Nov 28th, 2014

Tips for GardenFest with Kids

8 Tips for Visiting Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights with Youngsters


Children can visit with Santa during “Santa sightings” on Merry Mondays at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, Mondays before Christmas.

Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is a wonderful family event. If you are a parent, you know any family event can be made even better with a few tips or tricks. So that’s why we’ve put together these 8 tips for visiting GardenFest with kids.  If you have your own tips, be sure to add them in the comments for others! Also, here are some GardenFest FAQs.

Gooey s'mores by the bonfire! photo by Scott Elmquist

Gooey s’mores by the bonfire! photo by Scott Elmquist

1. A great way to prepare kids for a visit is to show them photos of some of the lights before they come so they know what to look forward to.

Also, this will give them a chance to get excited.  You can see some great photos of past year’s GardenFest on our slideshow. For photos of this year’s show, you can follow along on our social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and our blog.  To see other visitor’s photos you can search the #GardenFest hashtag on Instagram or Twitter.

Tweens enjoying GardenFest. Photo by Patricia Cancro

Even older kids love Dominion GardenFest of Lights. Great place to take your big brother. Photo by Patricia Cancro

2. Did you know that your children can visit with Santa at the Garden? Why go to the mall when you can see Santa at the in the Conservatory?  Merry Mondays mean “Santa sightings” in the Conservatory (Mondays, 6 – 8 p.m. before Christmas). We welcome parents to take photos and kids can even take a moment to share their Christmas list with him.  Plus, enjoy storytime fireside with Garden Keeper in the  Library Reading Room too. Also, don’t forget to see our biannual dollhouse display.

Girl looking at Doll House. photo by Patricia Cancro

If it’s a cold night be sure to take a break in the Library to warm up by the fire in the reading room. There is a biannual doll house display — the next one will be GardenFest in 2018.

3. If you are bringing small children you may want to bring a stroller because there’s a bit of walking involved. We also have a limited number of Baby Jogger strollers available on a first-come, first served basis.

girl with lollypop lights

The Children’s Garden is always fun! Be sure to dress in layers. Photo by Patricia Cancro

4. Since much of the show is outdoors, it’s also a good idea to dress children according to the weather. Layers are always a good choice! If it’s cold, hats and mittens are great at keeping the heat in.  If you forget yours, our Garden Shop always has extra, and it’s a fun place to explore. YIf it’s snowing or icy out, be sure to check or Facebook for weather-related updates and cancellations.

5. Come early! You can come as early as 4:30 p.m., twilight is a magical time at the Garden and a great time to snap photos of the lights before the darkest part of the night.  Train displays in the Kelly Education Center opens at 5 p.m.  Visitation tends to peak between 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., so by arriving early (4:30 p.m.) or later (after 8:30 p.m.), you’ll avoid the crowds and parking will be easier too.   Please remember we are closed on Thanksgiving, Dec. 24- 25. GardenFest of Lights runs through early January.  Smores at Dominion Gardenfest

Tip: The number of visitors increases as we get closer to Dec. 25, especially once local schools get out. As you’d imagine, visitation is usually greater on the weekends and is also highly weather dependent.

6.  There is a kid-friendly menu in the Garden Cafe and the Robins Tea House also has a children’s menu (5-8 p.m.), dinner menu, light bites and house-made desserts.  What a great way to make this a memorable night for your children.   Tip: It’s easy to make a Tea House reservation online! 

Kids playing with trains.

Kids enjoy watching the interactive trains in the Kelly Education Center.

7. Children especially enjoy the train displays — we have two! — the trains in the Kelly Education Center and a second display in the Conservatory. The trains in the Kelly Education Center is an interactive display (we see kids spend hours here). The one in the North Wing of the Conservatory is exquisitely handcrafted by our staff.

8. Don’t miss the Children’s Garden. Some of our most lively and crazy lights are located here.  This is also where you’ll find the warming fire  (think s’ mores!) and the wheelchair-accessible Klaus Family Tree House your whole family can “climb.”  The view from the top of the Tree House is one the kids will not forget! Sparkling lights for as far as the eye can see. Plus, hot drinks, cookies, s’mores and more are available for purchase from Espresso-A-Go-Go in the Children’s Garden.  Tip: Note — The kid favorite, our maze, has moved to the Anderson Meadow across Sydnor Lake. Now it’s bigger than ever!


The Conservatory during Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. One of the most magical times is early — right before sunset.

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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