Posted: Tuesday November 07, 2023
Will you be coming to Brockville to see the River of Lights this holiday season? In addition to the ‘who, what, and where’ of our event, we have put together a Top 10 round up of how to make the most of your visit to Brockville for the River of Lights presented by Canarm.
We know you have a number of choices of light shows to check out this holiday season, so why should you choose to come to the River of Lights? Our technicians spend hours and hours programming each song in the show to choreograph the lights to sync up to the music, and don’t think that there is anything quite like it anywhere nearby.
- Sharing is Caring: turn your car into a viewing theatre
Invite friends or family to come with you and set your car up for a comfy viewing experience by bringing pillows, blankets, and snacks. Pick up snacks and hot drinks on the way and settle in to enjoy the show.
Drive by or stay awhile? Some people prefer to park and watch the show, while others do laps of Blockhouse Island, catching the show from every angle. If you choose to drive around, please be careful of other cars and pedestrians. While the show is meant to be enjoyed from the comfort of your car, some people do get out to walk around, so please keep a sharp eye out for them.
Coming on opening night? Don’t forget that the Rotary Santa Claus Parade is happening on the same night, so access to the River of Lights event ground will be restricted due to road closures affecting King Street and nearby roads. Plan to go to the parade, and then make your way down to the show after the parade has passed you by. Not coming to the parade? The parade wraps up at around 7:30pm, so plan to come to the River of Lights after that.
- Plan your day in the city
The full light and sound show starts at 6pm, after it is dark enough for the lights to really pop. But that doesn’t mean that you should plan to come just for the evening. Why not plan a day of it and get some of your holiday shopping done while you are here? Brockville has lots of gift shops, clothing and shoe stores, specialty shops, and retailers where you can easily make a day, or weekend out of your visit and really get to know the area (and get your shopping done!).
Collect 3 receipts from Brockville shops during your visit and turn them in to the Brockville & District Chamber of Commerce office at 3 Market Street West (it’s on your way to the River of Lights) for a chance to win one of our weekly “Shop Where Your Heart Is” prize draws. If you’d prefer, you can also enter your purchase information into our online submission tool.
Shopping not your thing? Check out one (or more) of our local attractions and museums including escape rooms, the Aquatarium, indoor paintball, a show at the Brockville Arts Centre, the Brockville Museum, or a tour of Fulford Place historic site. Eligible receipts for the “Shop Where Your Heart Is” program also include experiences, accommodation, retail, and restaurant purchases, so hang onto those receipts too!
- Go for dinner first, or pick up a hot drink and snacks to enjoy in your car
The show lasts about 40 minutes before it loops around to start repeating tracks. Don’t cut your visit short with hunger pains: plan ahead and go for dinner at one of the nearby downtown restaurants, or pick something up from one of our many restaurants to enjoy in your car on site.
“Warm Up to Win” with the River of Lights partnership with Shop Where Your Heart Is: pick up a hot drink to go from one of our restaurant and café partners and make sure to ask for the River of Lights coffee sleeve for your cup. Or keep an eye out at dinner for our branded drink coaster from one of our participating restaurants and fill out your contact details.
The coffee sleeve and paper coasters each serve as a bonus ballot in the weekly Shop Where Your Heart Is prize draws, so fill out your contact info and drop it off at the Chamber office. An after-hours mail slot is available outside of their office on Market Street West (only a block from the River of Lights) so you can drop it off any time.
- Make sure you know how to turn your headlights off
Load up with blankets, hot drinks, snacks, and warm clothing. Similar to a drive-in movie theatre, we ask that if you park in a parking space to watch the show that you turn off your headlights so that you are not affecting viewers on the other side of the show area. Depending on your car, you may just be able to put your parking brake on to turn your headlights off, but in some vehicles you will have to turn them off manually, or turn your car off altogether. Do some testing before hand so you know what works for you. Idling in your car is not very environmentally friendly, so we encourage you to opt to turn your car (and therefore heat) off during the show and bundle up in blankets instead.
- Take photos and videos
We love to see what you come up with, please share them with us with #RiverofLightsBrockville so we can join in the fun. A photo feature is set up near the harbour building where you can stand with the light show framed in the background between the two archways to take your photo. This photo arch is also set up so that you don’t have to cut in front of vehicle traffic to take a picture. We appreciate people staying off of the show grounds so that no one gets hurt or damages any of the equipment. (Public washrooms next to the photo arch are also open daily until 9pm).
Photo tip: Between 5pm and 6pm each night the lights softly change from one colour to the next and play without strobing lights or music. For serious photogs, you can get more predictable results (and colours) from longer exposure times during this hour than once the full show starts. You can also swing up to King Street where the Edison lights connecting lamp posts lend a warm glow to the downtown streetscape.
- Check out the track list
Have a favourite pop song or holiday tune you love? Check out our playlist to see if your favourite song is on it, there’s nothing worse than driving away just as your favourite tune comes on. (It can also be used after the fact to help you fill in the blanks in case you heard a song you didn’t recognize).
Prefer to be surprised? Skip to the next section!
- All I want for Xmas (Mariah Carey)
- Bring me love (John Legend)
- Carol of the Bells (Lindsey Stirling)
- Frosty The Snow Man (Michael Bublé)
- Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)
- Let It Go (Frozen, Elsa)
- Little Drummer Boy (Lonestar)
- Miracle of Light (8th Day)
- Mistletoe (Bieber)
- No Roots (Alice Merton)
- Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt)
- Thunder (Imagine Dragons)
- We three gentlemen (L.Sterling)
- Xmas every day (Simple Plan)
- Merry Christmas (Ed Sheeran & Elton John)
- Merry Christmas Everybody (Slade)
- You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) – This one was voted in by attendees at last year’s show!
- Hop on the AQ Holiday Express
This one is a fan favourite for anyone with kiddos. The Aquatarium’s soft-tired train, decked out in lights and for the holidays and renamed the “Aquatarium Holiday Express” takes you on a train ride around the show grounds on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from December 1 to 17. At $10/person this is a unique take on the show, and kids in particular are big fans (adults can ride too!). Bundle up if you go this route, as it can be chilly and windy on Blockhouse Island in the winter and train cars are open to the elements. Hot chocolate is available on site. The train loads near the customs building on Blockhouse Island. Check the Aquatarium’s social media in advance, as they cannot run in all weather situations, and you don’t want to have disappointed children on your hands!
- Come by early (or late) for a sensory-friendly experience
Each night, between 5pm and 6pm, and again between 10pm and 11pm, the lights are turned on, but the full light and music show is not in full force. The trees and features are lit up with soft lights that slowly change from one colour to the next. This is a more peaceful experience that is more accessible to anyone with sensory concerns who don’t enjoy (or can’t be around) flashing lights and music. (Plus, see #5 on why this is a great time to take photos!)
- Book an overnight stay
There are a few other light shows in the area, including Clow’s Christmas Trail, so you may need more than one night to see all of the lights that can be found in this area. Why not book an overnight stay and try them all? If you are from Brockville, invite your friends or family for a visit and make it a fun weekend in Brockville. Overnight stays in Brockville also count as eligible entries towards Shop Where Your Heart Is prizes! Save your receipts and turn them in to the Brockville & District Chamber of Commerce.
Visit brockvilletourism.com for more information about other local events and light displays, along with where to stay in the city.
- Vote for a song to be added to next year’s show!
We know you’ll be back next year, so make sure to complete our event feedback survey where you can tell us a bit more about your experience, and where you will have the opportunity to vote for a song to add to next year’s production. This year we added “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” to the line up based on last year’s votes, and added new songs to put to the vote based on the suggestions in the comments.
What is it?
The River of Lights is a holiday light show choreographed to your favourite pop songs and holiday tunes. Mini lights and flood lights, along with some unique lighting features, are synced to music making this event an annual favourite. You can drive in a loop around the show grounds, or park to watch from your car. Tune your car radio to our show’s frequency (look for signs on site) to enjoy the musical component of the show.
Where is it?
The light show takes over Blockhouse Island Parkway, a peninsula on the waterfront in Brockville and a local favourite location to ship watch and enjoy the river. During the month of December, the site is transformed by wrapping trees with thousands of lights for your enjoyment. Access the site from Water Street and drive straight towards the river. Parking spaces are available around the perimeter of the site, but if all of the spaces are taken, you can loop around the site and see the show from all angles. Typically there are sufficient parking spaces.
When is it?
The shows runs every night all December long. The full show choreographed to music starts at 6pm and runs on a loop until 10pm. The first and final hours (between 5pm-6pm, and 10-11pm) feature a softer light show without the music, more suitable for someone with sensory concerns or people who like a calmer experience.
Opening night is Saturday November 25th following the Santa Claus Parade on nearby King Street, and the last night is January 2nd.
How much does it cost?
The event is free! We have partnered with a number of local cafes and restaurants on our Shop Where Your Heart Is program and we encourage you to visit a local restaurant, or do some local shopping to support our local economy in lieu of paying admission.
Funding provided by the Government of Ontario.