Are the kids driving you Christmas crackers?
How about taking them to someone else’s house for the afternoon?
Perhaps you’ll enjoy three favourites of mine. House admissions are by donation, children will enjoy the little perks each location offers, and all three are within easy driving distance of Surrey.
Historic Stewart Farm
13723 Crescent Rd., Surrey. Tel: 604-592-6956
The other day Figgy Pudding was fresh out of the oven, hot chocolate and apple cider were on tap, and children around me were nibbling fresh gingerbread cookies.
Upstairs a large audience watched as a docent produced a flannel graph, and read tales recalling an era when treasurers were oranges and toys carved by Pappa while the weather outside was frightful.
In the parlour a youngster played “Silent Night” on a trumpet.
Across the lane in the Stewart Hall little fingers, assisted by adults, crafted cotton ball and wood Christmas tree decorations.
As 21st century cel phone cameras recorded expressions, and docents in 19th century costumes doled out crayons, colouring sheets, and pencils for word games. The place was buzzing.
Next December, check for special events such as the not-to-be-missed Pioneer Christmas.
1865 Irving House
302 Royal Ave., New Westminster. Tel: 604-527-4640
Does this house fascinate me because Capt. William Irving was a Scottish sea captain who earned the romantic title King of the Fraser River? Or, is it because it is…haunted?
Picture the Captain and Mrs. Irving keeping a weather-eye on his fleet from the windows of one of the oldest and best preserved period houses in British Columbia. If location mattered, many locals must have envied this 14-room Royal City home.
Perhaps the three mysterious nightgowned children once reported frolicking on the back lawn at midnight are still loathe to leave their happy memories behind.
And, recently a professional friend not given to hallucinations described being shocked by a red ball suddenly bouncing inexplicably around upstairs late one evening while she closed the house.
Costumed guides here are a wealth of information, and tell similar ghostly tales, though always with the caveat that nothing untoward has happened recently…
Irving House ladies fashions and accoutremonts clearly indicate wealth and position. Picture the family gathered around the imposing sitting room grand piano, or the maids flitting from room to room.
London Heritage Farm
6511 Dyke Rd., Richmond. Tel: 604-271-5200
This is a particular favourite of mine – because it has a Tea Room! Homemade jams, scone mixes, aprons and assorted treats are for sale in the gift shop.
Currently, turn of the century decorations are a reminder of an elegant, but simpler era. In spring and summer, the herb and rose gardens are a photographers delight. Even on a clement winter day the garden gazebo is a pleasant place to stop while the children run free in the spacious grounds.
Decorated inside and out, try for a late afternoon visit to admire the lights on the house, barn, and gazebo. Inside you probably given permission to play some carols on the 1904 upright piano with London family also enjoyed.
If parks appeal, these ones won’t put the Christmas budget in jeopardy.
Burnaby Village Museum
5601 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby. Tel: 604-297-4565
When did you last ride a carousel? The fiery peripheral steeds on the C.W. Parker one onsite here gallop around at 7 mph. I can guarantee you time hasn’t dimmed the fun of the ride.
Children will enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas Scavenger Hunt, and if you’ve always wondered what a Moustache Curler looked like your answer is here.
If the Christmas spirit has been illusive, I’m guessing the 400 sound-reactive lights at the bandstand will cure that – or at least make you smile. It’s your very own magical light show.
This used to be a strawberry farm, and houses a collection of over 50,000 artifacts, from a hatpin to the 1893 Love Farm House.
Dress warmly because you’ll be walking from building to building outside. But, fear not. All boardwalks inevitably lead to the Ice Cream Parlour.
Gate admission is free. Carousel rides are $2.21 per person.
Bear Creek Park Train, Mini Golf
13750 88 Ave., Surrey. Tel: 604-501-1232
There’s a charge to ride this train, but the ride through the Christmas Forest delights little children.
It’s a treat, something of a Surrey tradition and concludes with a candy cane and colouring book.
Dave Penn, whose passion for trains drove him to promote this venture, enthusiastically promoted it until his death in 2012. Linda, his wife, continues the tradition.
Again, dress warmly and check the website for details: www.bctrains.com