Festive lights brighten up a Whitehorse home. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Festive lights brighten up a Whitehorse home. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s city lights tour map available online

The making of the Whitehorse city lights tour

December’s dark days are being brightened with colourful lights, sparkling decorations and larger-than-life cartoon characters decked out in festive wear.

For many, it’s a holiday tradition to decorate their own homes for the holidays and go for a drive or walk around the neighbourhood to view the festive scenes neighbours have put so much work into.

For Lindsay Agar, it’s all in a day’s work.

Agar is the City of Whitehorse’s events coordinator. She works with other city recreation staff to develop the city’s holiday lights tour.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said of working to come up with a tour route. “We’re really excited.”

Subbmitted/ Mike Thomas

Subbmitted/ Mike Thomas

While the tour had been part of a bigger, larger event that saw the city’s transit department offer the excursions amid a number of other holiday activities, the city has adapted it to be self-guided with a map posted to the city’s website.

The tour has been a staple of the city’s festive offerings for the better part of 20 years, beginning as a small event where city buses would take passengers around the city to see the Christmas decorations brightening up homes and neighbourhoods.

As Whitehorse grew so did the event. Most recently held at the Canada Games Centre in 2019, the full list of festivities saw a free skate, holiday crafts, cookie decorating, snowpainting, a bonfire and photos with Santa while city buses — at three separate times — picked up passengers for four different routes through town to see the lights. The buses were filled to capacity each time.

“Hundreds of people would go through,” Agar recalled, noting a number of Whitehorse residents would also drive their vehicles behind the buses to experience the carefully-selected route and view some of the best displays around town.

In 2020 with COVID-19 cancelling events like the holiday lights tour for the first time, city staff looked for ways to ensure residents could still take in the winter displays, developing the self-guided tour they can view and download from the city’s website for their own drives or walks.

In 2021, the city has once again worked to come up with city lights tour map that will showcase the unique displays residents have set up for the season.

The map was posted to the website Dec. 14, but the work to find the displays and the best route for viewing began in early November with a call out to neighbourhood associations asking to get the word out about the lights tour.

“We start early,” Agar said.

Neighbourhood associations will often share with the city the locales of some of the most unique outdoor displays in their part of town.

“There’s a neighbourhood feel,” Agar said, adding in some sections of town there might be a focus on lighting up trees, leaving many to wonder how a resident was able to get lights up so high. In other parts of town, many might favour blowup decorations.

In 2020, Agar said she was “blown away” by a luau-themed Christmas display set up in a Crestview yard.

“They had so many lights,” she said, highlighting the display’s blow-up palm trees.

A home in Copper Ridge featuring a light display set to music is always a popular draw along with many more throughout the city.

In 2020, there appeared to be more displays than in years past, something Agar believes may be the result of more people being home and a warmer than usual season.

Along with speaking to neighbourhood associations, the city also issued a broader call out to the entire community, encouraging residents to get out their Christmas lights and decorations before Dec. 3 as city staff would then make their way through town to find those unique displays of festive lights.

With that, the city got to work with staff tasked with viewing displays and coming up with a route that allows for maximum viewing of outdoor displays.

The map is available on the city’s website.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com