With Christmas approaching fast, ‘tis the season for holiday parties, last minute shopping, and an endless stream of gatherings with family and friends. For us, this always included a drive through some of the best-lit neighbourhoods in the city where we grew up. Now that we have kids of our own, we love sharing this experience with them, but with a simple twist.
Instead of hopping into a car, every December we make the point of picking a chilly, crisp winter’s night, and pedalling the streets of Vancouver in search of the best-decorated homes and businesses. It has become one of our family’s yearly Christmas traditions, much like picking up our tree by bicycle. In fact, last year we felt compelled to share our favourite stops and curated a Holiday Light Ride for Bikabout, an online bicycle route resource.
What makes us willingly bundle up and brave the cold, instead of just booking a car-share for the evening? We love that, on our bikes, we can discover areas cars simply can’t access.
Since moving to Vancouver in 2007, we have made it to just one of the famed Carol Ships events. But riding along the seawall – with Christmas carols serenading us on our Bluetooth speaker – we pass dozens of boats in the marinas decorated with lights and transforming the waterfront. Had we travelled by automobile, we would have either missed this beautiful scene entirely, or struggled to find parking, and then search for the colourful masts on foot.
The same holds true for places like Granville Island and Canada Place. Both are accessible by car, but there’s something truly liberating about having control over your trip; being able to stop, take in the view, and then carry on, without the added burden of traffic and parking.
What is uniquely special about a holiday light ride is the stillness and calm. Most of us relish the rare moments of quiet amidst the chaos of the season. Take a trip on a bicycle during the winter, especially after dark, and it feels like entire segments of the city have been deserted.
Nowhere is this more apparent than along the seawall, where riding our bikes allows us to discover a light show designed solely for us. We are able to pedal at our own pace without worry of getting in the way, an oh-so common occurrence in the warmer, summer months.
This city has so much to offer for those in search of the Griswold experience, whether along residential streets like 10th Avenue, the much-celebrated Trinity Street, or by visiting some of Vancouver’s better-known attractions like the St. Paul’s Hospital, Stanley Park, VanDusen Garden, or Jack Poole Plaza. Why not make the most of the few dry, brisk evenings we get in the Pacific Northwest to visit them on two wheels? And with cafés galore, there’s always a place to stop and warm up with some hot chocolate – with marshmallows of course!