Go Do This: GardenFest of Light 2016

It’s back, and it’s a good one. Here’s why we recommend it for you and/or your family.

What it is

GardenFest of Light is a winter wonderland slash Main Street Electrical Parade slash garden tour put on by Dominion and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Only this year, you can add another slash to that—GardenFest of Light reminded me very strongly of Rainbow Road. You know, that super-tough stage at the end of each MarioKart game that mesmerized you with its multi-colored beauty but was quick to drop you into space if you made any sudden moves?

Wait, don’t be scared, GardenFest doesn’t drop you into space, unless you count a wayward child who might wander into an unlit spot and start wolf-howling (like mine does) until you find them.

Basically, you buy a ticket, walk through a sea of light exhibits (that is, made mostly with tiny string lights) in all sorts of shapes and sizes, buy some hot chocolate halfway through, and basically let your children run around in the dark with their little pink cheeks and dangling mittens.

This year’s theme is Living Color, and it’s simply gorgeous. Pinks, blues, reds, yellows, greens, whites, purples—it’s all there and it’s pretty disco-y delicious. This isn’t exactly a Christmas thing. There’s no lit-up Santa, no reindeer, it’s not that thing that happens up at Meadow Event Park. It’s truly a work of art.

That thing at Meadow Event Park may be awesome, by the way, I don’t really have any idea.

Who’s behind it

Dominion, the people who deliver our electricity, and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the people who bring us a lot of beautiful flora and even fauna (those butterflies!). Also a ton of volunteers who help set up all the lights.

Where it is

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is at 1800 Lakeside Avenue on Northside. If you’re arriving from the south, keep right, even though you’ll be turning left. There’s a sudden turn lane situation at Hilliard that screws me (and everyone else in front of me) over every time. You won’t miss the entrance, there are police officers helping to direct traffic, and it’ll be where everyone else is going as well.

When it is

Nightly admission through January 9, excepting December 24 and 25. Members get in free on January 9! Hours are 5 – 10pm.

There are also various nights in which events happen, like caroling and crafting and all sorts of things. Check those out here.

How much it costs

If you’re a Lewis Ginter member—something I highly recommend—you greatly benefit with a deeply discounted ticket. Member adults are $7, non-member adults are $13, kids are $5 (members) and $8 (non-members). Littles under 3 are free.

It can add up to an expensive night, particularly if you partake in the hot refreshments. I’d argue that it’s worth it, my child thoroughly enjoyed himself, and not just because there was a room with an impressive model train situation.

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You will take this exact photo, I would bet money on it.

You can buy tickets ahead of time online, but you’ll have to pay a convenience fee. You might as well just buy them on-site. The lines aren’t that long.

You do not need cash at the hot beverages stand or anywhere else. Hooray, 2016!

Other things to note

There are free cruisin’ strollers that I recommend making use of if your child is under three. It’s a ton of walking and potentially a ton of cold walking. If they get tired and refuse to move their little legs anymore, you’ll have to do a LOT of carrying. Plus it can be an easy way to keep track of them if they start wilding out.

Lewis Ginter is doing a social media contest, and you can win a membership and other stuff! More about that here, but basically you follow @lewisginter on Instagram, post a pic, and tag them as well as #GardenFest. Good luck, and be careful around those sharp Rainbow Road turns.

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