Nov 16th, 2023

All About GardenFest 2023

The Fountain Garden lit up for GardenFest

The Fountain Garden lit up for GardenFest. Photo by Tom Hennessy

Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is back for another season of amazing light displays, model trains, warm winter beverages, meals with Santa, and riveting performances. When the days get colder, this favorite tradition helps bring holiday cheer to Richmond. This year, the Garden will be transformed into a winter wonderland using the theme “Rhythms of Nature” as its guide. 

Kids running through light tunnel at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights

Kids running through light tunnel at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. Photo by Caroline Martin

As you enter the Garden, you will be greeted by millions of lights that take you on a journey through the rhythmic seasons of life that connect us all. The colors and light forms reflect the four seasons in different Garden areas: summer shines in the Asian Valley and the West Island Garden; rich fall colors glow in the Flagler and Grace Arents Gardens; the whites and golds of winter glitter in the Children’s Garden; and fresh spring hues bloom around Sydnor Lake and the Streb Conifer Garden.

Colorful lights at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. Image by James Loving

Colorful lights at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. Photo by James Loving

Sounds of nature, such as bird calls, have been introduced in select areas throughout the display. As an accompaniment, Virginia’s state bird, the cardinal, is represented in a new light form, welcoming guests to the Garden as you enter from the Robins Visitor Center. Other new light forms include a bluebird, mushrooms, and lily pads floating in the pools in front of the Conservatory. Beloved favorites, like the peacock in the Cochrane Rose Garden, will be back again this year.

Other popular attractions will also return this year, including the model trains, dried botanicals, fairy houses, and trees decorated by Henrico County Public Schools students, which are housed in the Kelly Education Center and Lora M. Robins Library. The show-stopping Fraser Fir from Pennsylvania, which stands 20-feet-tall in the North Wing of the Conservatory also makes the perfect photo-op. 

View of the Garden Shop from inside the Robins Visitors Center.

Stop by the Garden Shop in the Robins Visitors Center to stock up on holiday gifts. Photo by Meredith Orne

Before buying your tickets, consider which performances you may want to attend. On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Concert Ballet of Virginia will present a short version of The Nutcracker in the Cochrane Rose Garden. On Dec. 5, VCU Vox Concordia and Vocal Chamber Ensemble will be in the Conservatory and along with Deau Eyes in the Cochrane Rose Garden. The Greater Richmond Chorus, Henrico High School Choir, SPARC Touring Ensemble, and James River Ringers round out GardenFest’s programming (see the full performance schedule). 

Attendees enjoying the Jingle Bar.

Attendees enjoying the Jingle Bar. Photo by Will Nelson

You’ll find plenty of food and drink options at GardenFest, too. The Restaurant at Lewis Ginter (Garden Cafe) has sit-down dining with festive holiday dinners (reservations are required; walk ins accepted on a case-by-case basis.), while the Jingle Bar and Grill (Tea House) offers casual grab-and-go fare and a bar. The drink menu includes coffee, hot cocoa, and hot apple cider (plus an option to add a shot of Peppermint Schnapps, Fireball, or Bailey’s for $5). On select nights, there will also be a Pop-Up Jingle Bar in the Cochrane Rose Garden. 

The Kelleher Warming Fire in the Children’s Garden is also a great spot to warm up, sip hot chocolate, and roast s’mores (available for purchase at the nearby Carriage House).

The Tea House lit up for GardenFest

The Tea House lit up for GardenFest. Photo by Tom Hennessy

Did you know Santa makes a few special trips to the Garden? Santa Brunch is a delicious opportunity to meet him on Saturdays and Sundays in December (reservations are required and fill up quickly). Families also have an opportunity to meet Santa during GardenFest Dinners with Santa, held on select evenings (Dec. 17, 18 & 19; seating at 5 p.m.) For more info on dining experiences, including holiday rentals, please visit Holiday Events and Private Parties.

Santa with child

Santa listening to a child’s list. Photo by Scott Elmquist

GardenFest of Lights is the ultimate outdoor holiday adventure for the whole family, even four-legged members. Dogs can join in on the fun too on GardenFest for Fidos nights (Nov. 20, 27 and Dec. 4). 

A pup enjoying the GardenFest for Fidos nights. photo by Nicole Plummer

A pup enjoying the GardenFest for Fidos nights. Photo by Nicole Plummer

Members can enjoy GardenFest of Lights for free on select nights (Nov. 17-19 and Jan. 1-7) and receive special discounted pricing on all other nights. To get the best value, consider becoming a member!

Still have questions? Visit our GardenFest FAQs page where you’ll find helpful info and tips for planning your visit. 

Meredith Orne is a marketing intern at the Garden. She has a bachelor's degree in Media Arts & Design with a minor in Business. She also loves photography, writing, art, and graphic design and is excited to learn more about the Garden through these channels.

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