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I Want a Red Octopus for Christmas, Only a Red Octopus Will Do

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Like oh so many out there, Christmas is my favourite time of year. I love the lights, the cold (in Vancouver, that generally means just above freezing), the carols, attending church, baking, reminiscing, the festivities, the food, and feelings of togetherness… I really could go on and on… As I’ve said before, though it seems children focus on getting gifts, with time, the memories of the toys fade along with their relevance. What remains ingrained is the richness of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely going to indulge my daughter’s request for all things Elsa, and both of my kids will get toys under the tree. Nevertheless, the Holiday experience is the biggest gift I want to give my kids.


This year, we fortunate enough to be invited to the media event at the Vancouver Aquarium. I grew up as a member there. My husband and I love that children under the age of three are free with our passes. For those of you living or spending time in Metro Vancouver this holiday season, I highly recommend both attending during the Holidays and considering a membership there or somewhere similar as a gift.

Some of the Reasons I Love the Aquarium

  • Unlike its theme park counterparts, the Aquarium is a marine science centre. It focuses on rehabilitation and re-release of its marine mammals, research, and education.
  • To become a cetacean permanently in the care of VanAqua staff, the animal’s injuries have to make them unreleasable by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (not by the Aquarium itself). For instance, because of an accident in Japan, one of their Pacific White Sided Dolphins only has half of her ventral fins.
  • The animals perform natural behaviours and do not put on theatrical shows.
  • There are touch displays with items you might find off off the west coast of Vancouver (sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and other little creatures safe to touch with one’s pinky finger).
  • There are belugas, dolphins, harbour porpoises, penguins, sea otters, stellar sea lions, seals, sturgeon, octopuses, arapaima, black tipped reef sharks, a sea turtle, and many other sea creatures both big and small.

What We Loved About Their Holiday Special


  • The 4D (shortened) Polar Express movie in their movie theatre was totally captivating. The seats rumble when the train was being derailed, there are effects that make it feel like the wind is blowing, snow is falling, and several other surprises 🙂
  • We got to see an electric eel be fed and his current power lights hanging above its tank.


  • My daughter was quite impressed with the origami-looking jelly fish display that children can light up by way of a touch screen.
  • I loved the refuge Christmas tree. Using garbage found on the shoreline, the Aquarium created a Christmas tree both to use as decoration and to generate awareness about littering.
  • In the same area, educational stories about sea life are read by Elves.
  • The undeniable highlight was Scuba Claus. I won’t give too much away, but the highlights of the show have been retold by my two-year-old more times than I can count!


Reasons a Membership to any Science Centre or Similar is one of the Best Gifts of all

  • In a couple of visits, it pays for itself.
  • If a particular visit isn’t going smoothly, we can leave without feeling we haven’t gotten our money’s worth.
  • When our finances have been lean, we can still easily go on an outing that won’t cost more than paying for gas and parking.
  • There typically are seasonal events and members only events.
  • There are typically subsequent discounts that come with a membership.
  • In the case of the Aquarium, we get discounts at the cafe, the gift shop, and the other Science Centre in town.

Next stop for us is the Christmas Train in Stanley Park! Stay tuned to find out how you are your family can win tickets for free!


What are some of your favourite Holiday experiences or non-toy gifts for kids?

Looking forward to hearing what you’re up to!

xo Alana


  1. We have an awesome science center here, I never thought to get passes to give as gifts. What a great idea!!

  2. I agree, we have had a few memberships to museums and have the Cool Culture Pass now through my youngest child’s school. It’s priceless.

  3. This is great! It really is about the experience (and meaning) of Christmas that matters. Would love to visit this Aquarium some day!

  4. A membership to an aquarium or science center would be the most amazing gift ever! We love the aquarium near us. Your scuba Santa sounds awesome!

    1. I’m hoping this post will be a good hint to my family and friends for my Xmas gift! Haha. Scuba Santa was a hit for sure!

  5. Pingback: To Everyone who Supported my Blog, THANK YOU!!! | Healthy Family Simple Budget
  6. I love your statement, “…the Holiday experience is the biggest gift I want to give my kids.” This is a message every Momma out there understands! Merry Christmas!

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