Vancouver’s most amazing and affordable Christmas lights are the Bright Nights displays at Stanley Park which feature millions of sparkling festive lights.
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Stanley Park Christmas Lights
Arguably the best place to take children in December to see holiday decorations and illuminations in the Lower Mainland, Bright Nights is an annual event running from the end of November until the beginning of January each year.
Open most days during the holiday season from around 3 until 10 pm, Bright Nights probably features the most lights of any attraction in Metro Vancouver, as well as wonderful Christmas character displays and festive cheer.
In 2020/2021 Bright Nights was scheduled to run every day from November 26th until January 1st, except for Christmas Day. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the entire event was cancelled.
Admission to Bright Nights
Bright Nights is usually open every day from the end of November until the first weekend in January, except for Christmas Day on December 25th.
Tickets for everyone over 2 years of age are typically around $10 each. Kids under 2 years old ride for free.
In years without a pandemic, there are usually tons of lights set up in the plaza for folk to enjoy without the need to purchase train tickets. When this is the case, admission to Bright Nights 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! The suggested donation amount is $5 per person, but feel free to give more when the opportunity arises! It’s well worth it!
As mentioned above, the event is not happening in 2020. You can still make a donation though, which would be greatly appreciated.
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 below.
Bright Nights Miniature Train
The miniature train at Stanley Park during Bright Nights is incredibly popular and takes about 12 minutes. Because of COVID-19, the train ride would have been the only way to experience Bright Nights. However, the 2020/2021 Bright Nights event has been cancelled.
See Stanley Park Train for information on the train rides at other times of the year.
Stanley Park Train Hours
Tickets for the Stanley Park miniature train during the 2020/2021 Christmas season would have been required. In years without pandemics, trains depart about once every twenty minutes.
Bright Nights was scheduled to run from November 26th, 2020, until January 1st, 2021. The only day of the season that it would have been closed is December 25th (i.e., Christmas Day).
The train usually operates daily from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm during the Christmas season.
Bright Nights Miniature Train Cost
Tickets to ride the Bright Nights Miniature Train in the 2020/2021 season would have cost $10 for folk ages 3 and older. Children under the age of 3 would have been free.
Stanley Park Train Video
To get an idea of what to expect on the miniature train at Christmas, check out the following video. It begins and ends at the train station.
Other Bright Nights Activities
In normal years, there is usually Santa’s Workshop which is indoors and includes Christmas displays and photo opportunities with Santa Claus (which cost about $10). There is also typically a small craft hut with a Christmas film running on a small screen and tables with crayons and coloring papers for young children. Hopefully these additional activities return in future years.
Parking at Bright Nights in Stanley Park
Stanley Park has pay parking throughout the year, but during Bright Nights all parking in the immediate area and specific overflow lots is usually free. This normally includes parking at the Stanley Park Info Booth, at lots along North Pipeline Road and at the Beaver Lake parking lot.
Note: Parking lots at the Vancouver Aquarium and in other areas still require payment. Also, immediate onsite parking is usually free during the operating hours of the Stanley Park Train and in the above-mentioned overflow lots daily after 3:00 pm. Exact details are subject to change.
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 usually by donation with proceeds benefiting the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund which is a registered charity that does all kinds of valuable work to support victims of fires and educate 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 and 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 half a million dollars 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 Firefighters 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 Firefighters 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 Firefighters 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) and 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 half a million 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 fire fighters 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 fire fighter volunteers at Bright Nights over the winter holiday season is 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!
Tips and Advice
The following is a list of suggestions to help you make the most out of your experience at Stanley Park’s Bright Nights:
TIP #1: If you’re paying for the night train, don’t go at the very start before it gets dark. The lights are what make it so special.
TIP #2: 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 #3: Tickets are valid for one train ride during the specific time slot as shown on the ticket. This is good, as it means less waiting in line than you might otherwise have to do. However, the tickets are non-refundable, so don’t miss your scheduled time! Get to the park early, relax and enjoy the millions of lights until the start of your scheduled time period.
TIP #4: 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.
TIP #5: 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 #6: 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.
Burn Fund Video
Want to learn about the BC Professional Firefighters’ 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!
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