In 2019 the attraction ran daily from October 17th until the 27th and had a story theme involving an owl, a hummingbird, magical spells and a journey through the garden. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. Hopefully it will be able to return in 2021.
VanDusen Glow in the Garden
Taking place at VanDusen Botanical Garden in the last half of October most years, VanDusen Glow in the Garden is arguably one of the region’s best Halloween attractions for young children and overly-timid folk. It’s also wonderful for folk of all ages!
At the event, in years when there isn’t a pandemic, there might be a skeleton or two scattered around the place, but far less scary stuff than almost any other spooky event in town. This makes it especially popular for young families and tiny folk with nervous dispositions.
The theme in 2018 was Hänsel and Gretel, so there was a witch, but again no mummies, zombies or other really freaky stuff.
In 2019 the theme involved an owl, Anna the Hummingbird and her companions going on an adventure through the gardens. Guests could follow the story, enjoy the lights and collect Halloween treats as they made their way along the trails.
Glow in the Garden takes place in Vancouver at VanDusen Botanical Garden which is located at 5251 Oak Street with the entrance to parking just off West 37th Avenue. The parking lot isn’t huge though, especially for special events of this size, and so many people find parking somewhere else along the street.
The actual event takes place indoors in the Visitor Centre and in the garden just outside the centre, on one side of Livingstone Lake, in front of the Shaughnessy Restaurant and around the Formal Rose Garden. In the event’s first year, a couple of seasons ago, pumpkins were displayed all around VanDusen’s Woodland Garden.
Glow in the Garden takes up a fair bit of space, but not the entire property by any means. It’s a big event, but not as large as VanDusen’s Festival of Lights in December.
Times and Dates
In years when it does happen, VanDusen Glow in the Garden is open daily between around 5:00 and 9:00 pm in the days leading up to Halloween night on October 31st. In 2019 it ran daily from Thursday October 17th until Sunday October 27th. Because of the coronavirus, the Halloween event was cancelled in 2020.
New from the year before and continuing into 2019, the attraction has three time slots for each evening. In previous years, visitors could arrive at the attraction whenever they wanted. In 2018 and 2019, however, people had to choose specific times. This helped control traffic and ensure that the place didn’t get overly crowded and that the lineups were manageable.
Time slots for viewing VanDusen Glow in the Garden in 2019 were 5:00 to 6:00 pm, 6:30 until 7:30 pm, and 8:00 until 9:00 pm.
Prices for the Halloween event in 2019 if purchased online, including taxes and online fees, were the following:
- Adults (ages 19 to 64) – $13.50
- Seniors (ages 65+) – $11.50
- Youth (ages 13 to 18) – $11.50
- VanDusen Garden Members – $11.50
- Children (ages 3 to 12) – $9.50
- Tots & Infants (ages 2 and under) – Free
Tickets can be bought on the day at the door or in advance online. Tickets cost slightly more at the gate.
What to Expect
At VanDusen Glow in the Garden expect to see young families with small children in costumes, dozens of amazingly-carved Jack-o-lanterns, and lit up pathways through the trees. There is also usually fun spooky Disney-kind-of music and moaning sounds, crafts for children, pumpkins, festival foods and apple cider for sale.
The highlight of VanDusen Glow in the Garden is all the many beautifully hand-carved Jack-o-lanterns by award-winning master carvers. There seemed to be fewer of them in 2019 than in previous years, but still a good number. Accompanying the various displays of artwork are illuminations among the trees, kid-friendly music and colourful lights and pumpkins lining the trails.
At VanDusen Glow in the Garden in 2018 one half of the venue had displays featuring scenes from the Hänsel and Gretel story made popular years ago by the Brothers Grimm. The other half of the venue was full of pumpkins and other Halloween-ish scenes. In 2019 there were illuminations all around and a selection of pumpkins on display in different places.
VanDusen Halloween Themes Past and Present
Glow in the Garden celebrated its fourth anniversary in 2019 at VanDusen Garden. In its first year the place was full of intricately carved Jack-o-lanterns and the occasional skeleton. In 2017, there was an Alice-in-Wonderland theme with the White Rabbit, Alice, the Queen of Hearts and other Lewis Carol characters. In 2018 the theme was Hänsel and Gretel.
At the Alice in Wonderland-themed event there were Christmas-style lights in the trees as well as Jack-o-lanterns placed on wooden cut-out bodies and intricately carved as the heads of Alice-in-Wonderland characters. If you looked closely you’d see that the glowing faces were actually real pumpkins! They were amazing!
One thing we really liked about the 2018 event was the story and the fact that it was all written out along the trails at VanDusen Garden. While you wandered the Hänsel and Gretel half of the attraction you could read the story along the way (which was especially nice if you had never heard it before).
In 2019 the event’s theme involved an owl, hummingbird and magic. It wasn’t as well-known a story as in previous years, but still nice for kids.
How Big is the Attraction?
VanDusen Glow in the Garden is a large event, but not huge. It’s pretty big, but not quite on the scale of VanDusen’s Festival of Lights at Christmas time (which is also exceptional).
The Halloween attraction actually only takes up a fraction of the entire VanDusen property – just the area in and around the Visitor Centre and a few acres between Livingstone Lake and the Rose Garden. It’s not a massive area, but a respectable size for little children. It’s also a fair bit larger today than what it was in its initial couple of years.
Expect to stay at the event anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours. If you rush you can see it all in half an hour. If you go slowly, admire all the decorations closely, and do some of the craft activities, you can be there for up to a couple of hours or even more.
Tips and Tricks
Below are suggestions on how to make the most of your trip.
TIP #1: Go in costume so you and your kids can take part in the free craft activities and have even more fun! If you don’t want to wear a costume, however, you don’t have to.
TIP #2: Unless you or your children are seriously afraid of the dark, don’t go before 6:30 pm at the earliest – the attraction and its glow are best seen at night.
TIP #3: Although the attraction is better later in the evening, if you go early and find you’re hungry it’s good to know that the Shaughnessy Restaurant just outside has Happy Hour with discounted drinks and appetizers Monday to Friday from 3 until 5 pm. There are also food vendors on site at the event.
TIP #4: The closer the date to Halloween and the better the weather, the more crowded VanDusen Glow in the Garden is going to be, and the more likely the event will sell out. Don’t like crowds? Then go on a rainy day and before the Halloween weekend.
TIP #5: The event sells out on some nights, including on the weekend just before Halloween. Book in advance to avoid disappointment!
TIP #6: In past years at least, there are usually tickets still available at the gate after online tickets have all sold out. Those too though also eventually sell out. To avoid disappointment and unnecessary waits in line, reserve your spot well in advance!
For further information about Vancouver’s famous botanical garden in general, see VanDusen Garden.
For more information about the Halloween event, click VanDusen Glow.
For details about VanDusen Garden’s spectacular Christmas-themed attraction, check out the Festival of Lights.
For other great Halloween activities for young families, check out Vancouver Children’s Halloween Activities.