Albert Anderson purchased 40 acres of farmland in 1971 because he wanted a place for his children and grandchildren to play without worry. He ended up creating a playground for the entire Fraser Valley.
Having operated as a bucolic attraction for decades, Aldor Acres feels timeless. Anderson uses his tractor to pull visitors around on carts loaded with hay bales, taking them through the family farm teeming with animals and joy. If Anne of Green Gables had a west-coast vacation spot, Aldor Acres would be it.
Many visitors arrive after venturing east from Vancouver to explore the countryside of British Columbia where acres of farms are carpeted in front of a horizon dominated by the Coastal Mountains jutting up to the sky. Anderson is a veterinarian and the farm is rich with a menagerie of cuteness. More than 70 goats are in the petting zoo, and there are also cows, rabbits, kittens, peacocks, dogs, and horses.
“It’s evolved over the years,” Anderson says of his operation. “A lot of what we’ve done is just responded to what the public seemed to want. But I will say I had no intention of creating a Disneyland-type place with carnival rides or anything like that, and I think that’s part of it. People appreciate that it is agriculture and they can have a connection to it.”
Aldor Acres — whose name is a combination of Albert and Dorothy, the husband-wife team who purchased the land — is a riot of colour in the fall, with orange being dominant thanks to the pumpkins covering the property. Children eager to haul one or two away for Halloween hurry up to the farm from a massive grassy parking lot, or jump on one of Anderson’s tractor-drawn hayrides. Along with gathering future jack-o’-lanterns, they interact with animals, explore the sunflower fields, take turns leaping off of the towers of hay, and other fun that no video game could match.
The farm is open daily during October as crowds arrive to snatch up the pumpkins — of which there are thousands strewn around the property — and enjoy the harvest atmosphere. A farm stand sells jams, jellies and preserves made by the Andersons, along with other products. Weekends include live music and a series of activities and traditional games. After Halloween, the farm closes for several weeks before re-opening with a Christmas experience that features massive fir and spruce trees illuminated by strings of lights, campfires, and more time with the animals.
“People are so appreciative when they come here. I mean, it almost embarrasses you. They say how happy they are that this place is around,” Anderson says. “One of the best things for me is to experience people my age or younger who come here and I’ll see them sitting by the campfire while their kids or grandkids have been gone for an hour, and they don’t know where they are, but they don’t have a worry about it. They know they’re here and they’re just fine.”
Most of Anderson’s 19 grandchildren work at Aldor Acres, including Melissa Anderson who is helping to bring more contemporary programming and marketing to the farm on which she was raised.
“As a kid, you just had everywhere to roam. It was like your own big playground,” she says. “Working here, it’s like you never grow up.”
Once you have a sample of Aldor Acres you’ll be tempted to see what more unique finds the area offers. A 10-minute drive away is Krause Berry Farms & Estate Winery, known for its incredible waffles, award-winning fruit wines, and an array of pies in its market. The farm also has an annual pumpkin competition and a kids play area. Tastings at the winery take place at a bar where saddles are the seats and glass cowboy boots are the vessels for sampling.
If that’s not enough Old West culture for you, then make your way to Fort Langley National Historic Site to witness re-enactments of what life was like for the settlers of British Columbia in the 19th century. The fort includes the oldest standing building in the province, a wood-framed supply house that dates to 1840. Re-enactors explain what life was like for blacksmiths, fur traders, military officers, and Indigenous communities.
In fall, Halloween season also means ghost tours and Fort Langley has haunted stories that will make you shiver from more than the dip in temperature. The Parks Canada attraction has multiple apparitions, including a young Indigenous boy who reputedly greets guests in the fort’s Big House, which is now a museum, and also has been said to encourage children to play hide and seek with him. Although it’s not known with certainty who the ghost may be, historical records point to two possible candidates: an unidentified boy whose body was found with two adults in 1929 during an excavation by railroad workers, or the grandson of the fort’s last postmaster who died in 1884.
The Grave Tales walk take place nightly until November 3, with the final tour ending at midnight. If you want to stay the night, Fort Langley has five oTENTiks — the Parks Canada glamping cottages that can fit up to six adults — for rent.
When done exploring, be sure to explore the boutique shops in the town of Fort Langley, about a two-minute drive from the historic site. Offerings include antique shops, an adorable children’s boutique shop called Watermelon Tree, and decor and clothing stores. To learn more about the Indigenous community, visit the le’lem Art & Culture Cafe, which is run by the Kwantlen First Nation. le’lem, which also has a cafe inside the fort, features exhibits of contemporary art as well as historical artifacts of the area.
To satiate yourself, do not pass up a coffee and pastry at Blacksmith Bakery, where decadent delights include large, buttery croissants, cinnamon rolls and Kouign Amann, a bready pastry with origins in Brittany. Proof that British Columbia farm country also offers cosmopolitan flavours that blend in with the area’s history and agricultural heritage.
MORE ABOUT VISITING LANGLEY IN FALL
Aldor Acres Admission: The Pumpkin Patch season has a $9 charge for patrons of “walking age”. Pumpkins cost between $1-$20. Feed for the animals is available to purchase. Parking and hayrides are free. Full details can be found at the property’s website.
Where to Stay: Sandman Signature Langley offers large rooms and plush beds in a property full of amenities. Nightly rates for a weekend stay in October start at around $130. Visit the hotel’s website to book.
Experience Harvestland in Vancouver
If you can’t make the drive to Fraser Valley, then opt to visit to Harvestland at the PNE in East Vancouver. The event — dubbed the largest harvest fest in the country — features pony rides, a tiny petting zoo, and a pumpkin patch of its own. You can test your medieval skills with archery and sword-play lessons, or try your hand at axe-throwing.
Patrons can choose from carnival food (deep-fried Oreos, waffle fries) and also savour soups and sandwiches from Vancouver lunch favourite Meat & Bread, whose food truck is at the festival. Be sure to get an apple cider, made with all local and organically grown fruit, from Green Coast Coffee.
Harvestland also features an Oktoberfest-inspired festhall inside the PNE Forum. Harvest Haus includes German and Belgian brews, as well as Bavarian-style lagers and ales from local breweries, and lots of dirndl- and liederhosen-wearing patrons getting their oompah on.
The event runs until October 20. Visit its website for admission prices and other details.