In Kingston, Ontario – situated high upon a rather large hill, there lies a storied old fortress, forever standing watch over the Limestone City below. As the warmth of summer and colourful autumn come to pass – the old fort grows colder, quieter and lonelier as the winds of winter howl and whisper within its ancient stone walls.

Well, until recently, that is.     

The townsfolk whisper of an otherworldly, yet familiar presence upon the hill. They say that the impenetrable and historic ramparts of the old fort are bathed in a strange, but beautiful iridescent glow. What’s more: rumours speak of strange, but spirited music coming from the fort at night.  

The guards remain vigilant but are welcoming brave adventurers through the gates, in hopes of uncovering the arcane secret residing within. This can mean only one thing. The whimsical winter adventure of Lumina Borealis has returned once more!

Was that intro over the top? Sorry, I’m just ridiculously excited for this story. We didn’t make it to Lumina Borealis last year, and I’m kind of a huge storytelling nerd.

I love experiences and attractions that allow you to let your imagination run off-leash, and it just so happens, that Lumina Borealis is a great place to do just that.  

Pass The Frost Façade, And Into The Chill Of Iceberg Alley

As Heidi and I arrived at Fort Henry Hill, all that remained of the sunset was a crimson sliver of light spread across the darkening Western sky. The view from the fort is always brilliant, but tonight was especially captivating. The wind brought with it, a strength and fierce cold that felt like walking into an icy wall at times.  

It wasn’t long before one of the fort’s venerable guards came out, lantern in-hand, beckoning us through the main gate and into Fort Henry. Once inside the upper fort, we took one last look at the setting sun before following our path toward the first leg of our journey.

The fort’s façade was aglow in a brilliant azure display that marked Lumina’s starting point. The path led us into the fort’s ditch and the unknown wonders that lay beyond.

As we made our way along the path, we were met with a mysterious series of sounds, coupled with a mystical yet soft musical tune. We rounded the first corner as we followed the music – and were met with a breathtaking maze of sorts made up of icy blue obelisks that seemed to grow out from the ground.

They cast a gorgeous blue light about the surrounding inner walls – and appeared to resonate with some form of errant energy. The sound of a child’s laughter could be heard among the string of mesmerizing sounds that seemed to emanate from the radiant group of crystalline objects.

Ahead, we could see the silhouettes of other explorers as they traversed the luminescent maze. Their faces were a mixture of wonder and amazement as they made their way among the glowing ice crystals. As we stepped between them, I found myself taken back to my fondest memories of winter.

It was as though the mysterious structures had memories of their own – and seemed to glow a little brighter as my imagination, and curiosity were enticed evermore.       

Ancient Souls Awaken In The Sleeping Woods

After our fascinating trip through Iceberg Alley, we rounded the next bend and were faced with another genuinely captivating sight. Before us, stood a forest of evergreens, adorned with shimmering lights!

As the icy wind cut through the ditch, the trees seemed to dance and frolic as we made our way into the shimmering cluster of coniferous trees. Between the branches – I saw movement. A flicker at first, that quickly became something far more grandiose.

The woods themselves appeared to come to life, as a series of animal spirits manifested themselves before our very eyes! Jaws slackened, and eyes transfixed we stared in seeming disbelief as we were greeted by a host of iconic woodland spirits, their grand profiles projected upon the fort’s walls!

At several moments, while traversing the Sleeping Woods, These massive holograms seemed to look right at us. Perhaps into our very souls.  

What Secrets Will The Flames Of The Fireteller Reveal?

Still amazed by the apparent magic display of the woods, we found ourselves entering the next section of the ditch, as well as the welcome sight of several blazing firepits. We hurriedly made our way to the nearest hearth and basked in the radiant warmth provided by the flickering flames. As we stood and rubbed our hands over the blaze, more explorers arrived and gathered around the other fires.

As more people stood together around a hearth, the stunning display upon the inner wall began to transform. It’s difficult to describe, but I could see strange shimmering figures moving about on the wall. They seemed to shadow or mimic the other explorer’s movements.  Before I could further contemplate what I was looking at, the scene before us erupted into yet another evocative display – and we were reunited once again with the spirits we encountered in the Sleeping Woods!

They seemed stronger at this point. Reinvigorated somehow. Perhaps it was the combined excitement of our fellow explorers that gave the spirits this apparent newfound strength.  Maybe it was something within us, that breathed new life into these amazing apparitions once more.    

Sweet Tones From The Soul – To Unravel Winter’s Secrets Untold

It was hard to part from the heat of those blazing fires, but we were far too enthralled with excitement to stand around any longer. With one last glance toward the warmth of the Fireteller’s glow, and fingers still throbbing from the cold (yes, I should have brought my gloves) we continued toward the last stretch of our incredible adventure.

In the final length of the fort’s ditch, we were faced with a most peculiar sight indeed. Arranged neatly in a row, was a group of old-school microphones. The kind they used in 1930’s radio shows. How bizarre!

Floating upon the wind was a song of some sort, that seemed broken, or fragmented. Something was missing, and it didn’t take us long to realize just what the microphones were for. This portion of the journey is best faced with a group of family, or friends – as it’s your collective voices that will help repair the song  – and reveal yet another vibrant visual reward.   

Exercise Cunning And Skill At The Frozzinator

Once the journey through the ditch was completed, the path took us into the lower fort, and onto the parade square which was transformed into a fantastic and stunning array of interactive carnival games projected on the walls.

Suddenly, all that time playing video games was about to pay off. As more and more people started to play and interact with the games, the closer we came to collectively reaching our target “score” which in time revealed an incredible finale, the likes of which were absolutely mind-blowing! I won’t spoil it for you – but when you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about!

A Warm Sip And A Tasty Snack At The Borealis Bakery

Positively flabbergasted with the events that transpired, Heidi and I made our way to the Western side of the parade square where a series of warm-up booths were arranged – as well as the fort’s bakery which was open for business.

As we sat and clutched the warmth of our hot chocolates, and nibbled on some delicious baked treats – it was a good time to appreciate this amazing experience of epic proportions.

Lumina is best described as a gigantic Augmented Reality game. Instead of a controller, or game console; the user-interface is a mind-blowing marriage of physical and nonphysical types of interaction.

Think Virtual Reality, but without the clunky goggles strapped to your head. Lumina is quite literally all around you, and amazingly immersive in the way that it engages with players. It is an ideal activity for a group of family, friends or both!   

Simply put: Lumina Borealis is the coolest co-operative gaming experience you could possibly have, off the couch.

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Photography: Heidi Csernak