Upper Canada Village lights up at night

Discover life in the 1860s with a holiday twist: horse-drawn carriage rides, a train ride, holiday music, fresh baked treats and more



Having recently published a story about holiday traditions, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could create some new ones for my son and I this Christmas season. I had heard that Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario was once again inviting families to stroll through the grounds in the evening and take in the sight of almost one million lights adorning the heritage buildings, trees and fences.

I thought it had all the elements that would make for a great overnight getaway: a horse drawn carriage ride, train ride, as well as a hotel stay complete with long hallways for kids to run, a pool and buffet breakfast. What more could a 9-year-old boy and his friend want? Not much; as I suspected – they had a blast discovering a new area and attraction.

Founded in 1961, Upper Canada Village is one of the largest living-history sites in Canada and is located about 90 minutes west of Montreal. It depicts life in a rural English Canadian setting during the year 1866. There are more than 40 historical buildings, including homes, functioning mills and trades workshops. In the summer, traditional farming techniques are demonstrated and weavers, spinners and dressmakers demonstrate traditional handiwork. And staff dressed in clothing from the period discuss aspects of 19th century social life, music, religion and politics.

You don’t need signage to know you’ve arrived at the Alight at Night festival; the beautiful Christmas lights on the buildings can be seen from a good distance away. Concentrating on the road ahead, my son Max and his friend, Riley, alerted me to our arrival: “There it is, there it is!!” they screamed as they pointed in the direction of the lights.

As soon as you walk through the entrance doors, the voices of singers belting out holiday songs at Christ Church can be heard throughout the village. In the distance, we could see the horses pulling a group of people on the carriage ride. The kids were so excited that they didn’t want to wait in line for the carriage or train ride so we just walked around the village, reading the information plaques about the different buildings, taking in the sights, listening to the music and eating freshly made gingerbread cookies. Then we headed over to the train station and hopped into one of the railway cars for our 15-minute ride.    

This year will mark the event's 17th year and there will be more laser beam technology lighting throughout the Village to ramp up the magical feel. Another important piece of advice is to make sure everyone is bundled up – staying warm is key to enjoying this outdoor festival. 

NEW FOR 2017!

The village will be transformed into Twinkle Town, a magical setting of winter-themed play areas for young children surrounded by twinkling, musical trees. Parents and friends are welcome to enter the zone to keep an eye on the little ones and enjoy some hot chocolate. 

At Saint Nick's Merry Mansion, children can visit with a Victorian Santa Claus in a magical setting. Photos can be taken in this setting at no charge but professional photos are offered for a fee by the village.

Dates & Admission

Alight at Night is open on select nights from Dec. 1, 2017 until Jan. 6, 2018. Santa will be on site until Dec. 23 to meet kids and hear about their Christmas wish list. Cost for adults is $15.95, seniors (65+) is $13.95, kids 6-12 is $11.95, and free for kids 5 and under. Admission prices include a wagon ride, train ride and parking. I suggest you purchase tickets on the website to avoid waiting in line on site.  

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit AlightatNight.ca.

Where to Stay

Several hotels offer special combo packages that include tickets to Alight at Night as well as accommodation and breakfast. We stayed at the Ramada on Brookdale Ave., in Cornwall, which was about a 20-minute drive from Upper Canada Village. The staff was very friendly, rooms were clean and it is located near several shops. For more information, visit cornwallramada.com.

You can check out all the hotel deals at uppercanadavillage.com.

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