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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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What to eat at Aurora Winter Festival 2019

It has been a month since my original visit to the Aurora winter festival, now at its new home on the fair grounds of PNE/Playland. And since then, there has been several new food trucks that have parked themselves by the erected tents of their outdoor food pavilion. So today I was bearing the sprinkling rain to check out what is new and worth trying, with a focus on exclusive items you can only get at Aurora.

To skip the reading, check out my latest taste test vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

In the order of what we tried, we started our tour at the “Cannoli King”, a PNE staple with their commissary located nearby. Pipping crispy chips on the spot, they are serving up a few of their most popular flavours, and a trio of seasonal offerings.

The “cranberry, orange, and pecan” cannoli was fragrant and sweet. Tangy and refreshing, easy to finish from first bite to last. I can see this being the most widely well-received.

The gingerbread was a lot more heavier, but not overwhelmingly so. A lighter hint of gingerbread for those who are not fan of the zestier, more memorable spices used in this classic.

I am a fan of egg nog, so was happy to have this rendition taste exactly as I expected it to. Given how creamy the filling is, I was surprised by how it all stayed within the airy shell. An easy to eat treat, if you take it all in one bite, although it does get messy otherwise.

Next, we visited the food truck of one of the most popular doughnut shops in Vancouver. They have brought all their best selling cake doughnuts to Aurora, including their vegan and gluten-free options. Apple fritter, earl grey, vanilla bean, and double chocolate.

And with them they have two Aurora exclusives. The “haskap berry shortbread” doughnut and the “dulce honeycomb”. “Haskap” is a tart and juicy berry only available in BC, it is most commonly known as Japanese honeysuckle, here it was sweetened, and reminded me of a raspberry/blueberry combo. The shortbread in the name comes from the crushed cookie dust sprinkled over the glaze. Good, but I would have liked more shortbread in the actual doughnut ring. Although/otherwise, this was a lovely doughnut to pair with tea.

But between the two, the “Dulce Honeycomb” was my favourite. Visually it was stunning, fully loaded with plenty of crispy and airy honeycomb pieces to crunch through. The doughnut and glaze were the perfect base; not too sweet to overwhelm, just great doughy breading to balance out the sweetness.

We then moved on to a some hot beverages to help keep us warm, gravitating to the “Drink Coffee” sign of “Green Coast Coffee”. Here, they are proud that their teas, coffee, and holiday beverages all made with natural ingredients.

More than just black coffee they have a “cookie butter latte” and “winter spiced fog”. And for hot chocolates they have stepped it up a notch with the likes of a macadamia nut hot chocolate and a hazelnut dark chocolate. The former made with fresh macadamia nut mylk and white chocolate. The latter is fresh hazelnut mylk and dark chocolate. Each, dessert in a glass, with the nut mylk made right on their cart. Rich and chocolatey they warmed you as you drank.

For something a little lighter, and a bit more seasonal, I highly suggest their scratch made apple cider, featuring a blend of five different apples. A full bodied, warm apple juice, flavoured with a healthy dusting of cinnamon.

For something more substantial look to “Reel Mac & Cheese”, another PNE staple representing for the winter season. They are known of gooey cheddar cheese macaroni, topped with a variety of ingredients; with each combination given a name after a movie, celebrity, or pop culture reference. The “Godzilla” came with Japanese mayo and seaweed, “Snoop Dogg” has hot dogs slices and a panko Parmesan crunch; and “Kevin Bacon” naturally had bacon, and lots of it.

But today it was all about their Aurora feature, named with a Christmas twist. These are sample sizes, so rest assured you will get more in your full order. The “Grinch” was their classic gourmet cheese macaroni topped with crunchy broccoli florets and crispy onion. The vegetables were a healthy twist. Good, but not all that much different from a regular Mac and cheese in flavour.

I preferred the “Bad Santa”. The same mac and cheese base as above, but now topped with cubes of glazed ham and pineapple. If you like Hawaiian pizza, you would like this. Salty and sweet, I wouldn’t mind a scoop of marinara sauce to have it come around full circle.

And I was excited to finally try the “Shameless Buns”, the popular Filipino-inspired food truck built from an actual jeepney. I have been hearing much about them, so was exited to get into their menu and try some of their buns, but will have to come back another day to do so. They have their entire regular menu available here, including their popular spam fries and various adobos. As well as an entire, secondary Christmas menu, only available during their time at Aurora. Sausage, lumpia, and French toast with pandan and condense milk.

But today we only got a taste of their “Adobo fries”, a popular, regular menu item. Long and thin fries topped with braised chicken adobo, adobo gravy, garlic calamansi aioli, garlic chips, tomato, and green onion. It reminded me of nachos with the diced tomato, but with pulled chicken. It didn’t have the richness I expected from an adobo. And it was hard to eat with all the chopped up ingredients, and no vehicle to scoop them up with. I wanted more sauce. Luckily they had their banana ketchup at the ready. Made with real tropical bananas, it had the tang of ketchup and a unique sweetness. Different and interesting, nothing like I have had before. It was what made the fries memorable for me.

Looking for a more savoury meals? “Meat & Bread”, another popular Vancouver cafe has also moved in to Aurora. Their black truck with their origami-esque logo is eye catching, their brand easily recognizable. Here, their most popular sandwich options are named after its main protein. Porchetta, ham hock, and their “vego” vegetarian option is available.

But the one to get, and the one that is exclusive to their time at Aurora is the “Hot Turkey”. Like dinner between crusty bread. This was shredded turkey meat, a brown butter yam purée, their homemade cranberry spread; and a “winter slaw” with purple cabbage, carrot, red and green peppers, and kale. Be warned, this gets messy, with jus running down your hands. Delicious and filling. But for my personal tastes, I would have liked it more salty, maybe even with a side of gravy to dip into.

And last but not least, we finished our food tour with another Christmas market staple: the chimney cake. Specifically the ones from “The Praguery” who roll, bake, spread, and sprinkle each on location. Covered in cinnamon, coconut, or crushed almond; you can choose your topping and what filling you want smeared within, if any. Nutella or lemon available for extra.

The combination of the shredded coconut and lemon was both refreshing and tropical. The lemon filling was especially strong, like what you would get in a lemon meringue pie, but without the sweetness of the meringue to balance out the tartness. I also didn’t like the texture of the jagged, dried coconut contrasting the chewy dough. I prefer the chimney cake as is: warm dough baked golden brown.

Although, I couldn’t say no to getting the Aurora exclusive version. Their cinnamon and sugar coated chimney cake, dipped topped first into melted white chocolate and made more festive with a generous dusting of red and green sprinkles. Thankfully you only get a quarter of it in chocolate, as it was fairly sweet for my tastes.

There are many more food trucks to explore at Aurora, these were just the handful that had exclusive menu items worth bringing your attention too. I highly suggest making a night of it. Coming early for dinner, followed by enjoying the glowing lights as the sun sets early, then looping back for a drink to warm up to, or a sweet treat to go.

I didn’t spend too much time exploring the grounds, but did notice a few changes advertised on their social media page like face painting and new vendors to shop with. And today, their popular rainbow light tunnel was transformed into a different interactive experience. Now in shades of blue with a smoke machine, the lights dance and strobe to the beat of the music playing overhead. But still just as much of a photo op. So for those who have already visited once, they are keeping it fresh with new reasons to stop by again. And keep in mind, they are only around for two more weeks, shuttering down for the season on January 5th, 2020.

For what else you can expect from this winter wonderland extravaganza, checkout my recap of all the performances and photos ops during my first time around.

Aurora Winter Festival at the PNE

AURORA
2901 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5K 5J1
(604) 253-2311

Aurora Winter Festival

LUZIA, Cirque du Soleil 2019

I cannot believe I have yet to watch a “Cirque du Soleil” performance. I mean, I have been to Vegas a handful of times, where several hotels host nightly Cirque shows. And every year their white tents get erected by Main Street skytrain station. But I guess the thought of a steep ticket price has kept me away until now. But honestly it is fairly affordable as a little indulgence. You only need to purchase your ticket on the right day, for the right day. We choose a slower night and took advantage of their Black Friday sale, to only have to pay $89 per second row seat tickets. And in actuality you want to sit further from the stage to be able to take in more, and that lowers the price.

Tickets don’t come with any instructions, and for first timers, we did spend some time trying to find the entrance. Not to mention we were late, unsure whether the time listed was the start time, or the time which the doors opened for seating.We made our way past security and their commercial trailers, and wandered into the largest tent. Two entrances funnelled traffic left or right based on your purchased seats.

Inside, the foyer has several booths offering food and drink, and of course souvenir merchandise for purchase. The lot of it themed in Mexican patterns and motifs with rainbow paper garlands, cartoon luchadors, and photographs of lush greenery. All of which spoke to the theme of “LUZIA”.

As taken from their website, “LUZIA takes you to an imaginary Mexico, like in a waking dream, where light quenches the spirit and rain soothes the soul”. Inspired by Mexico, the show combines high flying and death-defying acrobatics with the vibrant culture of Mexico. For those interested, I highly recommend taking in the show before they take down the tents on December 29th. And right now for the holidays they are offering 25% off tickets, on select days.

We did arrive late, so had to wait for the first set to finish before being guided to our seats by the usher. With targeted flashlights he lit the walkway and ensured we were safe and sound in our centre, second row seats. And the help was necessary, the aisle in between each row is narrow. You cannot get in or out without those around you getting up and out of their seats. This was reason one for me not wanting to drink during the performance, having to leave mid way for the toilet. Reason two was the actual lengthy lines for said toilets. The washrooms weren’t porto-potties, but they were located out doors in the rain and cold. And for those who had to go, they spent the entire intermission in queue waiting their turn. I can see why the intermission was 30 minutes. And all this will be the reason why I would look into the VIP package next year. Those premium tickets come with access to a VIP lounge, and I assume an express toilet.

Now back to our seats. We thought we would have the best in the house, being unobstructed by a sea of heads. But in actuality you want a seat further away from the stage, to avoid having to crank your head back and up. I suggest the ones in section 200, row H. These offer the largest amount of leg room, as it is an actual walk way in front of you. Plus you are able to take in the entire expanse of the stage, to not have to keep looking left or right, in order to not miss anything in your peripheral. Whereas our front row seats were so tightly packed side by side, that there was no place to store our over sized jackets and purses. And my guest had her neighbour practically sitting on her lap.

As for the actual show. I will be briefly recap the scenes, but not to worry my words won’t spoil anything for you. There is nothing like seeing the following live. And without the ability to use my phone to capture it in photo or video, I was fully able to immerse myself in the performance.

The first act was a lively showcase of acrobats dressed as birds. They ran and flapped their feathers on moving conveyor belts, built in to the stage floor. Their set had them flying through the air, and leaping through varying sizes of hoops.

Next, we were introduced to the entire “LUZIA” assembly as they gathered on stage. Live singing, musical instruments, and prancing commenced. They all wore colourful costumes that looked as though they came from a time period once upon ago, far far away. Suspenders and bowler hats, Mary janes and apron dresses; dapper in linen and silk. A few were dressed as animals with shells and tails, fur and scales. All very elaborate.

Following this, everyone left the stage and a dancer was propelled into the air by her three 3 dance partners. They made tossing her, swinging her like jump rope, and passing her between one another look fluid.

After, two women came to the stage and did things with large metal hula hoops that I didn’t think was possible. All while an acrobat was lowered from the ceiling, twirling while balancing on a bar. Mid set rain fell from the ceiling (a motif that would reappear a few more times). The performers continue to spin and dance, embarrassing the falling water like you would a warm rainfall. Be warned, the front row does get a little sprinkling.

In between sets the water was cleared with mops and what looked like a decorative lawn mower being pushed over puddles. And instead of hiding the clean up, an entertainer was brought out to distract the audience from it. Like the rest of the show, no words were spoken. Communication was done using a whistle and hand gestures. And with an inflatable ball and crowd participation, he brought the tent to laughter.

The tight rope walker charmed on his slack rope. The premise was he was trying to impress a a girl, as he balanced on a wooden board and tube, stood on his hands, and flipped and flopped around with ease.

The soccer ball tricks were playfully done. Bouncing, balancing, and even breakdancing. One of the athletes was pregnant, and doing a fine job keeping up with her male counter part. Here, the water returned and the whole team took to it with joyous excitement.

To which, our humorous, whistle blowing entertainer came back with a comedy routine. It was based around him trying to capture water in his flask. Although he found himself unable to keep up with the playful stream of liquid.

Then our songstress came back. She sang a deeply moving melody in Spanish. And as she bellowed, the steady stream of falling water she stood beside, began falling in patterns. You were able to make our images of stars, hearts, birds, and fish. A visual treat for the eyes and the ears. Then to close out the first act, the entire cast came back out to help finish the song with gusto.

We spent the performance not drinking, so were able to use our 30 minutes exploring their souvenir shop. Butterfly wings, soccer balls, light up wands, and themed tees and hoodies. Most memorable was the bedazzled skull purse for over $300.

When time, we reassembled by the stage and were welcomed back to act 2 by 3 costumed cacti posing like tourists with flash photography. They led the way for a collection of DescriptionPapier-mâché trees that rotated around the stage. Their lack of green and wispy branches set up the dessert theme. Poles were next to join the scene with acrobats that climbed and twirled down them, jumping from one to another.

I was on the edge of my seat watching the masked luchador swinging at terrifying heights. He stood tall and flipped over the bar without flinching.

After, the show slowed down with a sensual performance utilizing a pool of water. The acrobat here was lowered from the ceiling on bungees. He utilized droplets of water in his performance by way of flicking himself and them though the air. A dynamic performance joined by three actors controlling a mechanical looking cheetah. Fully committed with the mannerisms you’d expect from a giant feline.

Next, we were serenaded with more live singing and percussion instruments, as a juggler took to the stage. He built our excitement up by juggling batons in ascending order. Starting with 3, he worked his way up to 7. I was impressed, having never seen more than 4 attempted at a time. And here he was doing 6 while running.

He amped the crowd up, only for the show to be slowed back down by the jaw dropping contortionist. This man spun and twisted his body in ways that made the audience gasp, yet stare in awe.

He was followed by more acrobats on swings. Their apparatus rotated on the stage swinging back and forth. Then one after another they all took a leap and spin of faith, landing two feet flat on the other side.

And then it ended just as it started, with everyone on stage, singing, making music, and dancing. Followed by each feature performer taking a bow.

Overall this was a great show, one I would recommend. Theatrics, edge of your seat entertainment, and a mix of stunts and humour all rolled into one fast paced show. There was plenty here, yet it left me wanting more; enough to make me want to watch all the other “Cirque” shows that will come to town, years after. Recapping it in words it sounds like a lot, but watching it in the moment it felt like it ended all too fast. My girl friend and I will definitely be making this an annual thing.

LUZIA
Plaza of Nations Marina – Lot #499
811 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2R6
https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/canada/vancouver/luzia/buy-tickets

Night Dreamer at Blue Light Studios

I didn’t know East Vancouver had its own recording studio!

The intimate space of “Blue Light Studio” serves as a place where local talent can come together to work on their projects, and get tips and insights from their fellow musicians and music makers. They are a professional, full-service recording studio with services that include Recording, Mixing, Mastering, Production, Arranging, Voice Overs, ADR, and Video Production. And all of “Blue Light’s” Producer, Engineers, and even Interns are musicians and avid music lovers. They started the studio with the desire to create an environment where artists can be comfortable, and thus are able to freely create their best music. They do this in part by upholding the highest sonic quality possible. Given that “Blue Light Studio” is co-owned by one of the owners of “Water St. Cafe”, I could see the caliber of the restaurant in several facets of this studio.

In fact they even have a bar out back, serving beer and cider by the can. This outdoor space constructed with shipping containers, and kept dry and warm for the season with plastic tarps strung up overhead, heat lamps cranked high, and a fire pit roaring with blue glass. On a warm summer’s day I can imagine this locale being popular spot. A destination to hang out at, and grab a beer with your round of darts or foosball.

But tonight with the wind chill and pattering rain, we would grab our drinks and descend back in doors. Because on this Monday we were invited down for a private performance of “Night Dreamer”. The new collaborative duo of “The Smashing Pumpkins” guitarist Jeff Schroeder and “Wam Dingis” member Mindy Song. The pair has recently released their debut EP, “Treasure”, on October 11th of this year. And have been touring in the US: Chicago, New York, and LA; and most recently Seoul, Korea promoting it. This is their first Canadian performance, and the acoustics of “Blue Light Studio” was the perfect venue to showcase their debut.

The space is a tighter fit, not meant to host large groups, but serves as an intimate venue for breakout performers to showcase their talent, and a way for music lovers to literally get up close and personal with the creators. The “main stage” is lit in blues and pinks, hues that blend in to their cut out wall with wooden features. The hardwood floor underfoot is softened with patterned carpets and worn furniture. Here, instruments and equipment sit at the ready.

We, the audience crowded around the makeshift stage in a free for all. It was tight knit as we stood shoulder to shoulder. Our position and proximity added to the experience. It felt real, raw, authentic. Nothing between us and the talent. The crowd so small and so tightly packed, that those up front were able to reach out and touch Jeff’s neon salmon coloured guitar. Furthered by the great acoustics of the studio space, the two man band sounded like six.

I am not a music critic, but I know what I liked, and I liked this. Our artists were both dressed modesty in black. Their dress code spoke to the “night” in their collective name and their message. Simplicity was the key, they didn’t need gimmicks or costumes when their music and sound resonated, vibrating to your core. Their music was melody forward with great beats. Naturally there were impressive guitar rifts and solo from Jeff. They paired well with transitional vocals of Mindy, you could hear it in her voice: she was really putting in work at being acknowledged. The blend of guitar and vocals lends to a dabbling in the electronica, rock and pop genres. A smooth sound as they are blended into one. I would listen to this while studying, reading, or during a peaceful car ride cross country. This was easy listening, yet if you cranked it up loud enough, you were able to bop to it. They definitely had the small, intimate crowd bobbing their heads and twitching hips. Tonight we heard music that has yet to be recorded, and songs that were produced in Canada

In between said songs Mindy engaged the audience with stories of their travels, reception, and inspiration behind a few of their songs. Like “24” and “Heatwave”. They ended their set with “Taste”, with her reminding the crowd to check out their video when it drops on December 10t, 2019 on YouTube. It was filmed in an abandon airplane hanger. Once their performance ended to a warm reception, the audience then had time to engage with “Night Dreamer”, asking questions in a Q & A”.

We were also given a once over of the closed door studio, and had the opportunity to sit behind the big chair. There was a joke made about each studio needing a lava lamp. It holds up. In short, I highly recommend stopping by the studio for their next break out talent/performer. This was such a unique experience and I fully enjoy supporting local. For more on show dates and times, and how to get tickets, visit the link below.

BLUE LIGHT STUDIO
1839 Franklin Street, Vancouver BC
(778) 227-3414
https://bluelightstudio.ca/

Uno Gelato, gelato making class

I have always wondered how ice cream parlours stay afloat during their off season. How do they attract bodies in, and customers by, to enjoy their cold treats when the weather doesn’t drive the craving? This one local ice cream parlour is diversifying, in a clever way. They are offering gelato making classes to supplement their sales. Not only does this get customers through the door, but for all who attend the class, they walk away with a new found appreciation for their product, and a willingness to come back for more in the future. This was also my first time visiting the newer ice cream shoppe, and what a great first introduction this was to it.

Located on West Broadway the shop is marked with their very own, branded, portal ice cream caddy. I have experienced their gelato when this popped up at a handful of events I attended. Past it is their all glass store front. The space is brightly lit, simple in only their use of their logo to decorate the white walls. Our class was held on the table upfront. Behind it is their gelato counter. You look up for their current menu, 12 flavours on rotation. 12 that we would later try as part of the class. I especially liked the saying that was splashed across the back of their open kitchen, it spoke to their gelato being, “simply divine”. They pride themselves on serving a “Cow to cone” product, working with local farmers and suppliers when they can, a fact that sets them apart. For example, the lemon in their lemon sorbet can’t be grown in BC, so these they import.

The class takes places every Thursday, and will run through to February 2020. And if it is popular enough, it might run through into spring. The cost is $50 per person and the class is kept as an intimate 8, the smaller class size allows for a more hands on experience. As much as possible student participation is encouraged. You help measure, pour, stir, and churn. Playing a hand in making next day’s batch. Tonight we would get a behind the scenes look at the making of their yuzu sorbet and a chocolate brownie with burnt caramel sauce. For the full run down of the class, check out my vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Or continue reading for the highlight reel.

After a few introductions to our seasoned chefs with over 10 years of gelato-making experience, our group of 8 was led to the recesses of their kitchen to learn a little more about what goes into their gelato. We got to look at and to try some of the premium ingredients that went into their gelato. We sampled various sugars, syrups, and even their homemade burnt caramel sauce. They use organic and local as much as possible, in order to guarantee that you can taste the freshness. For example, the hazelnuts for their hazelnut gelato comes from a local farmer who roasts each himself, and then send the nuts to “Uno Gelato” the very next day.

As a unit of helping hands we began by measuring the necessary ingredients, with accuracy using an electric scale. They all went into a large plastic bucket to be blended together with an electric drill-like apparatus. 60 litres per batch is made, which are considered “Micro batches”.

This liquid then gets poured into a mixer that not only churns the “batter”, but freezes it into the gelato we know. It looked like magic as the liquid turned to solid, and it built up on the sides of the stainless steel vat. And then when it was at the desired consistency we helped our chefs scoop it up with a giant spatula. Here they are either kept cool, or finished off with additional ribbons of caramel, and/or chunks of chocolate stirred in.

And while we waited we were treated to a gelato tasting, a scooped sample of each of their offerings in cups over a special placemat; much like you would see at a wine tasting.

• There was the tart “Passion fruit” sorbet with fruit from Columbia.
• The “Very cherry” was slightly sour with its namesake fruit and almost bitter with 70% chocolate from Italy.
• “Akbar Mashti” is a popular flavour amongst the Persian community, who have given the feed back that “Uno’s” rendition of this Persian dessert is exactly as they remember it to be. Complex with flavours of rose water, saffron, and pistachio.
• The “Mint chocolate chip” is made with real mint leaves. The ones that are bright green uses artificial flavouring. I liked the way the
Stracciatella chocolate melts so nicely into the gelato and the freshness of the mint balances out the sweetness.
• The “Salted caramel” was their most popular flavour. Having tasted our way through what goes into a batch of it, I can see why.
• The “Pumpkin pecan cheese cake with crumble” was their seasonal flavour, next month’s will be a tahitian vanilla with pistachio. The pumpkins used for this pecan cheesecake are from the Fraser Valley, and the crumble within it is made from scratch.
• “White coffee” is the one I liked the most, enough to take a pint home with me. I don’t drink coffee, but love its flavour in ice cream. They have partnered with “Milan coffee” to use their local roasted beans, which are infused for 24 hours to extract their flavour. And despite a stronger coffee nuance, there is very little caffeine in this. Overall this was a more mild coffee ice cream with the addition of milk to dilute it, much like what creamer does to a black cup of coffee.
• The “Chocolate banana” was made with organic banana from Ecuador and Dutch chocolate shavings. It tasted spot on.
• The “New fashion chocolate” is made with Dutch cocoa powder. It tasted like a fudgesicle, and gave me flashbacks of my childhood.
• The “Midnight chocolate sorbet” is vegan friendly. It is made with water, but is so creamy that you think it could be made with milk and cream. It contains 4 kinds of chocolate for extra richness.

When our ice cream was ready we were then taught how to hand curl cones to go within it. The premade batter gets pressed in a waffle maker, the resulting sheet of waffle gets curled into a cone using a twist handle tool. Their cones are available in original, a black charcoal, and a brown sugar cone. The class ends with everyone having one each, and enjoying a scoop of their choosing with it.

In short, this is a fun event for any gelato enthusiast and a different activity to take part in, if you are looking for something to do on a Thursday night. For additional details on how you can sign up for the next class, visit “Uno Gelato’s” link below.

UNO GELATO
2579 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 3T3
(604) 733-5884
https://www.unogelato.com/

Evalina Beauty Launch

I am a big proponent of supporting local business, and even more so when their product or service comes with a great message. And that is definitely what “Evalina” is bringing to the Vancouver beauty and wellness scene.

Based out of Vancouver, BC, Samantha Legge created “Evaline Beauty” with the goal “ To celebrate and uplift women for who they are, as they are”. And tonight we were invited down to the “Vancouver Club” to learn more about her and her new cosmetics line. We mixed and mingle in the lavish space, and became brand fans through a very honest meet and greet with sparkling wine, Rose, and pink canapés.

In Hebrew, “Evalina” means “life”, and “I want this cosmetics company to positively impact women’s lives”, says Legge. Her intention is that her company does good. On top of providing the community with a quality makeup line, her and her team also want to champion women, and anyone who identifies as a woman; to help them feel better about themselves through self-acceptance. “Our goal isn’t to create makeup that transforms you. We want to highlight your natural beauty—not hide it.” (As taken from the press release).

Designed and developed in Vancouver, Canada, “Evalina Beauty” boasts a luxurious line of lip glosses, face creams, and shadows. Each product is paraben-free, cruelty-free, and designed to feel lightweight. Everything is “tested by a team of influencers and makeup artists to ensure it is long-lasting, high-quality and, most importantly, something we love and use every day”. “It’s not about covering up, it’s all about bringing out natural beauty and is designed to let the wearer’s own unique features and colouring shine through”.

Between all her uplifting messages of self acceptance and love for one another, Legge revealed where her strength and determination towards “Evalina” came from. In a raw and emotional account she revealed her own hardships in escaping a destructive marriage. And while she acknowledged her means, support, and ability to remove herself from the situation; she recognized that not everyone can. So to support those mothers and children needing to escaping their current living situation, and needing help to become financially stable to do so. “Evalina Beauty” has dedicated a portion of all their sales to be donated to charities that support women and children in need, to help provide them safe transition housing. Out of the hundreds of makeup companies and brands trying to make a name for themselves, this message of giving to some of the most vulnerable, is what makes “Evalina” different, and ones to watch out for.

As for the review of the actual makeup: For the most part their product is quick and easy to apply. Ideal for someone like myself, who doesn’t like putting on too much makeup, or having it take up too much of my time. Their approachable cosmetics means you don’t need the skills of a makeup artist to use “Evalina Beauty’s products”. The “Dew BB Cream” goes on like any moisturizer that you spread and rub in. Their “Precision Liquid Eyeliner” is smudge-proof and as easy to apply as drawing a line. And their “Shimmer Eyeshadow Sticks” gives you a little sparkle with a smear and a smudge of your fingers.

For a more revealing look at the current line, check out my first beauty vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Disclaimer: I have no professional experience in make up application, and don’t put on much in my day to day life. So take this for what its is: an amateur trying to review a terrific make up line, like she would anything else.

For those interested in purchasing, the current “Evalina” collection (with additional lines to launch in the near future), is only available online. (With plans for store front representation in the future). But for now you can make your online purchase with confidence knowing that they believe in and back up their cosmetics with a 100% money-back guarantee. They can do this, having worked with some of the world’s top cosmetics manufacturers in Italy, Germany, and Canada.

“Women have altered themselves forever, in whatever role we’re in,” says Legge. “I want to encourage women to be their true, authentic selves, and feel better about who the are, not change who they are—because they’re already amazing and have an intrinsic beauty.”

EVALINA
https://www.evalinabeauty.com/

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine

I am really impressed by and excited for all the new and interesting ways Science World is bringing in more guests to the dome. More than just a place for exploration, geared towards children; they are now hosting a lot more adult themed events, later in the evening as well. I especially like the ones that combine drinking with learning; and their latest venture is one such program.

For the first time this fall, Science World teamed up with five of British Columbia’s most acclaimed wineries to “uncork” the science behind their incredible wines that we enjoy. Mission Hill Family Estate, CedarCreek Estate Winery, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Martin’s Lane Winery, and Road 13 Vineyards were all on site.

The night was a self guided tour, you explored tables and chatted with vendors at your leisure. There were also 4 different seminars to take in throughout the night. Despite the limited release of tickets, the space filled up fast and lines formed quick. The conversation and queries did slow down the pouring. So for those interested in next year’s event, and will be attending with a more informative slant, I highly suggest coming by early. The goal is to hit your favourite wineries first and quick, before it gets busy with a thirsty crowd. A crowd that is here to drink at a one of a kind setting (much like myself).

At the “Mission Hill Family Estate” booth, winemaker Ben Bryant showcased wines from their award winning: 2019 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year.

Winemarker Taylor Whelan was here representing “CedarCreek Estate Winery” and their three decades of winemaking history in the Okanagan. He was speaking to their estate-grown, organically farmed wines.

 

“CheckMate Artisanal Winery” and winemaker Philip McGahan spoke to harnessing the effects of climate change to produce Canada’s first-ever, perfect, 100-point score for a table wine.

“Martin’s Lane Winery’s winemaker Shane Munn uses gravity to produce the exceptional wines that have captured the ‘World’s Best Pinot Noir’ trophy in London.

At the “Road 13 Vineyards” table, General Manager Joe Luckhurst was pouring their award-winning wines, as the winner of the 2018 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’.

And together, through seminars, tastings, and hands-on activities, these renowned winemakers and viticulturists showcased the science, craftsmanship, and terroir that make Okanagan wines so extraordinary.

And because what is drink without food? – to pair with all your drink tasters, chefs from two of the region’s best estate restaurants: “Terrance” (Mission Hill) and “Home Block” (CedarCreek) were on hand, serving samples of their cuisine, assembled to order.

From “Terrance” there was a “Wild boar shoulder and pine mushroom” dish with white bean and coriander. For the vegetarians they left out the boar and the dish ate like a cassoulet. There also offered a sweet corn and scallop chowder, but unfortunately I missed out on capturing and tasting it.

From “Homeblock” they were assembling a “pork, veal, and beef polpette” with orzo, parmesan, and gremolata. Saucy and comforting, it made for a wonderful pair with all the reds I was drinking.

I really liked the “potato, comte, sage, and onion tart”, finished off with truffled estate honey. Flaky pastry with a fragrant centre. In hindsight, I should have went back for seconds.

For something more refreshing, the “seared and marinated halloumi” ate like a salad. Mixed greens tossed with beets, blood orange, fennel, olives, and parsley; and finished off with a generous slab of the semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

And for those looking for a place to rest, there was a sparkling wine lounge to relax in. A series of couches over looking a bar, with multiple bottles of sparkling from various wineries. I just wished there was a seminar or exhibition here, something more to speak to this specific subsection of wine.

For more action attendees could bid on a silent auction, test their taste buds through blind tastings, and get their hands dirty with science activities developed by the Science World team.

But as for the seminars, they started on the hour, every hour. We were only able to take in 3 out of the 4 and following is the recap of each. “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine”, “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine”, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”, and “Terroir: The Science of Soil”.

At “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine” we were given a crash course in blending our own mixed red, by one of “Mission Hill’s” wine markers. She declared it the most exciting part of her job. She gets to take all different kinds of components and meld them together to make the best product she can. Blending helps to create distinctive wines with complex textures and flavours that reflect specific varietals and vineyards. We learned about the decisions that are made during blending, then got to try it ourselves, first had.

Seated in a classroom setting we were each given four reds to work with. The Cab sab was described as a structural wine. The Syrah a fragrant wine with blueberries and spice notes; it is the 2nd most used, dominant varietal. The Cab franc had fine tenants and herbal notes with crush herbs. And the merlot made for a good base with its use of beautiful red fruit.

The challenge was to recreate their “2016 Quatrain” blend through mixing and tasting. So with a syringe and a beaker we sent about siphoning our mix, taking into consideration that different vineyard sites will taste different, and that the barrels used will also effect the outcome. Both points we would dive more into through our next two seminars.

At “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine” seminar we dove into the science of aging and the use of vessels to do it. Wine changes continuously as it moves from grape to bottle, and even more so within the bottle. We learned how the various techniques and vessels used to age it, as well as the passage of time, affects the resulting wine. Then, what causes the distinct aromas and flavours that characterizes a fine wine. When preparing wine and allowing it to ferment, your choice in vessel and its composition makes a big difference. Stainless steel, French oak, concrete, or ceramic and clay. How long the wine stays inside, and if it will spend additional time within another vessel after, makes a difference.

Our hosts and expert wine makers from “CheckMate Artisan winery” and “Cedar Creek” spoke to their favourite techniques for fermentation and shared their personal experiences. How each vessel used needs to be breathable so that gas can be exchanged. And that the tighter the grain is in wood, the more it slows down the oxygen exchange. This leads to a longer and slower aging process, which also tends to be more costly. We also learned that the main difference between a concrete “egg” or steel tub is temperature. Concrete can absorb heat, leading to moderate fermentation. Its lowered temperature allows more time for fermentation extraction. And the difference between aging wine in barrels or concrete is tradition and how much carbon dioxide is able to seep in. With 4 inches of concrete, air is slower to seep into wine when using a concrete vessel. Therefore, wine earns most of its flavour from maturing in a wooden barrel.

We then got to try the difference that said vessels made. As we sipped and swirled, we learned about “aromatic retentions”, and getting the flavour of the fruit you put into it. Our next round of tasters had us trying more fermented wines using wild yeast. The first was pure fermentation in stainless steel, which does not have a flavour to rub off on to the wine. The second glass had the same wine and grapes, but it tasted much different due to the influences from the barrel that was used to complete its fermenting on.

Then it was off to our last seminar of the night. “Terroir” is the “The Science of Soil”. Ancient volcanic and glacial soils, combined with the unique climate of the Okanagan Valley, makes it one of the “last great undiscovered wine regions the world”. And here, we were able to learn how the multitude of soil types found throughout the valley impacts the vines. Thus resulting in incredible wines with distinct character. For this workshop, both of our presenters travelled all the way from the Okanagan, where they work and live out of Kelowna. Collectively they are responsible for grapes grown on the northern part of Okanagan, Naramata, and Lake Country.

We discussed different soil types, and since this was a hands on seminar, we got to touch jars of it, rolling fine grains and rocky chunks between our fingers. And as we handled dirt we learned about the difference it can make to your crop between sand, silt, and clay. Each has a different mineral make up, which the roots take with them, up into the fruit. Ie: the soil found closer to lakes is of finer particles. The ground at higher elevations is more rock. And a good glass of Pinot noir can reveal how good it is and where it is grown through its taste.

Sadly we didn’t have the time to capture the last seminar on our list, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”. This workshop was a discussion on precision organic farming and the use of state-of-the-art technology. It spoke to how technology is affecting traditional practices, and creating an improved crop as a result. Ie: drones in the vineyard.

In conclusion, this was a great event and one that I hope they repeat again next year, and the years to come. “Uncorked” effectively brought the Okanagan to the city, with a showcase that spoke to the bounty of BC’s wine country. Plus, consumers these days are very concerned about how their food and drinks are being produced and what goes into each. So here, Science World offered the platform and the opportunity to learn more about wine; allowing you to appreciate your next glass more. I highly recommend attending next year’s “Uncorking”, and making an effort to sit in on all of the seminars if you can. Not only do you get to learn so much more in a classroom setting. But they are also not short on wine, meaning you need not push your way through a crowd to get some.

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine
Thursday, November 14
7–10 pm
Science World at TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver

Tickets $89 from scienceworld.ca/uncorked

The Golden Owl Awards 2019

Tonight I was invited down to the “Rocky Mountaineer Station” for the 12th annual “Golden Owl Awards”, an award dedicated to the hospitality industry.

Its origins are with the “Vancouver Nightlife Awards”, starting in 2004. From there it steadily grew to become “the most anticipated industry event in Vancouver”, (as taken from their website). And in 2016, it evolved into what it is today, “The Golden Owl Awards”, highlighting the best of Vancouver’s hospitality industry. The award allows the industry leaders and trailblazers to recognize one another through a night of heavy drinking and playful poking of fun towards one another. It also brings together many of Vancouver’s hospitality owners, managers, and staff; under one roof for a dressed up and festive evening.

The Golden Owl Hospitality Awards winners are voted on by both public and industry panel voters. Public voters represent a 40% weight and the industry panel has as 60% weigh in. Industry Panelists are not allowed to vote in any categories that are in a conflict of interest with. This panel was first brought in for the 2012 showcase, after they felt it was needed to curb the “popularity” vote. Having a panel that determines each winner with a 60% weight curbs the ability for nominees to campaign. Therefore those who win do so because they focus on being the best at their jobs, rather than campaigning for votes from the public.

The rules to being nominated are as follows. (All taken from their official Golden Owl website)

  • All establishments must have been open for at least ONE year, or if they have moved into a new establishment, their previous establishment under the same name must have been open for at least ONE year, EXCEPT for Best New Destination.
  • Best New Destination must have opened between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • All establishments or businesses must be located within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • All Events must have taken place between September 15, 2018 and September 19, 2018
  • All Managers, Bar Personalities and Breakout Artist of the Year must live within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), and Artists must have performed at least three (3) times within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • Managers and Bar Personalities must have employed between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • Social Event of the Year is not a music based festival or based around a band, DJ or a group of entertainers and had a minimum attendance of 750 people.
  • DJ Event of the Year is an actual DJ performance, not an overall music festival, though the DJ performance can have taken place at a music festival, night club, or other venue.
  • All establishment nominees in the following categories: Best Late Night Lounge, Best Hotel Lounge and Best Pub must serve food, beer and liquor.
    Best Atmosphere includes restaurants, lounges, pubs, brewery tasting lounges and serves food and/or beer and liquor.
  • Best New Destination includes restaurants, brewery tasting lounges, hotel lounges and nightclubs.
  • Best Subculture Venue has a focus on culture, be it music, food or beyond.
  • Best Live Music Venue can be a multi-function venue, but has a primary focus of booking live music acts to perform that serves beer and/or liquor.
  • Best Pub does not charge a cover for entry except for special events.

Guests and nominates are invited into the open space to mix and mingle before the award show. The red carpet is rolled out and attendees in their glitziest finery are photographed against a back drop of sponsors.

Art work is on display and there are corners and high top tables for guests to linger at. Event mascots, the “Owlets” greet guests and pose for photos, in light up masks and golden body suits.

Deeper inside the open space with its valeted ceilings and sky high windows, guests are able to roam the room freely. There are a handful of cash bars and liquor brands offering samples to help you loosen up and to set the mood. Take a shot of “Ole Smoky Tennessee moonshine”, try Nude’s latest low calorie drink, or mix Red Bull’s newest seasonal flavour into a cocktail with a help yourself toppings bar.

To mark the occasion a photo booth allowed you to take a photo and customize its frame.

And as VIPs we were given access to the VIP lounge that included coat check, and booths to sample from drink tickets. Behind the partition local beer and spirit companies traded tasters in a plastic reusable cups for vouchers; like “Phillips Brewing” and “Long Table Distillery”.

There was also a seating area with geometric furnishings to linger on. When time, we all gathered before the stage for the main event. Our emcee of the night began by poking fun at the industry’s stereotypes, and followed it up with the commemoration of establishments that have closed down to big disappointment this year.

Then one by one all the categories, their nominees, and winners were declared by a host of presenters. Winners walked to the stage to receive their wooden plaque, and say a few words. And when the show was done everyone piled into party buses to continue the festivities and celebrations well into the night, downtown. I wasn’t able to linger all that much longer, as it was a Monday and I had work the next day. But for the industry and many tonight, this Monday evening was the lead in, into their weekend.

The following is a recap of the award winners and the runner ups. But for more on how you can vote for next year’s nominees, and may be even attend 2020’s gala night, visit their website at https://www.goldenowlawards.com/

BEST ATMOSPHERE
The Parlour
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST HOTEL LOUNGE
The Lobby Lounge – Fairmont Pacific Rim
Runner Up: Reflections – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST PUB
Alibi Room
Runner Up: The Blackbird Public House

BEST BARTENDING PERSONALITY
Katie Ingram – Elisa
Runner Up: Robyn Gray – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST LATE NIGHT LOUNGE
The Keefer
Runner Up: Granville Room

BEST SUBCULTURE VENUE
Open Studios
Runner Up: The Beaumont Studios

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
The Commodore Ballroom
Runner Up: Fortune Sound Club

BEST NEW DESTINATION
Hotel Belmont
Runner Up: Como Taperia

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
James Langford-Smith – Kissa Tanto
Runner Up: Geordie Howes – Fortune

NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR
Fortune Sound Club
Runner Up: Hello Goodbye

BREAKOUT ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Manila Grey
Runner Up: JUNK!

DJ EVENT OF THE YEAR
Skratch Bastid – Bastid’s BBQ
Runner Up: Skrillex – Contact

SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Runner Up: Deighton Cup

BEST PATIO EXPERIENCE
Reflections – The Garden Terrace
Runner Up: The Local Gastown

BEST DISTILLERY EXPERIENCE
Long Table Distillery
Runner Up: Sons of Vancouver Distillery

BEST SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Chambar
Runner Up: Bao Bei

BEST COMEDY EXPERIENCE
Yuk Yuks
Runner Up: Sunday Service Fox Cabaret

BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE
Download Chicken Shack
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE
The Shameful Tiki Room
Runner Up: Keefer Bar

BEST BRUNCH EXPERIENCE
Medina
Runner Up: Jam Cafe Beatty Street

BEST BREWERY EXPERIENCE
Brassneck Brewery
Runner Up: Strathcona Beer Company

RESTAURANT GROUP OF THE YEAR
Toptable Restaurant Group
Runner Up: Kitchen Table Restaurants

Cats & Dogs Exhibit and Apollo 11: First Steps In IMAX, at Science World

Starting from September 22nd to January 5th Science World is giving you a real life look at the secret lives of pets, though you cats and dogs. Their newest exhibition: “Cats & Dogs” is the first, large-scale exhibition dedicated to these animals. It reviews everything we know scientifically, sociologically and culturally about both canines and felines, and makes it palate-able and easy to digest for even the littlest of learners.

 

As taken from the press release, “The science of animal behaviour has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, overturning a number of preconceived ideas about cats and dogs regarding how they demonstrate their skills, awareness and intelligence every day.” This interactive exhibit gives you a look into their psyche, while getting you moving. You can test your agility against dogs with a jumping and running/dodging challenge. Or learn how to better identify either species with a “guess who” style game. And you can even quiz one another on your learned animal trivia with a board game. You will also “learn about peculiar and distinct traits found in a huge variety of dog breeds from the tiniest Chihuahuas to the tallest Great Danes, and cats ranging from the lush, furry Persians to the sleek, hairless Sphynx”.

Fun for the whole family and a topic that is relatable to so many of us who either own a cat or a dog.

And starting November 23rd, visitors to Science World can also take in their newest IMAX experience: “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition”. This is special giant-screen version of the critically acclaimed, theatrical documentary Apollo 11, but is not the full-length feature.

It recalls the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin through first person accounts from the astronauts, as well as all the men and women stationed at NASA. Engineers, scientists, and mechanics working tirelessly for the success of the mission, and the safe return of their spacemen. The IMAX film contains never before seen, actual footage of the space mission, that saw Americans being the first men on the moon. The very one where they declared so memorably, “this is one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind”.

The documentary’s giant screen release is well timed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of NASA’s first lunar landing, and features the newly discovered 70mm footage and audio recordings from NASA and the National Archives. It allows audiences to experience one of humanity’s greatest achievements, over 50 years ago, in a more intimate and revealing way.

Having not read up on or watched much of NASA’s historic lunar landing, this offered me the best way to get all caught up. And in my eyes, it also was helpful in debunking the conspiracy that all the above was just a hoax.

For more on either of this season’s newest attractions, visit Science World’s website for ticket sales and additional details. https://www.scienceworld.ca/

A Royal Romance, Vancouver Theatre Sports League

The weather is turning, the lights are out, and Christmas is right around the corner. So leave it to the “Vancouver Theatre Sports League” to regale you with yule-time spirit and laughter in their newest improv series, “Merry Kissmas: A Royal Romance”!

Available from November 20th to December 24th, we attended their first weekend release on a Saturday night. I have attended other improv shows here before, but never on a weekend. And I must say, the day of the week certainly does make a different to your experience. The energy of a Saturday night changed the dynamic of the show. It was a sold out performance, so already there was more energy to feed off of, more suggestions were being shouted out, and a greater number of laughs came after each punch line. Although what stayed the same, was the very little number of hands being raised to come up on stage to participate in person.

It is also worth nothing that in house bar, the “Neil Macrae Barl was busy. Show goers arrived early and partook in a couple of drinks before the doors to the theatre opened. Wine was being poured into tumblers, beers were being cracked open, and their popcorn machine had the room smelling of melted butter. With bottles in buckets at tables and glasses in the hands of the audience, everyone was here for a rowdy good time.

A couple more than others, including one audience member that volunteered to help out with a skit, only to be not sober enough to understand what was expected of him. He was suppose to make sound effects into a microphone, but kept adding commentary over what the actors were trying to say. From there any volunteers were checked for sobriety. As a watcher, it was great to be able to witness the improv players on stage being able to take everything this drunk man was throwing at them, and to incorporate it into their performance with a laugh. It was disruptive for them and the rest of the audience, but we all took it on the chin and was able to joke about it subsequently. Naturally any show you attend won’t be exactly like this, that is the beauty of improv. Improv gives you the ability to watch as many of the same shows as you like, and for each one to be different, depending on the performers and suggestions given out that day.

As for the rest of the performance, the first half of the show featured improv games with wintery themes. The actors acted out the same scene as it took place in different countries. They made up dances based on winter time activities. And gave up control of their body as an audience member moved them about the stage like a living doll.

After the intermission and more wine, came the second half of the show was inspired by Hallmark Christmas movies. Theses movies are cliché and cheesy, but feel good with plenty of love and happily ever afters. Here, one audience member joined a multi scene story that played out a proposal and royal wedding before our eyes.

Overall, this is another great production by “Vancouver Theatre Sports League”, and a great way to shake off those winter blues. Improv is great for some laughs, or as a date night option, and with its wintery themes, a great way to get into the holiday spirit. For ticket information, visit their website listed below.

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Aurora Winter Festival at the PNE

From now to January 5th, 2020 “Aurora”, the winter festival is back for its second year in Vancouver. Although this time they are bigger and better with a brand new location at PNE’s fair grounds. The increase in square foot means additional room for more light displays, event spacing, food stalls, and marketplace vendors.

My trick with these sort of activities is to come early, blitz through everything, take all your people-free photo, then go through it all again after, to better take things in, the second time around. I also suggest bringing a friend to help you take those completely necessary photos with your favourite light feature. The following is what you can expect, but naturally there is nothing like exploring it in person.

With so much to see and do, I highly suggest locating the posted event map, and taking a photo of it to reference later. You definitely don’t want to miss any of it, each corner is a difference feature.

The most iconic of them is actually the gateway into “Aurora”, a giant glacial iceberg that you walk under.

And a short distance away was their giant Christmas tree, that you too can walk under.

To your right is the souvenir shop. I highly recommend stopping by here first before venturing any further, they have a great selection of accessories that light up. These make fun props and unique souvenirs to mark your time at “Aurora”. LED swords, wands, and thunder sticks. And to keep you dry and warm (as most of this is outdoors), they have umbrellas, toques and gloves for sale. I grabbed the latter, which too was lit with LEDs. Each finger tip got a dedicated bulb and with a push of a button you could switch it between colours and strobing or flashing patterns.

To your left is their carnival section with all ages rides like a miniature coaster, spinning strawberries, and the Ferris wheel crowning it all. Here, you can also play games to win prizes.

The rest of the property is for your to explore, to wherever your eyes take you next. If you are looking to capture a glimpse of Santa, be sure to check the times listed at the entrance of his inflated snow dome. He arrives and tells the kids a story with the help of his elf.

There is also a dome for puzzles and colouring, a quite space to take a seat with your young family. For something a bit more active little hands can turn to a winter wonderland take on tic tac toe and checkers, and a black lit neon ring toss using the antlers of wooden reindeers.

Nearby you can test your dexterity with a sling shot game. Aiming and tossing plastic balls towards inflated snowmen.

There is a candy cane lane with giant lollipops, macrons that you can sit on, and human-sized cupcakes. The sugary path of pink leads you to a giant gingerbread house at the end.

All the staff are dressed like elven folk bundled up warm in cloaks, outfitted with pointed ears. They guide the way and help you take photos, should you ask. They also have a rotation of characters ready for photo ops. Like the friendly yeti and the beautiful snow queen. When she is not in, you can test out her throne in her ice castle.

Walk along wooded paths discovering moments created in LEDs. Floral life and wild life brightening up the night.

The feature that will capture everyone’s attention is the tunnel of lights, a colour changing techno-coloured experience in rainbow.

There is also a yellow glowing tunnel with giant beers and the reindeers towing Santa’s sleigh around it.

By the gnome village is a talking tree. You can take a seat as he recalls the “Night Before Christmas”.

You can take a wild ride on their giant slide. Which comes with a bird’s eye view of the event.

Or rent some skates and take a spin around their rink. For those who are less confident on blades, you can loan one of their plastic animals with handles, to better support yourself.

And if get hungry there are a handful of food trucks to choose from. Order poutine, sandwiches, perogies, or stir fry; and enjoy it in their communal covered area.

But if you are looking for somewhere warmer to eat dinner at, check out the drinking hall with plenty of benches, and the occasional live band performing holiday tunes on stage.

And there are plenty of vendors offering hot beverage and/or spiked drinks. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are great ways to keep warm. We indulged in their feature “disco” cocktail, served in a blinking blue globe, this blue punch is available with or without alcohol. Best enjoyed on their light up dance floor.

If you are looking to check a few names off your Christmas shopping list? “Aurora” also had a market place with local, artisan, goods for sale.

Given how much time you can spend wandering the park and revisiting your favourite moments, you can come back a visit multiple times before the end of the season. “Aurora Winter Festival” runs from November 22nd to January 5th. For tickets and hours of operation visit their website using the link below.

Aurora Winter Festival

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