Vancouver’s most amazing and affordable Christmas lights are the Bright Nights displays at Stanley Park which feature millions of sparkling festive lights.
Bright Nights ran on most days between December 1st in 2022 and January 1st in 2023. Exact dates for the 2023/2024 season are still to be confirmed.
This article includes information on all of the following topics:
Admission | Location | Activities | Parking | History of Bright Nights | Miniature Train | Train Hours | Train Cost | Train Video | Tips & Advice | Burn Fund Video | Bright Nights 50/50 | Other Information
Click on any of the above links to jump to a specific subject, or continue reading to learn all about this wonderful Vancouver Christmas attraction.
Stanley Park Christmas Lights
Bright Nights is an annual event running from about the end of November until the beginning of January each year. It’s one of the best places in Canada to take children to see holiday decorations and illuminations in December.
Open most days during the holiday season from around 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm, Bright Nights probably features the most lights of any attraction in Metro Vancouver. It’s also full of wonderful Christmas character displays and festive cheer.
In 2020/2021 Bright Nights was cancelled due to COVID-19. The 2021/2022 season began on November 26th and ran until December 30th (which, because of the theft of its power generator, was three days earlier than originally planned).
The 2022/2023 season ran from December 1st until January 1st. This season marked the 25th edition of the event. The trains weren’t operating this past season. Still, the lights were definitely worth seeing.
Admission to Bright Nights
In 2022 Bright Nights was open daily from the first day of December until the first day of January. It was closed on December 5th, 6th and 25th.
Unfortunately, there were no train rides at Bright Nights during the 2022/2023 season. Admission to the event is by donation, and all proceeds go toward the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. It’s a great cause, so give generously when you can!
When the train does operate (so not in 2022), matinee train tickets for ages two and older are usually about $6 each. Evening train tickets cost between $9 and $13 depending on your age. Kids under two typically ride for free. Ticket prices will likely be similar when the train returns in future years.
Bright Nights Location
Bright Nights takes place in Stanley Park just off Pipeline Road in the middle of the park. If using GPS to get there, type in 690 Pipeline Road and it’ll get you close enough to see signs directing you where to go. Or, park for free at a variety of parking lots mentioned further below.
Bright Nights Activities
In addition to all of the Christmas-themed illuminations, there are also food trucks and live performances to enjoy at Bright Nights. Firefighters are on-site for photos and there’s an antique fire truck to check out too. Santa’s Workshop returned for the first time in 2022 after a three-year absence. In past years the indoor section included Christmas displays and photo opportunities with Santa Claus.
There is also usually a small craft hut with a Christmas film running on a small screen and tables with crayons and colouring papers for young children. Hopefully these activities return in future years.
Bright Nights Video
For an idea of what to expect at Bright Nights, check out the following video. It shows what the place looked like in the winter of 2021.
Parking at Bright Nights in Stanley Park
Stanley Park has pay parking throughout the year. However, during Bright Nights all parking in the immediate area and specific overflow lots is usually free. In 2022 this included parking at the railway lot, main lot, Beaver Lake parking lot and lots along North Pipeline Road.
Note: Parking lots at the Vancouver Aquarium and in other areas still require payment. Also, immediate on-site parking is free only after 3:00 pm.
About Bright Nights`
Vancouver’s Bright Nights has been running at Stanley Park since 1997 and is today one of Western Canada’s largest and most famous Christmas attractions.
Admission to Bright Nights is by donation with proceeds benefiting the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. This registered charity does all kinds of valuable work to support victims of fires, and educates the public to help keep people safe. It also sends child burn victims to summer camp, and provides support and accommodations to families of burn victims in hospital.
The History of Bright Nights
Bright Nights is a tremendously popular and valuable attraction with an interesting story involving creative ideas, Christmas and community passion, and tons of hard work.
Bright Nights Early History
Years ago each December, a couple in Surrey – Bob and Marg Wingfield – turned the outside of their home into a Winter Wonderland and collected donations from appreciative viewers for the Burn Unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).
The Wingfields owned a retail store that sold knick-knack-sorts-of-things. Over the years they had collected an impressive array of Christmas decorations from tradeshows and various suppliers.
After decorating their home and collecting donations for many years, and raising over $500,000 for the Burn Unit at VGH, the Wingfields decided to retire from their holiday-decorating hobby.
The Wingfields then approached North Vancouver firefighter Peter Hansen to see if the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund (a different but related charity from the one they were donating to) would be interested in taking over the decorations and their Christmas fundraising tradition.
Bright Nights and The Burn Fund
Peter Hansen was a member of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, as was Jeff Dighton from the City of Vancouver Fire Department. Together the two men took the lead in convincing the Burn Fund’s Board to take on the Wingfield’s offer, and the challenging task of finding a location to set up each year.
At the time, in the late 1990s, Stanley Park already had its annual Christmas Miniature Train. The venue around the railway was lit up and decorated in December each year, but the area just outside in the park was dark, wide-open and empty.
The location was the perfect spot! The Vancouver Parks Board just had to be convinced to let it happen. Negotiations began and after considerable hard work and convincing, the Parks Board finally agreed to allow the project.
The BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund purchased the lights, decorations, an antique sleigh and a variety of mechanized characters from the Wingfields. Bob Wingfield then helped a group of firefighter volunteers set up the displays (in both the first and second years of the event). In 1997 Stanley Park celebrated its first of many Bright Nights events.
Bright Nights Today and Over the Years
The legacy of Bob and Marg Wingfield’s Winter Wonderland, and the hard work of Peter Hansen, Jeff Dighton and numerous other firefighter volunteers, continues today.
What began with about 500,000 lights and miscellaneous decorations in 1997 is one of the largest, most affordable and most impressive displays of Christmas lights anywhere on the planet most years.
In 1997 Bright Nights raised enough cash donations to cover its initial costs, and in years without a pandemic it features an estimated 3 million lights and generates around $400,000 annually for the Burn Fund.
Thanks to the hard work of volunteers and corporate support, the event has extremely low operating expenses and thus a huge charitable impact!
Community Support and Volunteers
Over the years Bright Nights has received tremendous support from the community. The Vancouver Parks Board generously supplies all the electricity, and paid for the initial power infrastructure which in 1997 didn’t exist. Also, around the year 2000, the Parks Board covered the cost of paving the pathways through that part of the park which exist today and greatly benefit the attraction.
Over the past 20 or so years, lights and decorations have been added to the collection at Bright Nights, with additions being financed through donations of cash and products. BC Hydro, for example, has donated significantly towards the purchase and transition to energy-efficient LED lighting.
In normal years, every day in November leading up to opening night at the end of the month, between around 10 and 30 Lower Mainland firefighters donate their time to set up the displays. It takes hundreds of people and thousands of volunteer hours, as well as extensive ladder-climbing time on area fire trucks. White Spot restaurant generously feeds all the volunteers during this time, which is greatly appreciated.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people visit Bright Nights annually. Also, hundreds of British Columbians suffer severe burn injuries and require support and treatment each year. Donations collected by firefighter volunteers at Bright Nights over the winter holiday season are used to support victims of burn accidents.
Bright Nights is a fabulous Christmas tradition and for an amazing cause! Well done and thank you to all the founders, organizers and amazing volunteers!
Bright Nights Miniature Train
Unfortunately, the miniature train at Stanley Park didn’t operate during Bright Nights in 2022.
In years when it does happen, the ride is incredibly popular and takes about 12 minutes. Continue reading for information from previous years or click Stanley Park Train to learn about rides at other times of the year.
Stanley Park Train Hours
Note: The miniature train did not operate during the 2022/2023 season.
Tickets for the Stanley Park miniature train during the 2021/2022 Christmas season were required. Trains departed once every 20 minutes.
Bright Nights was scheduled to run from November 26th, 2021, until January 2nd, 2022. The only day of the season that it was closed was on December 25th (i.e. Christmas Day).
In 2021 the train operated daily between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm from November 26th until December 17th. Then, between December 18th and the 23rd, the attraction closed at 11:00 pm, so one hour later. For the remaining days of the season, hours of operation were from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm again.
Bright Nights Miniature Train Cost
Note: The miniature train did not operate during the 2022/2023 season.
In the 2022/2023 season, ticket prices varied depending on your age and the time you chose to ride. Children under the age of two were free. Matinee train tickets for all other ages cost $6 each. However, evening rides cost $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and teenagers, and $9 for children between three and 12 years old.
Stanley Park Train Video
To get an idea of what to expect on the miniature train at Christmas in future years, check out the following video. It shows what the train ride looked like in 2021.
Tips & Advice
The following is a list of suggestions to help you make the most of your experience at Stanley Park’s Bright Nights most years:
TIP #1: To avoid the biggest crowds, go on a weekday before the second half of December. It’s busiest on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as weekdays close to Christmas Day.
TIP #2: Expect there to be lots of other people checking out the displays – so maybe leave the kids’ stroller in your car on the busiest nights. The site is wheelchair accessible though, as is the miniature train in years when it does run.
TIP #3: Be generous with your donations to the Burn Fund. The Christmas displays at Stanley Park are some of the best in the Lower Mainland, with comparable attractions charging between $10 and over $40 per person. Also, thousands of volunteer hours go into the event, and it’s for a most worthwhile cause.
TIP #4: If it has been raining a lot, as it often does in Vancouver in winter, wear boots or other waterproof footwear. The pathways are paved, but there can be puddles.
TIP #5: If you’re paying for the night train in years when it runs, don’t go at the very start before it gets dark. The lights are what makes the ride so special.
Burn Fund Video
Want to learn about the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, the charitable organization that donations to Bright Nights at Stanley Park benefit? Then check out the following video produced by SEE the Change Productions and sponsored by TELUS. Watch it and you’ll want to donate extra generously!
Bright Nights 50/50
Another way to support the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund is by entering the Bright Nights 50/50. Half of the prize money goes to the winner while the other half goes to the Burn Fund.
Tickets for the 2023/2024 winter season are still to be confirmed.
During the 2021/2022 season, the draw took place at 10:00 am on January 10th. One ticket cost $15, three tickets cost $40 and six tickets cost $60. The winner took home more than $500,000!
For more information about the Bright Nights 50/50 and other similar draws, click Vancouver Fundraising Events.
For more information on the Bright Nights’ miniature train rides and to purchase tickets now, see the City of Vancouver’s Stanley Park Bright Nights webpage.
For information about the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, check out the Burn Fund‘s website.
For more ideas on places to see Christmas lights in the Lower Mainland, check out any of the following:
- Top Things to do at Christmas
- Vancouver’s Best Christmas Activities
- Vancouver’s December Events Calendar