In the Twin Cities metro area — and beyond — holiday light displays abound.
But Winter Lights at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, open most nights through Dec. 31, is perhaps the only one with botanical themes at its heart.
“Blooms” featured along the one-mile walk-through displays include virtual sunflowers, lavender, roses, azaleas and lilies (above). And that’s not to mention the colorful flowers (bracts, actually) of the Poinsettia Tree (aka Cuetlaxóchitl Tree — “kwet-la-SHO-she”), featuring 500 live plants (below) in the shape of an evergreen tree in the Oswald Visitor Center Great Hall. Its irrigation system is an engineering feat!
Another must-see tree, now in its second year at Winter Lights, is a 16-foot weeping willow (above) that glistens dramatically with dripping icicles. Even insects have their place in the nature-inspired displays, including a Pollinator Path (complete with selfie stations) highlighting butterflies and a honeybee hive.
Brand new this year is an Enchanted Walkway — a 20-foot-long tunnel of animated lights that greets visitors at the start of the self-guided tour (map here), with changing colors and whimsical repeated patterns designed to dazzle.
Signature Seasonal Events Manager Wendy Composto said the new addition has been a fan favorite for visitors of all ages.
“People seem to be quite literally enchanted with this immersive and colorful tunnel,” Composto said. “The response has been wonderful. Looking ahead, I’m so excited about this new feature as I know it will become an iconic stop for people year after year at Winter Lights, similar to the Giant Apple.”
Speaking of the Giant Apple, this stop (known as Apple Court) is another fan-favorite stop for photo ops. It’s another walk-through experience that pays homage to the Arboretum’s Horticultural Research Center’s apple breeding programming, which has released 29 apples to grower and consumer markets worldwide, many of which are for sale August-December at the Arboretum’s off-site AppleHouse and Holiday Boutique.
“The Arboretum is where the Honeycrisp apple was developed, after all,” Composto said.
Also new this year is a special Winter Village on Scarecrow Hill. Where once a large (but temporary) willow twig sculpture stood until this past summer, a little village made of Barntiques and decorated round hay bales stands for fun hilltop frolicking.
Another destination along the walking route is S’mores Village near the Arboretum’s Sensory Garden. Here open bonfires await those who want to roast marshmallows. S’mores kits for four people go for $7. If you prefer heartier fare, sustenance and libations are available in the Oswald Visitor Center in the form of sandwiches, light snacks and a full cash bar.
Advance tickets are required for Winter Lights. Ages 15 and younger can attend for free, though special fees may apply on select theme nights, which include special activities for families (Dec. 7 Family Night has tickets remaining), couples (Date Nights, including Dec. 14) and a Photographers Only Night (Dec. 6).
On select nights (and some days for daytime visitors), a Winter Music Series adds another fun activity with choirs, bands and other talented ensembles.
A family-friendly New Year’s Eve Party will close out the festivities on Dec. 31, including a photo booth, New Year Wish Tree, crafts and countdown celebrations on the hour at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. and again at 8, 9 and 10 p.m.
Editor’s note: Sarah Jackson is a former journalist, editor and garden writer who found her calling as the public relations/media specialist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.
Jackson’s column on the happenings at the Arboretum will appear periodically on the Eden Prairie Local News website. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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