Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year for many folks, me among them. There are many, many great Yuletide offerings here on the Island, beginning with the craft fairs that seem to get under way earlier every year (first weekend in November) and running right through to the New Year. One of our favourite events is the annual McLean Mill Christmas Village, which brings this National Historic Site back to life with the charm and loveliness of an old-fashioned festive season.
The history of the McLean Mill is chronicled elsewhere on this website in the Attractions section; the folks who oversee the mill’s operation are full of great ideas that keep visitors coming throughout the year. We think the Christmas Village and the affiliated craft fair and steam train ride from Port Alberni is one of the best attractions for folks young and old.
The kick-off for the Christmas Village events is an engaging steam train ride from the old train station in downtown Port Alberni, this year slated for Saturday, December 6. The village light-up takes place that night, heralding the Festival of Christmas Lights. The craft fair gets under way at the same time.
The beauty of this particular event is that it isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill Christmas venue. The craft vendors are set up inside the small bungalows that served as actual homes to the mill workers and their families more than 85 years ago. You can spend hours poking through the historic structures, enjoying the beautiful and varied offerings of many talented merchants. Each house is ablaze with colourful Christmas lights and other seasonal decorations, and the opportunity to wander from building to building enjoying the sights gets the festive season off to an enchanting and relaxed beginning. If you are lucky, as we have been in past years, you might even get a bit of snow, which adds immeasurably to the old-fashioned Christmas spirit of the place.
For the little ones, Santa will be on site for photos. There is entertainment galore and a huge bonfire offers a great spot to warm up and visit during your explorations. And, here’s a bonus at this expensive time of year – admission to this delightful happening is free.
The 2014 McLean Mill Christmas Village and Festival of Lights commences on Saturday, December 6, one of a couple of occasions when you can enjoy the Spirit of Christmas steam train ride out to the mill and back – after that you will have to drive or find other means of transportation to the mill site.
The website for the McLean Steam Sawmill National Historic Site is at:
The McLean Mill National Historic Site is located at 5633 Smith Road in the Beaver Creek area, about 11 miles out of town.
GPS co-ordinates are:
N 49 18.520 W 124 49.746