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Gardens of Holiday Lights

Lynn Coulter
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From Atlanta to Alaska, botanical gardens are throwing the switch on their holiday lights, turning trees, shrubs and other daytime-beautiful plants into extravagant nighttime delights.

Florida Botanical Garden Foundation

On dark, winter nights, Christmas lights feel magical. If you’ve ever waited outdoors to see a tree lighting, you know what we mean. The kids get antsy and visitors mill around until the tree lights up in brilliant colors. Winter is pushed back for a moment by the twinkle and glow.

The tradition of celebrating with winter lights began in ancient times, and today, we drape holiday lights indoors and out. Snowflakes sparkle at windows while illuminated reindeer prance over lawns. 

If you love holiday lights, look for seasonal displays at botanical gardens across the U.S. We asked a few of them to share pictures from previous exhibits with us, as you’ll see below. If you go, be sure to confirm the hours and admission prices beforehand.

We wish you and yours a happy holiday season, filled with beautiful bright lights and good cheer!

 Scott Dressel-Martin/Denver Botanic Garden, Blossoms of Light

Image: © Scott Dressel-Martin/Denver Botanic Garden

Blossoms of Light, at the Denver Botanic Garden, opens nightly from Nov. 29, 2013 through Jan. 1, 2014. More than one million lights decorate the grounds, and thousands are synchronized to “dance” to popular holiday tunes. Try the popular HoloSpex glasses, which change the lights into 3-D shapes.

Christmas In Ice, North Pole, Alaska

Christmas In Ice, in North Pole, Alaska, features lighted ice sculptures and slippery, carved-ice slides. The display opens Nov. 30, 2013, through Jan. 5, 2014. Be forewarned: a couple of years ago, the temperature dropped to -30 degrees by New Year’s Eve. If you’re making pictures, Michelle Sikma, a Christmas In Ice representative, suggests taping a hand warmer to your camera battery so it won’t drain in the cold.

Christmas In Ice, North Pole, Alaska

 Images: Christmas In Ice, North Pole, Alaska

Florida Botanical Garden Foundation

Santa will make an appearance at this year’s Holiday Lights display at the Florida Botanical Garden in Largo, Florida. The lights come on from Nov. 29, 2013 to Jan. 1, 2014. Look for a seven foot high gingerbread house, along with an illuminated 30-foot tall white swan and a five-foot tall tropical parrot. Images above and top of page: Florida Botanical Garden Foundation

Adam Rodriguez/Desert Botanical Garden/Flickr

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, lights up the night from Nov. 29 through Dec. 31, 2013, with traditional southwestern luminarias, or glowing paper lanterns. This year’s show features more than 8,000 hand-lit luminarias, along with thousands of twinkling white lights and artist Dale Chihuly’s fabulous glass artwork.

Adam Rodriguez/Desert Botanical Garden/Flickr

Visitors to the Desert Botanical Garden’s holiday display can honor someone special during this holiday event by sponsoring a luminaria with a personalized message for $100. Images: Flickr/Adam Rodriguez/Desert Botanical Garden


The vibrant display at Green Bay Botanical Gardens’ WPS Garden of Lights (Nov. 29, 2013 – Dec. 30, 2013) features a quarter of a million LED lights in a display that honors the natural features of the garden itself. Enjoy food, drink, and live music at the Winterberry Cafe and even get photos with Santa! Image:

Atlanta Botanical Garden holiday lights image joey ivansco

Garden Nights, Holiday Lights, runs Nov. 16, 2013 – Jan. 4, 2014, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. You probably won’t see any snow during your visit, but you’ll get a warm welcome from strolling carolers as you enjoy the whimsical fantasy land created with a million energy-efficient LED holiday lights.  After you have taken in the sights, step inside and sip warm drinks at the “Glow Bar.” Look for a “field” of illuminated corn, brilliant bugs, and a giant Poinsettia tree. Image: Joey Ivansco/Atlanta Botanical Garden


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