Christmas display an attraction in its own right



David Gonczol/for metro ottawa


Michelle Dilauro, Nicolette Di Benedetto, Lindsey Goulding and Michele Goulding, from left, share the warmth of their candles during the Christmas Lights Across Canada ceremony last night at Parliament Hill.


When the weather outside is frightful, there’s still an outdoor tourist attraction in Ottawa that keeps its appeal.

Regardless of the weather, the first big tourist draw of winter is expected to bring thousands to the nation’s capital over coming weeks to witness the spectacle of the Christmas Lights Across Canada event, which launched last night on Parliament Hill.

To the tourism industry, the event is welcomed as one that maintains visitor traffic during Ottawa’s coldest and most miserable months. With over 300,000 lights artfully decorating 70-plus sites, the event could one day be comparable to Niagara Falls’ holiday light displays in terms of drawing visitors, said Jantine Van Kregten, a director with Ottawa Tourism.

While Tourism Ottawa doesn’t track how many people specifically visit for the lights, Van Kregten said it enhances the wintertime experience for visitors, whether they’re here for a weekend getaway or to see friends.

“It’s a great way to kick off the cold weather season,” she said.

Christmas Lights Across Canada definitely draws people to Ottawa in December and January, said National Capital Commission spokeswoman Chantal Comeau.

“One of our objectives is to encourage people to come out in the winter and discover the capital region in a new way,” she said.

The NCC started the program in 1985 to add life to the capital region because winter is colder and darker, said Comeau.

While the lights are easy on the eyes, they’re also light on the environment, with the display featuring 200,000 light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which use 80 per cent less energy than traditional lights.

When out and about, people should note the colour combinations, which were chosen specifically for the sites. Confederation Boulevard features red and white lights to symbolize the Canadian flag, while blue, green and mauve lights create a serene mood at the Canadian War Museum. Parliament Hill features festive gold, red and green.

The display runs from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily, until Jan. 6.

Alight at night

  • Decorated sites include all National Capital Commission buildings, government buildings along Confederation Boulevard, embassies, museums and two bridges to Gatineau.