En español | Lights, camera, action! No, it's not a movie, but there's plenty of all three involved. Botanical gardens across the states offer sparkling holiday light shows and displays that wind throughout their gardens from Thanksgiving through the New Year. The mostly outdoor events are maintaining strict COVID-19 protocols this season to ensure the events’ safety to all visitors. Timed entries and face masks are a few of the requirements that are allowing botanical gardens to feature their winter light extravaganzas during the pandemic. Here are eight beautiful ones around the country.
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PHOTO BY: H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
A Longwood Christmas
Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania)
Now through Jan. 10, 2021
Known in the Philadelphia area for its impressive horticulture aesthetic, Longwood amps up the volume of color and sparkle adorning the garden's wide array of blooms and greens for A Longwood Christmas. There's lots of ooh and aah potential inside the stunning 4-acre conservatory, where each space showcases towering Fraser fir trees meticulously decked out in ornaments of silver, blue, red and gold. You'll also see living wreaths made of orchids, succulents, ferns and poinsettias, for instance, plus floral trees made from poinsettias, bromeliads and more. Outside, more than 500,000 lights cover the gardens, including fountain light shows set to holiday music and a model train display with miniature local landmarks crafted by artisans. Buy timed tickets online, $30 for adults, $27 for adults 62 and older, $16 for children 5 to 18; open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Emanuel Tanjala / Alamy Stock Photo
Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (Richmond, Virginia)
Now through Jan. 10, 2021
Many families in the region make an annual pilgrimage to see these dazzling garden pathways twinkling with thousands of lights from the tops of the trees down to the plants and flowers. The all-outdoors GardenFest of Lights has returned with some of the most popular displays festooned in vibrant colors from purple to red to blue and golden yellow, including giant flowers, a peacock, unicorn and dragon. Model trains are always a big attraction at GardenFest, and this year they've taken one of their train displays outside for the first time. There's hot chocolate and other grab-and-go food and drink options at the Robins Tea House for outdoor consumption and reservations-only sit-down dining at the on-site restaurant. Buy timed tickets online, starting at $15.17 for adults, $8.99 for children ages 3-12; Wed.-Sun. from 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Dec. 24 and 25.
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PHOTO BY: John Oates Photography
WPS Garden of Lights
Green Bay Botanical Garden (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
Now through Jan. 2, 2021
Garden of Lights appeals to all ages, with trails wide enough for wheelchairs or strollers. Along with the twinkling trees and winter garden wonderland illuminated by more than 300,000 energy-efficient LED lights, visitors are treated to four new light features this year, including a beautifully lit 60-foot oak tree in the Arendt Conifer Garden that rotates through the four seasons. There's a caterpillar and icicle forest, a giant red dragon and horse-drawn wagon rides (with limited seating for social distancing) for the little ones. Buy timed tickets online, starting at $13 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12, selecting a 30-minute arrival window, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.; open Thurs.-Sun., closed Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Eve.
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PHOTO BY: Richard Ellis / Alamy Stock Photo
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (Boothbay, Maine)
Now through Jan. 2, 2021
This is the sixth season for Gardens Aglow, one of the most (if not the most) spectacular garden displays in New England with one big change: Instead of a walking tour, it's a driving tour. The sparkling displays with more than 650,000 bulbs have been creatively designed to be viewed by car. Expect to see colorful life-size, hand-crafted wildlife creations (like a blue moose) perched next to natural features along the route. The drive lasts about 20 minutes and at a leisurely speed limit of 5 mph, passengers can take their time enjoying the winter wonderland glistening in twinkling lights from the warmth of their car. Restrooms and food aren't available this year. Buy timed tickets online, $40 per car, with arrivals every 15 minutes, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.; open Thurs.-Sun., then nightly from Christmas Day to Jan. 2.
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PHOTO BY: B. David Cathell / Alamy Stock Photo
Las Noches de las Luminarias
Desert Botanical Gardens (Phoenix, Arizona)
Select dates through Dec. 31
Lighting of luminarias is a longtime Southwest holiday tradition. Throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and other areas, you'll find the paper bags, sand and flickering candles lining residential driveways, church sidewalks and other sites. Since 1978, the Desert Botanical Gardens has celebrated the holiday season with Las Noches de las Luminarias, where light from 8,000 luminaria bags — hand-lit and extinguished each night by a team of volunteers — bounces off the beautiful desert flora. It's a gorgeous sight even without the lights: With more than 50,000 desert plants, the garden has one of the most complete collections of such plants in the world, so you will see cactus of all sizes — agaves, aloes, perennials, trees and more. Allot about 2-3 hours to walk all the desert trails. Buy timed tickets online, starting at $29.95 for adults, $10.95 for children; 5:30-10:30 p.m., Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 17-23 and 26-31.
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PHOTO BY: UPI / Alamy Stock Photo
Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, Missouri)
Now through Jan. 2, 2021
The “Show Me” state's grandest botanical garden puts on quite the show, with more than a million lights illuminating its landscape and historic buildings during Garden Glow. Regulars will find the traditional Tower Grove House projection show, as well as a new show in Spoehrer Plaza. Accompanied by holiday music, walk through a bright loop of awe-inspiring displays, including a tunnel of pink and red lights and a glimmering 21-foot tall reindeer. The kids (or grownups) can enjoy hot chocolate and s'mores, and adults can opt for specialty drinks like amaretto hot chocolate. Buy timed tickets online, starting at $18 for adults, $10 for children; open nightly 5-8:30 p.m.; closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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PHOTO BY: RC Mosher / Alamy Stock Photo
Nights of a Thousand Candles
Brookgreen Gardens (Murrells Inlet, South Carolina)
Now through Dec. 31
A holiday tradition for 21 years, Nights of a Thousand Candles has extended this year's display from 11 days to 24 — a way to allow more people to attend while it runs at half capacity due to the pandemic. Visitors find live holiday music (carolers, and — depending on the night — a harpist, handbell ensemble, strolling bagpipers or Celtic rock duo) and gardens beautifully brightened with sparkling lights, including 2,800 hand-lit candles. A concurrent exhibit, Bruce Munro's Field of Light, covers the arboretum in over 12,000 stems of light in softly moving colors. You can purchase hot chocolate, cider or wine to drink as you stroll. Buy tickets online or by calling 844-271-3410, starting at $25 for adults, $15 for children; open select nights, 4-9 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Karl Gehring
Blossoms of Light
Denver Botanic Gardens (Denver, Colorado)
Now through Jan. 16, 2021
For three decades, Denver locals have flocked to the gardens for the annual Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens, where a vibrant spectrum of colored lights transforms the landscape into a sparkling, festive wonderland. Walk a rectangular-ish pathway (one-way) around most of the gardens’ 24 acres, past beautiful, wildly colorful displays (be sure to see the incredible 14-foot glass sculpture, “Colorado,” by artist Dale Chihuly in the Ellipse garden). Hot drinks and treats such as brownies and grilled cheese are available in the Hive Garden Bistro (with limited seating). Buy tickets online, $18-$21 for all ages, free for children 2 and under; open nightly, 4:30-8 p.m.; closed Christmas Day.
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