Every year, Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ont. transforms from a bustling heritage village to a glimmering wonderland of light.
Upper Canada Village has been holding Alight at Night for 18 years. My family and I visited this outdoor lights festival for the first time this year. The amount of work that goes into the lighting of the village left me completely in awe.
Here are some helpful things to know before you head to Alight at Night for your first visit
Upper Canada Village, located in Morrisburg, ON, is about an hour and half drive from Kingston, depending on traffic and weather. Luckily it’s a straight shot down the 401, then follow the signs. The village is located on Hwy 2 and you can’t miss it!
I like Googling it first or pulling up Google maps on my phone. I love knowing exactly where I’m going, but this really is an easy navigation.
Need some tips for keeping your kids entertained in my car? Check out How to Survive Travelling with Kids and Tweens!
What to Bring
This attraction is almost 100 per cent outdoors, so bring your warm clothes. Unlike when you visit Upper Canada Village in the summer season, there are very few buildings open. Be sure you pack your mitts and toque!
The night we went the temperature was hovering around freezing, but I still was quite chilled by the end of the evening (and I wore two layers of pants). My girls were comfortable in their snowpants and all their outer wear.
The ground throughout is uneven, sloppy, and well-trodden by horses. I would not recommend bringing a stroller into the village. A wagon may be a better bet, as they often have larger wheels.
Be sure you have on comfortable shoes or boots you don’t mind getting dirty. I wore my regular winter boots and there was a good amount of mud on the when I got home! There can also be slippery patches when the temperature dips.
Bring your Patience
We didn’t experience any long lines, but I can see how it could be the case on busier nights.
The first thing we did was the carriage ride. We waited through one horse drawn carriage and got on the second. There was barely a line at the Carousel, and for the train we thought we weren’t going to make it on the first one that came in (it departs every 30 minutes), but we did squeak on. I think we were lucky with lines.
Once you pay to get in the door you’re set. Besides waiting in a few lines you’re ready to check out everything on offer in the village.
Mom tip: buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in the ticket line. The pre-paid line moves quickly and was very short the night we went!
Things to do:
- Horse Drawn Wagon Ride – This takes you around the entire village so you can see all the lights. There are a few sections that may seem bit far to trek to with small children, but you will absolutely see all of that on the wagon ride
- Toy Train Ride – This feels cold about halfway through. The train that runs through Crysler Park is fully decorated with lights, and runs through a decorated building. My 7 year old said “This is totally creepy!” – referring to the old fashion decorations inside. (It wasn’t really creepy, I enjoyed it a lot!)
- Carousel Corner – New this year: A merry-go-round for the kids and some photo opportunities with classic carousel horses. My girls had a great time on the merry-go-round and we bought a hot chocolate in the seating area they had set up in Carousel Corner.
- Santa! – A Victorian Santa can be found in Crysler Hall and you can take your own photos with him, or purchase some from the photographer there. Full disclosure: we did not wait in line for Santa. Instead we went up to the windows and took a peek inside to see him. He wears a luxurious cloak made by the seamstresses in the village. It is so beautiful!
I don’t know about your family, but my girls get tired as the night wears on. This is the first year I’ve been confident taking my youngest (she’s 7) out for evening activities without worrying about melt downs. Her bedtime was 7pm for AGES, but she’s just now starting to stretch that out.
The park opens at 5 p.m. We arrived about 5:30 p.m. and we stayed for 2.5 hours so we could do everything. Even at that time the parking lot was filling up. And it was a Saturday night, which I hear can be the busiest night. It never felt unmanageably busy to me the whole time we were there.
Do dinner first
Because the village opens at 5 p.m., timing your eating can be tricky. We opted to do a late lunch here in town, then we had the option of snacks there (or an ONroute along the way) to eat later on. Upper Canada Village does have restaurants and dinner options, but for my picky kids, I wouldn’t waste the money. If you have adventurous eaters I’d say give that option a go, but that wasn’t for us.
Bring a little cash
My girls wanted a hot chocolate (of course) and there were also sugar cookies, cinnamon buns, cupcakes, and gingerbread cookies available for snacking. I just handed cash to my oldest and sent her to get 2 hot chocolates. Quicker and easier than handling a card with mittens to contend with!
Have you been to Alight at Night? Is there anything else I’ve left out that potential travelers should know? I was amazed by the quantity of lights, and the amount of work that must go into creating this festival. I’d highly recommend taking the family!
Jessica is a busy working mom who enjoys writing, editing, and blogging. She loves raising her family here in Kingston and tries hard to get out to all the amazing events around town. You can find more of her writing on her blog A Modern Mom’s Life, and see what she gets up to with her family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
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