Some of the West’s most beautiful gardens are transforming into sparkling wonderlands of colorful lights for the holidays.

sign of luminaria from top of hill

Courtesy of Luminaria

The incredible biodiversity of the West means there are lush botanical gardens all over. These gardens showcase the impressive variety of plants that can be found in each region. In the spring and summer, these gardens are perfect places take in the serenity and beauty of nature. And, with blankets of snow changing the landscape and hauntingly beautiful skeletal trees, they’re no less impressive in the winter. And, thanks to a little holiday redecorating, that’s not all these gardens have to offer. While parks may hold special festivals during the winter, botanical gardens have another approach: holiday light shows. 

With the help of local artists and hundreds of thousands of lights, these the gardens turn into explosions of color and sparkle on dark, winter nights. At most gardens, you’re guided down a path that takes you on an otherworldly walk through the twinkling lights and impressive light sculptures. But that’s not all they have. Some feature live music and others have impressive pixel art displays across entire hills. 

These outdoor events are great ways to have some holiday fun while staying outdoors with social distance. So this season, find a garden event near you and light up your season, literally.

More Videos From Sunset

Here are some of the great holiday lights happening this year at gardens across the West.

Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Fort Bragg, California

From Nov. 26 to Dec. 19, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens hosts its 11th annual Festival of Lights. The event is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and takes visitors on a loop through the garden’s beautifully lit plants and paths and past impressive light sculptures and displays. This event does require masks even while outside. Tickets for the event cost $10, but kids 16 and under get in for free.

Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver

From Nov. 19 to Jan. 8, Blossoms of Light returns to the Denver Botanic Gardens. For more than 30 years, the holiday celebration has covered the paths, trees, and ponds of the gardens in colorful lights. This year, it will feature a 200-foot-long, 17-foot-tall tunnel of animated lights for you to walk through in the O’Fallon Perennial Walk. The event is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, and admission costs $21.

Luminaria at Ashton Gardens

Lehi, Utah

sign of luminaria from top of hill

Courtesy of Luminaria

Luminaria transforms Ashton Gardens in over 20 areas each with their own theme and style of lights. These areas include Himalayan Heights with a resident yeti, the Light of the World with a nativity and 35 bronze sculptures, and everything in between. Plus, the garden’s main hill is covered in 6,500 lights used to create moving pixel images. The event is closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and admission costs $24.

Enchanted at Descanso Gardens

La Cañada Flintridge, California

This event takes you on a 1-mile walk through some of the most beloved areas of Descanso Gardens, with each area hosting its own special attraction. The special attractions include stained class sculptures in the Rose Garden, spinning stenciled shapes full of light on the main lawn, otherworldly lighting effects in an ancient forest, and much more. Enchanted is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and costs $35 for admission.

Holiday Lights at Alaska Botanical Garden

Anchorage

From Nov. 28 to Jan. 2, the Alaska Botanical Garden decorates its half-mile loop trail in festive lights. The lights are transformed into sculptures, strung from buildings and through trees. Plus, the blanket of snow from the Alaska winter creates a beautiful canvas for the lights. Holiday Lights is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, except from Dec. 20 through Jan. 2 when it will be open every day. The event is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, and tickets cost $10.

River of Lights at ABQ BioPark

Albuquerque, New Mexico

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, the ABQ BioPark is bringing back its River of Lights event. The River of Lights, which was featured in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice for Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights in 2020, decorates the garden in hundreds of colorful lights and every year showcases brand new sculptures and displays created by the BioPark’s artists.

Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue, Washington

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, Bellevue Botanical Garden will be taken over by half a million lights, in the shapes of plants, birds, animals, and waterfalls. From 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. every night, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, you can wander the beautiful grounds of the garden surrounded by dazzling light. The entry fee is $5, and kids under 10 get in free.

Las Noches de Las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden

Phoenix

From Dec. 7-31, the Desert Botanical Garden will be covered in a type of paper lantern special to the Southwest called luminaries. You can wander the paths lit by these laterns, listening to live music and exploring the garden’s exhibition of sculptures by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. On Dec. 21, in celebration of the solstice, there will be no live entertainment as guests are encouraged to explore the lights in quiet contemplation. The event is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a general admission ticket is $49.95.


Read the 2021-22 Winter in the West Issue Right Here

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!