Preview by Austin Nitschke
photo by Mabel Luong

As the largest indoor light event in or around the Edmonton area, the Enjoy Light Festival’s (ELF) awe-inspiring light displays are definitely worth checking out. Hosted at the Enjoy Centre (located on the south side of St. Albert’s Riel Drive), the ELF has over one million decorative, string LED lights–spread across over eighty thousand square feet of space. The festival runs to January 5 and is open every Monday and Thursday–Sunday, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. on Sundays). The festival is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Those who yearn for the warm, cozy, Christmas feeling in lieu of the bitter cold that accompanies outdoor light displays will be pleased to know that the entirety of the displays at the ELF are indoors, allowing attendees to admire the lights without having to endure the weather.

Arctic Circle, easily identified by the large tents styled to look like igloos, houses electric fire pits to help shake any chill that may have stubbornly clung to guests on their journey inside.  

The ELF’s incredible light displays are bound to fill the little ones with joy and amazement, but in the event the kids get bored, there is no shortage of opportunities to keep them busy. A trip to Santa’s Workshop provides a number of toys for children to interact with while they wait for their turn with Santa. Little’s Land offers a selection of three different bouncy castles, a craft section, bouncy reindeer, and a play area for children to wear off any excess energy–with ample room to run around. Children can take turns on the illuminated swings and ride the see-saws in Aurora Park, or they can take a ride on the Christmas train.

It is important to stress that while the ELF has a number of themed areas geared towards children, the festival is a place where people of all ages can enjoy themselves. One such area is Whimsy Way: a large illuminated tunnel, comprised of over two hundred and fifty thousand lights, arrayed to form a rainbow comprised of Christmas colours–making for a bright and memorable sight that guests of any age do not want to miss.

Other destinations within the festival include Candyland, where guests will find giant, light-up candy canes, ballerinas, and unicorns. The Enchanted Forest is filled with bright tree displays and the presence of glowing woodland critters. The Elf Main Stage features a variety of local acts and performers that changes every week. The Snowflake Exchange is a gift shop where ELF attendees can shop for souvenirs, and take advantage of the gift-wrapping service to ensure that items bought as gifts remain a surprise.

A wide variety of food is available for festival-goers to purchase, with vendors including Edmonton-based businesses such as Zaika Indian Bistro, Elephant Ears, Hong Kong Bakery, and Glasshouse Bistro & Café, and Confections Cake Co. based in St. Albert. Available beverages include seasonal-inspired drinks, coffee, hot chocolate, and sparkling juices; alcoholic beverages–including rum and eggnog­–can be purchased by those of legal drinking age.

Parking at the Enjoy Centre is accessible to guests free of charge, with stalls for 375 vehicles. An additional 2,000 stalls at Averton Homes’ Midtown development, located across the street from the Enjoy Centre, have been donated for the duration of the festival–the developer just broke ground on the project back in September.

General admission is $20.95 for those age 14-64 and $10.45 for children between ages 4-13 and seniors of 65 years or older. Admission to the event is free for children 3 years old and under. Prices include GST.

Tickets are limited, with event organizers offering three different times for admission (4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.)–expecting that festival-goers spend approximately one to two hours at the event, but they are certainly able to stay longer as there is a lot to see.

The ELF, remaining committed to supporting the community and local charities, offers guests an optional two-dollar coat check service in support of the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) and the St. Albert Food Bank (SAFB). All of the proceeds from photos with Santa will go to benefit STARS Air Ambulance.

Enjoy Light Festival
Enjoy Centre, 101 Riel Dr, St. Albert
runs until January 5