Do you want to ring in the New Year with kids in tow? You’ve got options, even if all of them don’t last until midnight, which might be a blessing in disguise.
Do what everyone else is doing
If navigating through an expected crowd of 100,000-plus people is your ball of wax, Jack Poole Plaza is the place to be. Concord's New Year's Eve Vancouver is now in its fourth year and combines a slew of family-friendly activities both inside and out. Live music, an electric indoor party, two fireworks shows and outdoor DJ party, food trucks and art exhibits will be on offer the over the course of the evening. The whole kit and caboodle kicks off at 7 p.m. and runs until just after midnight. Tickets start at $69 and kids under seven get in free. For tickets, go HERE.
Get bird brained
They’re no Uncle Fester a.k.a. “The Corpse Flower,” so Kramer and Casey will have to do. Resident parrots at the Bloedel Conservatory, Kramer and Co. account for a small fraction of the 120 free-flying birds that make up Holiday Heights at the Queen Elizabeth Park institution. Running until Jan. 6, Holiday Heights also includes holiday themed plant displays, lights, music, photo ops, a scavenger hunt with prizes, 17’ LED fir trees and gold feather ornaments suspended from the dome. Daily hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and price points range between $3.15 and $6.50. Info: vancouver.ca
Align your chakras, get some exercise or just walk and take stock at the annual labyrinth walk at St. Paul’s Church in the West End. The informal, non-traditional celebration includes walking, meditation, live music, storytelling, community and hospitality. The evening kicks off with The Eucharist at 5 p.m., followed by a handful of musical acts, reading and a gathering in the labyrinth from 10:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. The event is free and open to all. Info: stpaulsanglican.bc.ca.
Biggest balloons in town
This might be the first time we’ve ever heard of “extreme trampoline” but let’s not get lost in the details. The sixth-annual New Year’s Eve Variety Show has moved to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre this year and includes Cirque de Soleil veterans and one of the city’s “largest balloon drops.” Comic Daniel Zindler heads up the whole thing and will be flanked by the Tim Sars Orchestra, circus aerialists, extreme magicians, jugglers and the aforementioned extreme trampolinist. Doors are at 7 and the show runs from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets start at $29 and are available online at vancouvercabaret.com.
Party on … the SkyTrain?
We’re not entirely sure if this is, in fact, a family-friendly event. But the event listing encourages sobriety so let’s call a spade a spade. If for some reason you want to spontaneously break out in dance — while possibly annoying your fellow commuters — then head to Waterfront Station at 7:30 p.m. and get your groove on. Now in its third year, the NYE Skytrain Party prides itself on a few overarching tenets: active engagement, respect, personal growth and natural euphoria. Peak Vancouver, indeed. Info: facebook.com.
One million lights!
If you haven’t been to VanDusen Gardens during the holiday season are you even Vancouvering properly? Probably not. Fifteen acres of the botanical garden are adorned with more than one million lights and all tickets include a free ride on the carousel. Also included are interactive themed areas, dancing lights, and a candle grotto. There’s even a licensed fireside lounge so dad can knock a couple back. Tickets range in price between $15.50 and $20 are available online at vandusenfestivaloflights.ca.
Under the Sea
David Attenborough truly is a gift to humanity. The British historian and naturalist is the definitive word on our natural world and Planet Earth 1 and 2 are among the greatest accomplishments in TV history. While nowhere near as impressive, the Vancouver Aquarium is hosting a Sea of Lights event that includes “lights, bubbles, movements and sounds create a new illuminating, interactive experience where you’ll explore the sensations of the underwater world in this playful interpretation of an ocean dive.” Tickets run you between $21 and $38 (!) and the aquarium is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Info: vanaqua.org.
Nyet, Nyet Soviet
Nothing says “family friendly” like ridiculously exorbitant ticket prices and harbouring hostilities across oceans and cultures. Hockey truly is the gift that always gives. This year’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships is happening in Victoria and Vancouver and the New Year’s game will see the plucky under-20s take on those damn Russians. A quick look at Ticketmaster reveals that tickets are other-worldly expensive ($600 for Section 117!) but hey, Vancouverites are always teeming with expendable cash. Info: ticketmaster.ca.
Get them to the Grouse
Fire on a mountain covered in snow, 1,200 metres above sea level? It’s possible and it happens on Grouse Mountain alongside a slew of other selling points. Get your picture taken with the Snow King and Snow Queen. Skate on an 8,000 square foot mountain top pond, or rip down the sliding zone on a sled or take in the contemporary fire performance group AcroFire Entertainment. Fireworks happen at 9 p.m. and tickets range in price from $35 for an adult to $75 for a family of three. Info: grousemountain.com.
Ride the rails
It’s one of Vancouver’s go-to holiday experiences, it’s cheap and donations go to a good cause. The Bright Nights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza include three million lights, live performers and a number of holiday-themed displays. The Dec. 31 hours run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again from 3 to 10 p.m. Tickets top out around $16 and suggested donations of $5 go towards the BC Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund.