See Lights Glow
This year’s Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is about providing a place for friends and family to see lights glow while relaxing and making memories together. Because safety is the top priority, there are many procedures in place. All tickets must be prepurchased before coming to the Garden. Tickets are available online ONLY. Masks are required for all guests over age 5. Tickets are limited and have 30-minute arrival time windows. This will allow the Garden to scan tickets efficiently and get guests into the Garden as quickly as possible.
All displays are outside this year; there are no interior attractions (restrooms are available.) The GardenFest experience allows guests to see lights glow as they explore the Garden and socially distance. The typical visit should last an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Guests who are interested in seated dining do have that option.*
A Bright Spot: Central Garden
While there is no one set “path,” this blog post is designed to give you an idea of what you’ll experience when you visit.
One of the most brightly lit areas will be the Central Garden between the Visitors Center and Conservatory. Water sprays and lights will dance in the fountain in the Sunken Garden and, although closed, the Conservatory will be lit from within by cascading curtains of lights. Decorated trees will be placed on the terrace in front of the Conservatory for photo opportunities and the LOVE sculpture will also be lit. Some favorite forms including the dazzling peacock and unicorn will also be near the Conservatory.
The layout of the show allows guests ample opportunities to choose their paths while practicing physical distancing. Thousands of lights twinkle in trees and line pathways, guests will delight at discovering lighted forms around every turn, and colored spotlights dramatically uplight the natural forms of rocks and trees in vivid hues such as purples and reds. Water is always an important feature of GardenFest, especially for its reflective qualities around the lakes, and this year is no different.
Asian Valley: Lights and Food
In addition to the main Garden Walk, a parallel path in Asian Valley provides a wonderland. See lights glow and sparkle in warm colors of white, amber, gold and green. Nestled in Asian Valley is the Tea House, which is the place for “Grab & Go” food such as soups, chili and stews to be enjoyed on the patio (as space allows) or while walking.
Nearby is the Cochrane Rose Garden with a canopy of twinkling bulbs to light up the night sky. The Rose Garden is the location for the Jingle Bar, which will be open on select evenings and offering adult beverages such as mulled wine, boozy hot chocolate and spiked cider.
Whimsy and Enchantment: West Island and Flagler Gardens
Below the Rose Garden, the route circles around the West Island Garden, providing a glimpse of forms of aquatic creatures. In nearby Flagler Garden, fanciful light sculptures will frolic on the lawn. As guests continue walking down the Flagler path, they’ll enter an enchanted forest of crape myrtles wrapped in “Aurora” lights: purple, aqua and blue.
Show-Stopper: Darlington Oak in Grace Arents Garden
One of the show-stoppers this year is the Darlington Oak in front of Bloemendaal House. Bedazzled with a profusion of pink lights, the tree is a sight to behold.
Hot Drinks and Outdoor Model Trains: Children’s Garden
Nearby the paths split and run parallel again: one follows the lake edge with reflective views “doubling” the lights, while the other winds through the Children’s Garden and the Farm Garden edged in strands of multi-colored lights. Espresso-A-Go-Go will have hot drinks such as hot chocolate and coffees available for purchase from the Carriage House in the Children’s Garden again this year. Unfortunately due to its appeal as a close gathering spot, the Warming Fire will go on hiatus this year. Instead, Kelleher is sponsoring warming stations in several key locations throughout the Garden.
Another feature that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser is an outdoor model train display. This feature will be in front of the Garden Keeper’s cottage. The G-gauge train will wind through a landscape and by a water tower form. A lighted form of a conductor is also planned nearby.
The lights then loop back around Lake Sydnor, offering views of the Conservatory on the top of the hill and connecting back to the Rose Garden and Main Garden Path. The exit for the show will be through an outdoor gate with the option to visit the alluring Garden Shop on the way out.
Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights continues to offer flexibility to be the kind of experience guests want it to be: a family outing, a socially distanced small group of friends, a date night, or a quiet walk.
2020 has been an unprecedented year and we are delighted to be able to keep our gates open for Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. This year will be a little different as we have worked to implement a show that is welcoming to all, with safety as the top priority. Much like the miles of lights that stretch across our grounds, we are all connected to one another. It takes all of us glowing together to shine light in the darkness of this year. We recognize this is a time like no other and the connection of being together to see some beauty and joy is a gift we can bring to ourselves, our families, and our community. We welcome all to the Garden and hope that we can shine a little light and hope into the world.” –Ellyn Parker, Exhibitions Manager
*Seated dinners are available by online reservation only in the Restaurant in the Visitors Center. A GardenFest ticket is also required for the seated dining. Because of the one-way flow in the Visitors Center, guests must plan to dine before seeing the lights and their 30-minute ticket arrival window must coincide with their dining reservation time.