This weekend we made our pilgrimage for a fresh infusion of Christmas Spirit. There’s nothing like Alight at Night for that boost each December when Upper Canada Village magically transforms from a living history village into a winter wonderland ablaze with a million lights.
As it turns out, once each season the park offers the opportunity to prepurchase tickets for Saturday lunch with Santa. What a grand idea! Oliver and Sadie are too small for a full evening of outdoor activities. This was a perfect solution. When we arrived early afternoon the park was not operational but the Harvest Barn was ready. Table activities were set up for the wee ones as we waited for lunch. After hot turkey, french fries, and gravy — which Ollie enjoyed immensely — Santa appeared in all of his Victorian splendor.
Ollie and Sadie waited patiently in line for their turn with Santa. But when Mama plopped Sadie in Santa’s lap, she let out a piercingly shrill shriek and was quickly rescued from the big man with bountiful beard! At which point, Ollie decided he didn’t need Santa time, either. So we collected their gift bags and headed outside to explore.
The horses and wagons were waiting for Santa’s lunch guests just outside so Ollie and his Dada, Pops, GiGi, and Great-Grandma hopped on for a park tour. It was a beautiful, bright winter day. I’d forgotten how close the park sits to the St. Lawrence River, which is difficult to distinguish on nighttime visits. Night or day, however, you can’t ignore the cold wind cutting across the water and through the wagon. We were fortunate that it was tuned to just a brisk breeze today. Meanwhile, sleepy lady Sadie strolled the grounds with Mama
From there, we went into the gift shop for souvenir ornaments: polar bears for the boys and felted wool for the girls. The grand finale was a train ride. We were so thankful they were accommodating Santa’s lunch guests by firing up the little choo-choo’s engines early. Ollie absolutely loves trains! It was a joy to experience Oliver’s first train ride with him. His eyes were as big as saucers. We’d never rode the train in daylight and were surprised by how close the tracks sit to the river. A big ship (a laker, presumably?) was clearly visible just offshore. The St. Lawrence is a cold river even in summer and the wind can be fierce in winter. Once again, we were thankful for a relatively mild winter’s day — and a layer of protection over the train car!
Oliver and Sadie were ready to head home at that point so we helped load them up. Then we returned to the cafe and gift shop to bide our time until nightfall. I had a bit of shopping to do and we had about an hour and a half to kill before the million or more lights would be clearly visible. It was worth the wait!
The park doesn’t open until 5:00 p.m. and a long line stretched to the parking lot well before then. Fortunately, Santa’s lunch guests are expedited. No need to wait in line! This also meant we we first in line to climb back aboard the horse and wagon for an evening tour. It was like magic, the park literally transformed by nightfall and beautiful Christmas lights.
Then we visited Christ’s Church for a hearty round of carols. We strolled the grounds only briefly before calling it a night. When we departed, a steady stream of guests were entering the park but the admissions line still stretched to the parking lot! Lunch with Santa, with all of its perks, was worth every extra cent
~ Rene Morley