Each year the Royal Botanical Gardens welcomes winter with a celebration called Holiday Traditions. The star attraction is a botanical model train installation but festivities also include musical entertainment, children's activities and a traditional Santa dressed in splendid robes.
The Royal Botanical Gardens (the "RBG"), located in Burlington, Ontario, is the largest botanical garden in Canada and also a National Historic Site. The RBG is described as a living, interactive museum with 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres) of gardens and nature sanctuaries and features numerous events, entertainment and public programs that appeal to gardeners, nature lovers and families.
We have visited previously during the summer but had no idea what to expect during the holiday season. As it happened, winter made a timely arrival in a cold and blustery fashion on the day of our visit so we were relieved to learn that the Holiday Traditions activities were located indoors.
The RBG Train Show:
The big attraction of Holiday Traditions is the RBG Train Show which is an extensive botanical model train installation. I'm not really sure what I expected but I was taken aback by how large and detailed the train display was. There were many families visiting on a Saturday morning and several delighted children doing their best to resist the temptation to touch the moving trains as vintage railroad cars and a few familiar Thomas the Tank Engine trains rolled by.
The train installation set among the plants is charming and will be enjoyed by everyone - not just kids and model train aficionados. Emma and I circled several times in order to appreciate the details. There are two displays set up - the main display "Canadian Highlights" is in the McQuesten Theatre and "Wonders of the World" is set up in the Mediterranean Garden.
We had as much fun pointing out details such as the CN Tower, the Parliament buildings, and the lighthouse as we did watching the trains circle the two levels of tracks!
The Mediterranean Garden is the setting for the Wonders of the World display which, much to my daughter's delight, includes the Eiffel Tower.
During Holiday Traditions, visitors will also enjoy performances by local choirs and other musicians in the Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium. There is a full schedule detailing the performances on the RBG website.
Children's Activities and Santa Claus:
Anyone visiting with youngsters should head upstairs to the Mezzanine where they can participate in a number of craft activities and visit with Santa Claus dressed in his traditional robes. Visitors sign up to meet Santa so that the kids can keep busy with crafts rather than waiting for their turn in line.
There are additional activities and entertainment which vary from weekend to weekend during Holiday Traditions. On the day that we visited the Historic Merchants Christmas Gathering was also taking place and merchants dressed in historic costumes had set up booths to sell their wares. Upcoming activities include a magic show, Zoo to You, and Reindeer Weekend so be sure to check the schedule on the RBG website as each day of Holiday Traditions has something different to offer.
The gardens are also open during the winter (weather-permitting) so visitors attending Holiday Traditions can enjoy a stroll outside as well. It was far too cold for us to venture out on the day of our visit but we did enjoy seeing this poinsettia Christmas tree and the indoor Mediterranean Garden.
Holiday Traditions and the RBG Train Show is a fun, family-friendly event that is perfect for getting everyone in the holiday spirit. It runs from now until January 5th so don't miss the opportunity of seeing this delightful botanical train installation before it disappears for another year.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The Royal Botanical Gardens are located at 680 Plains Road West in Burlington, Ontario.
- Holiday Traditions runs from November 14th, 2013 to January 5th, 2014. Holiday events are scheduled for each weekend during that time period. (General Admission is required for entry to Holiday Traditions.)
- The Gardens are generally open daily 10am - 5pm. Check the RBG calendar for special events.
- Admission pricing is available on the website. Admission is free for children under the age of 5.
- The property is smoke-free.
- Dogs on leashes are allowed in designated areas.
- The RBG is committed to accessibility. Wheelchairs are available for use free of charge. Service and companion animals are permitted in all buildings and garden areas. Persons with disabilities are required to pay full price, however, one attendant/caregiver receives complimentary admission.
We received complimentary admission to the Royal Botanical Gardens for the purposes of review. I have received no other compensation for this post and my views are entirely my own.
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