Like many before us, we have found Vancouver Island to be a family-friendly wonderland. Living in the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area, we have been impressed by the many recreation opportunities that make the area special, from beautiful beaches to peaceful provincial parks. However, some of the most underrated recreational asset are those run by the Regional District of Nanaimo. For a reasonable monthly price, both residents and non-residents alike have unlimited access to swimming at the beautiful Ravensong Aquatic Center and ice skating (rentals included) at Oceanside Place Arena, as well as Drop-In Gym programs twice a week.
One of their showcase events of the year is the New Year’s Eve Family Celebration, and we were sure to reserve our complimentary tickets when they first became available on December 1st. The evening is a culmination of the many holiday-themed skates offered during the month of December (complete with lights and decorations), but it definitely takes the festivities to the next level. Live jazz music greeted us as we arrived, and we were faced with deciding what to try out first: skating in the Winter Wonderland rink, playing hockey in the other full-sized rink, taking a spin on the kid-sized Pond rink, or heading upstairs for New Year’s crafts.
Skating won out, so we took some leisurely laps around the Winter Wonderland and admired the many holiday scenes around us. High Five couldn’t get enough of skating between the sleigh and various benches throughout the rink, and Five Ball and Five of Hearts dashed around the ice, weaving in and out of skaters with ease. Five String and Five Spice could only marvel at what excellent skaters the Younger Fives have become in just two months! We then headed back to the rental window to pick up hockey sticks and very much enjoyed shooting the puck around the ice for the first time.
After some good skating, we decided to unlace, get our faces painted, and head upstairs to make some New Year’s crafts. From crowns to masks to wands, the kids stayed busy for well over an hour making their accessories. They were visited often by many characters in costume, including the Regional District’s polar bear mascot as well as Elsa and Anna from Frozen. The button maker was also a big hit, and we got to choose a design (or even make our own) to be transformed into a professional button. As always, we were super impressed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the staff, including the many high-school aged assistants.
Before we knew it, the time had come for the New Year’s countdown and balloon drop (at 8:00 pm). Noisemakers found their way into everyone’s hands, and the excitement kept building until the balloons dropped from the ceiling only to be snatched up by a flurry of hands. All in all, this was by far the most fun and stress-free New Year’s Eve we’ve ever spent together as a family. The variety of activities appealed to kids of all ages, and the three-hour long event was the perfect amount of time. Also, ending the evening well before midnight within minutes of home meant no long drive or over-tired kids. Thanks to all the wonderful staff whose hard work made this evening so memorable!