Over New Years we decided to make an inaugural trip to Vancouver Island (a much-anticipated place on our to-do list). Initially, we thought we'd wait and go this Summer when the killer whales are swarming the area and the outdoor activities are endless but, when I read that the famous Butchart Gardens puts on a magical Christmas display, complete with an ice skating rink (one of our yearly Christmas traditions), I knew we had to go this Christmas season.
After a full day of exploring, we headed to the gardens around 4 PM. We arrived at dusk as the sun was setting and the lights were just coming on and grabbed some dinner while we waiting for the magic to truly begin.
We filled up at the cafeteria with some good dinner and desserts and by the time we were finished and made our way back outside, the entire area was lit up spectacularly.
There was no need to wait any longer, so we headed down the path for a tour of the gardens. Our first stop was through a magical forest which was probably my favorite part. The pictures don't do it enough justice, it was so cool.
We picked up a children's seek and find for Landon at the information center. There is no better way to involve and interest kids than giving them an activity to do while they are there. For Butchart, it was a Twelve Days of Christmas seek and find that kept Landon interested until the very end of the gardens. Although he didn't know the song, or what most of the things were as I read them aloud, he had no problem figuring it out with their clever adaptations.
We passed through the forest and out above the sunken gardens. If not for the information signs posted along the way, you would never know that such a beautiful garden use to be the site of a limestone quarry. When the quarry was depleted it was turned into the sunken garden and was completed almost 100 years ago in 1921. Stepping out of the forest and looking out over it is a stunning sight to see.
We entered the sunken gardens and explored the beautifully landscaped area overflowing with lights after lights. It was like walking through a wonderland of lights that never ended. They were on the trees and bushes, on the pathways and grass. It was everywhere and yet so perfectly put together that it brought the otherwise dead gardens back to life.
We came across a number of ponds which normally would be dull and boring in the darkness but were brought into the spirit with colorful changing lights and more of the Twelve Days of Chrismas theme.
Not every stop along the way had to do with the Twelve Days Of Christmas. One of these stops was the garden carousel. Since this trip was part of my Christmas present and Adam kept telling me "this was all for me so it was whatever I wanted to do", I was able to convince him to ride the carousel with us for once.
My Mom was also with us for Christmas and this trip and it didn't take any convincing to get her to ride along. She even picked out a horse as pretty as her and had as much fun as the rest of us (maybe even more).
Back out in the gardens, we continued perusing all the pretty lights.
You would think that lighting up a bunch of trees and bushes would get old, but it never did. The combinations were always different and mesmerizing to look at.
Are you singing the song yet? I think everyone walking the gardens was.
We walked past a few Redwoods lit up the same way as the forest in the beginning. Redwoods will always hold a special place in my heart and remind me of our time in California.
Although Landon loved the dragon fountain, the last fountain was my favorite. The lights were used to enhance the gardens. Despite knowing all the trees had lost their leaves and the flowers were gone for the season, the lights filled in the gaps and were just as beautiful as I imagine any flowers could be.
The gardens are famous for their afternoon tea and I really wanted to partake, but looking at the menu I wasn't a big fan of the items they had for Christmas so we decided to wait until next time to join them for the event. Tea takes in the building below, overlooking this beautiful courtyard. I'm excited to come back and enjoy them both in the summer.
Although we were done with the garden tour, there was still a number of things to enjoy. They had carolers singing Christmas songs and a brass band to enjoy. Back up at the main entrance, there is also a nice gift shop, cafe for hot drinks and snacks, and lets not forget the ice skating rink. Even the buildings were decorated just perfectly like a little Christmas village.
Despite getting everyone on board with the carousel it was only Landon and myself for the ice skating.
Since we only go once a year, he's always pretty unsure at first. He sticks close to the railing and worries about other people running into him. But, it isn't long before he's more comfortable and then he is having a blast.
I didn't think we'd be back on the ice anytime soon, but this weekend we were talking about what sports/activities he wanted to pursue and he said ice hockey. We were both pretty surprised so I think I'm going to try to take him out a few more times in the near future. He's also got rock climbing, skiing, and soccer on his to-do list...
After our skating, we enjoyed some hot chocolate and apple cider in the cafe before heading home for the night. Our visit to Butchart Gardens actually marked the end of our Christmas season and celebrations. It was a beautiful and fun experience, unlike anything any of us had seen before. I'm so happy we were able to go enjoy this magical place and it was such a great way to end this wonderful time of year. I'm looking forward to visiting again and again to enjoy it in a new way in every season.