Rather than going dark and dormant for the season, the gardens at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum come alive every year with thousands of lights strung to celebrate plants and the natural world.
Starting November 17, visitors can step inside a Honeycrisp apple all aglow with red lights, walk over a blue waterfall dotted with water lilies in “bloom” or take selfies inside a gorgeous tent of white lights. A s’mores village with bonfires offers an inviting place to warm up, or you can pop inside for food and drink at the Eatery, a new cafe in the Oswald Visitor Center.
Visitors will also enjoy extended hours at the Gift and Garden Store, and they can stroll through the arboretum’s art galleries or sit a spell in a balmy and fragrant conservatory. “Seeing the arboretum at night, indoors and out, really is a special experience,” says Wendy Composto, the signature seasonal events manager and the visionary behind Winter Lights. “We are so excited for this year’s displays. Every year at Winter Lights, we love to show off our old favorites—and surprise our visitors with new installations, too.”
Because the arboretum is a public garden and the plant collections need to be carefully preserved for future generations, you won’t see strings of lights wrapping the branches of the trees and shrubs. Instead, existing and added wood, metal and other structures are used to create the displays.
Winter Lights runs on numerous dates during November 17–January 1. Special events include an opening night celebration (November 17); photography nights (December 7 and 14); family nights (December 1 and 15), date nights (December 8 and 22) and a New Year’s Eve Party (December 31).
Reserve tickets ($10–$25) at arb.umn.edu. Tickets are free for ages 15 and younger except on special event nights.
Sarah Jackson is a media specialist at the arboretum. She lives and gardens in Minnetonka. Learn more at arb.umn.edu.