Aurora Village is about 30KM outside of Yellowknife. Their primary customers are Japanese, and when communicating with their staff through email about reservations, they were upfront about it. They said that for many of their staff, English was a second language, but they would do their best to have someone available. I have to say, I was a bit nervous at first, but my Japanese 101 class back in college gave me some confidence to go ahead and book with them.
Our first aurora viewing was on the same night as our arrival, so we were instructed to pick up our winter clothing rental at the Yellowknife Inn where we were staying. Between 4-6 PM or so, staff members of Aurora Village sets up a small desk in the Inn's lobby area. Just a warning, winter clothing are pretty heavy to carry.(We rented the full package - parka, pants, boots, gloves, face mask) This "Pick up" however confused me, because it seemed like me and my wife were the only ones that were "picking up" our own clothing, as we've seen their staff members actually "deliver" the clothing to guest rooms. I'm not sure if their is a separate fee for that, but it would have been nice to know that this option was available.
When inspecting the pants, I noticed some damage on the left side of the zipper, which looked like it was sowed up. The sowing wasn't perfect and the holes between them concerned me, so I immediately took it back down to the desk, but I don't think the staff understood a word I was saying. I was going to layer up, so it didn't seem like it was going to be a problem, but right after I came back to my room, I noticed a small ripping (about 3 inch) of the outer part of the pants on the right knee area. The inner fleece part was intact, but this didn't seem like a good way to start a tour out in freezing temperatures. I never really pursued to get it exchanged because I was already going to wear 2 other layers beneath it, but on our second day, when the wind picked up, and with windchill factored temperature of -42F, I couldn't really stay out longer than 30 minutes without retreating back to the teepee. I believe the best way to communicate (in English) with Aurora Village is to call their main office. I found that most of the time, their office has someone who speaks good English. By the way, my wife's winter clothes were perfect, not even a scratch.
A big tour bus picked us up around 8:45PM from the Inn's lobby. Waiting in the lobby with 3 layers of clothing feels like you're inside a baking oven so stepping outside for a bit is a good idea to cool you down until the aurora village staff members arrive. On our way to the camp, they gave two announcements inside the bus, one with English and one with Japanese. English announcement was kind of hard to understand and once we got out of the bus, we had to ask for clarification. It is pretty important to understand this announcement as it gives you basic information such as hours of operation for cafeteria, gift shops, and time frame for extensions. In honestly, I don't even know why they bother with the English announcements, as it seems like it would be easier to understand to read the information on paper. The Japanese announcement lasted about three times longer than the English one, so I assume they cover more detailed information about the Aurora Village. On our last day, a native English speaker was doing the announcement, but too bad we already knew everything by then.
After arrival, they take you to one of the teepees for you to get settled in. If you are a first timer, they will take you out on a short tour around the village. IMO, the important parts of the village to take note are: outdoor restrooms, folding chair pick up area (free to use, just remember to put it back), cafeteria, gift shop, and couple of the 'hill' areas that have a bit of a better view around the area. On our third day, we also learned that they offer tripod rental for $10~$20 with $20 deposit. Can't really say about the heated chairs since we never used them, but on days with no wind, we (as in I) were making snow angels on the side and rolling our(as in my) body on the frozen lake.. so wasn't a necessity for us(or for me). Also, don't expect western flush style toilets here.. restrooms work like old fashioned outhouses (looks nicer though).
In the cafeteria, they serve you a complimentary bowl of soup and a piece of biscuit. On colder days, the cafeteria gets really packed, so I would suggest finding a seat before grabbing the food. Each table also had a jar of (what it tasted like) maple butter to go with the biscuit. (One table shares the jar, so restrain yourself from licking the spreading knife...) We found that the cafeteria is a good place to visit after about 2 hours outside. The soup really helps rejuvenate your body and gets you prepare for some more cold outside. Taste of the soup? Don't expect 5 star restaurant soup, but for me, it was quite good. Reminded me of Chicken noodle soup with salmon or tuna.
On our fourth night, we found out that they set up some sort of a entertainment desk just outside of the gift shop. There was a thick crowd around it so we couldn't really see what was going on, but it seemed like they were doing some-kind of entertainment show like throwing hot water that instantly evaporates. Why wasn't this on the bus announcement? I have no idea.
Around 11:30PM, you will hear a staff member come out and yell something out in Japanese. Only on the second day I realized that this was announcing that they have begun getting extension requests at their main teepee. On our last day, some of the non-Japanese speaking guests wanted to extend their stay, but they didn't know about the extension window and missed the opportunity. It really sucked for them, because on that day, everyone who extended was rewarded with a clear view of the northern lights. I'm sure this information will be outdated in the near future, but for people who want to know how the extension works, here it is:
Between 11:30PM and 12:00AM a staff will be available at teepee #6 (biggest teepee). It seemed like they take both cash or credit card for the payment. The extension is $25 per person for one and a half hour longer stay. (So instead of leaving at 1:00AM, you leave around 2:30AM). They told us that they have a second extension, which is $20 per person, for one more hour of stay, but also told us that it's really not that popular and not many people extend that far out.
On our last day of the aurora viewing (which was also the last night of our winter clothing rental), we were instructed to keep the face mask as souvenir, and the rest to be left out on the sofa at the Inn's lobby for the pick up.(They said sometimes a staff member will wait for about 15 minutes at the lobby, but even if there is no one, you can just leave it on the sofa.)
Overall, this has been a very memorable trip for us. The English side of their service leaves a bit to be desired, but for us, it wasn't a huge deal breaker. We loved the night view of the village itself, and with our memory of the full moon, howling wolves, and snow trails between the woods, we are still trying to recover from our post-vacation blues.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.