By Extension Master Gardener Elaine Mills
Every year, a number of regional public gardens plan winter light shows to celebrate the holiday season and bring in additional financial support for their programs. Read on to learn about four festive programs happening from late November through early January.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens “Winter Walk of Lights”
In nearby Vienna, Virginia, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens hosts its eighth annual “Winter Walk of Lights” which runs through January 5, 2020, including holidays. The self-guided, half-mile walk includes animated Lakeside Lights, a Fountain of Lights, and a Holiday Nature Walk complete with illuminated flora and fauna. Visitors can complete their visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping hot beverages by the fire.
Purchase online tickets with specific entrance times (5:30–10:00 p.m.) in advance to assure entry. Ticket prices range from $8 to $17. There are special appreciation nights for first responders, teachers, and members of the military who can enter free with one paying guest. For details, go to https://www.novaparks.com/events/winter-walk-of-lights
Brookside Gardens’ “Garden of Lights”
Across the river in Wheaton, Maryland, you can tour Brookside Gardens’ “Garden of Lights,” a holiday tradition since 1997. The one-hour outdoor walk features 1 million colorful lights shaped into flowers, trees, animals, fountains, and winter scenes. The stroll includes a stop in the Conservatory to watch G-Scale model trains wind through a seasonal landscape. Visitors can finish their visit with a stop in the Visitors Center to warm up with hot drinks, soups, and sandwiches and listen to nightly musical performances from many musical traditions.
The show runs most days through December 31 from 5:30 to either 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. (Check the garden website https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/brookside-gardens/garden-of-lights/ for closures.) Visitors pay $25 or $30 per car or van depending on the day.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden “GardenFest of Lights”
The theme for this year’s “GardenFest of Lights” at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, is “Magic in the Air.” In addition to the usual botanical decorations, visitors will see things that fly, including illuminated fireflies, flying pigs, unicorns, and spaceships. The show also features model trains, story times, caroling, family art projects, musical entertainment, and toasted s’mores by the fire.
Tickets (priced from $5 to $13 per person) are not date-specific and are good through January 6, 2020 from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m., except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. There will be free admission for members in January. See https://www.lewisginter.org/event/dominion-gardenfest-of-lights/ for further information.
Longwood Gardens Christmas
For those willing to travel further afield, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, extends an invitation to attend their “Longwood Christmas” celebration through January 5, 2020. The Conservatory will be decorated with seasonal plants, ornaments, undulating ribbons, crystals, and snowflakes, and its Music Room will be transformed into a fanciful confectionery shop. Outside, visitors can enjoy a miniature model train, three decorated treehouses, lighted pathways, illuminated trees, and light displays choreographed to holiday music. Several fire pit locations will provide a chance to warm up and the beer garden will offer pub fare. Visit https://longwoodgardens.org/events-performances/longwood-christmas to see an Interactive map and purchase timed admission tickets from $16 to $30.