story is sponsored by Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Growing up in the UK, my parents made Christmas magical for me and my four siblings. But it wasn’t about giving us mountains of gifts. Instead, they fostered the feeling that this was a special time of year when everything looked and felt enchantingly different.
That meant watching festive TV shows together, over-indulging in Quality Street candies and––best of all––decorating the house with glittering garlands, vintage paper decorations and a small tree that glowed with twinkling coloured bulbs.
Even now, it’s the Christmas lights that make me feel truly festive during the holidays. And while it’s not hard to find illuminations in Metro Vancouver at this time of year, there’s one display that I keep returning to––and that always fills me with enough Yuletide cheer to see me through to January.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is worth visiting anytime, of course. But during the holiday season, the densely forested site is spectacularly transformed into Canyon Lights––complete with more than one million bulbs arranged in a highly creative display that changes every year.
Dazzling new feature
On my recent early evening visit––framed by a perfect inky-black sky––I started on the park’s Cliffwalk, a narrow, steel-and-glass pathway that perches over the roiling river canyon. Traced with lights, the water below was also subtly illuminated like a tasty Jell-O river flowing from a Willy Wonka candy factory.
But Cliffwalk is also the location for this year’s newest Canyon Lights lure. As I sauntered along the pathway––with light-studded trees looming above me––I spotted what seemed to be a massive illuminated Slinky on its side. It’s actually Arc de Lumina, a walk-through Cliffwalk light tunnel that continually changes colour and pulsates with patterns. It’s the perfect Christmas selfie spot.
With the illuminations on the other side of the canyon winking at me through the trees, it was time to inch across the famous suspension bridge. There’s been a version of this gently swaying wonder here for 130 years. And while the current iteration––140 metres long and 70 metres above the river––is one of Canada’s most-visited attractions, most of us tend to walk our wobbly legs over in daylight.
But during Canyon Lights, the nighttime bridge glows with shimmering bulbs, creating a uniquely beguiling experience––hence all the giggling kids, hand-holding couples and extended families stopping to snap mid-bridge photos during my visit. Personally, though, I couldn't wait to get across and check out what was on the other side. It’s the same reason I finish the Quality Street long before Christmas day, unless someone steps in to slow me down.
Turning left after crossing, I explored the lagoon area. This part of the park has also been transformed this year. A shimmering owl seemed to be swooping through the darkness to greet me (it’s one of several Owl Prowl figures to look out for onsite). And as I followed the wooden walkway, I also found a flock of mesmerizing lighted spheres floating over the water and high into the trees.
Following the tree-flanked walkway on a gentle downward curve––I could hear real-life bald eagles screeching in the nearby canyon––I soon reached a fern-covered bank studded with countless glowing globes, each of them continually changing colour from red to green to purple. It was almost eerie until I realized this must be the fabled elf hatching grounds––elves come from eggs, right?
Rather than asking a staffer to confirm my somewhat shaky elf eggs theory, I continued along the walkway as it looped upwards. I soon found myself alongside Canyon Lights’ biggest highlight. Eight of Capilano’s humungous Douglas firs have been temporarily transformed into the world’s tallest living Christmas trees, their centuries-old trunks traced with glittering lights that spill across the forest floor.
Even better, you can stroll between them on the Treetops Adventure walkway, a series of mini suspension bridges arrayed high above the forest floor. This sparkling elevated amble between extravagantly illuminated firs is a must-do for many festive-minded locals and visitors. And for me, it’s the perfect way to reconnect with the Christmas magic my parents planted all those year ago.
If you go
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park runs from November 22, 2019 to January 26, 2020. The park opens from 11:00am to 9:00pm daily with holiday activities such as live music and family-friendly craft activities offered from 4:00pm. Dress warmly for the season and consider taking the free shuttle bus that runs from downtown’s Canada Place.