By Susan McKee
As the daylight dwindles, city centers, botanical gardens and other public outdoor venues turn on fanciful light shows to attract visitors. November and December are the prime months for such extravaganzas.
Now through December 29, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland, features a one-mile winter trail with a laser garden, neon spiral trees, larger-than-life “icicles” and glowing boats in a festive flotilla.
The Luninosa Festival of Lights, open in Jungle Island, Miami, Florida, now through January 8, 2020, is filled with giant lanterns crafted from colorful silk by Chinese artisans, and lit up by more than one million LED lights
Baltimore spotlights books during its Festival of Literature and Light, staged in the Maryland city’s Inner Harbor November 1 through 10. There are all sorts of innovative events in addition to author presentations. For examples, Waterlight Graffiti invites visitors to “write” with water on an interactive wall of LED lights that turn on when wet.
Holiday at the Arboretum in Dallas, Texas, spotlights “The 12 Days of Christmas” with more than one million lights turned on throughout the garden at night. This outdoor exhibit, open from November 9 through December 31, features 25-foot-tall Victorian-style gazebos that come to life, depicting scenes from the traditional carol.
The “Lumière Festival” in Durham, England, includes new commissions alongside favorite artworks from the past decade – all of them interactive – November 14 through 17.
The Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, North Carolina, is turned on every evening from November 15 through January 1, 2020, in James Island County Park.
“Wild Lights” are promised at the Detroit Zoo November 16 through January 5, 2020. More than five million LED lights will illuminate trees, buildings, and 280 sculptures (more than 230 of which depict animals).
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, England, includes a Winter Light trail through the grounds illuminated with colorful lights. Giant fairy-light baubles provide an Instagram frame in the Stables Courtyard, and, inside the Coach House is an immersive light installation with rising and falling orbs. It’s open Wednesdays through Sundays November 16 through January 5, 2020 (and includes a Christmas Fair with 80 artisan vendors).
Enchanted Forest of Light is an interactive, nighttime experience in Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge, California. The one-mile walk travels through unique lighting experiences including interactive, large-scale light displays. It’s open November 17 through January 5, 2020.
In Kew Gardens outside London, England, laser projections will illuminate the Temperate House, there’s a “Flickering Fire Garden”, and glittering spiral trees during “Christmas at Kew”, November 20 through January 5, 2020.
Live music and holiday treats including gingerbread cookies and hot cocoa are promised at the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, from November 22 through December 31. Wander down the North Pole Highway, and then stop off at the Magic Forest, Arctic Kingdom, North Pole Village, and Yule Town.
In the Bedgebury National Pinetum, Gouldhurst, Kent, England, a one-mile path will feature lighted treetops in seasonal colors plus a “Vortex Tunnel” with “ribbons of light” and a Water Fountain Finale with jets of colored water dancing to Christmas classics from November 22 through December 30.
Over at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England, the Great Lake and the waterfall will shimmer and sparkle with lights along the trail through the parkland November 22 through January 1, 2020. An aerial light show will fill the sky with dancing bands of color.
In Chicago, the stretch of Michigan Avenue known as the Magnificent Mile has two days of special events November 22 and 23, culminating in the lighting of the Christmas Tree (and fireworks!).
The Winter Lights exhibit in the North Carolina Arboretum at Asheville, open November 22 through January 4, 2020, includes a 50-food animated tree.
St. Augustine’s annual Nights of Lights celebration in Florida features millions of white lights outlining the trees and architecture of “America’s oldest city” from November 23 through February 2, 2020.
During the Amsterdam Light Festival from November 28 through January 19, 2020, the center of the Dutch city is illuminated by light artists from all over the world. The theme? Disrupt! Disturbance lies at the heart of the eighth edition of the festival. Artists, designers, and architects were challenged to “question, test and shake up” Amsterdam for this season’s exhibition.
At Stourhead Gardens, Wiltshire, England, a festive trail under tree canopies drenched in seasonal color and dripping with “shards” of light, frosty snowflakes, stars, and baubles will be open November 29 through December 30.
The City of Arab, Alabama, kicks off the holiday season November 29 when Arab City Park is transformed into Christmas in the Park, a festive and “over-the-top” display of merriment and holiday splendor. More than two million lights will illuminate the night sky and decorations galore will line the sidewalks through December 31.
Zoolights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, provides a spectacular display of 2.5 million lights arranged into hundreds of luminous displays. It begins November 29, and runs (mostly on weekends) through January 5, 2020.
More than 750,000 twinkling lights are promised during the 2019 Holiday Light Show at the Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin, most evenings from November 29 through December 30
Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, promises topiary trees draped in lights that flicker in time to holiday classic tunes November 30 through December 30.
Along a mile-long path in the Chicago Botanic Garden November 22 through January 5, 2020, the night will come alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful “choir” of singing trees to a waterfall of light. Visitors to Lightscape will find themselves stepping inside a cathedral of golden light, walking down an avenue of luminous linden trees, and moving through colorful ribbons of light.
In Arden, North Carolina, the drive-through Lake Julian Festival of Lights illuminates a Buncombe County park with 50 animated and stationary light displays November 30 through December 23.
Every year, lighting engineers, video designers, architects, graphic designers, visual artists and street performers come together each year to stage a Festival of Lights in Lyon, France. From December 5 through 8, installations will be found in Lyon’s small squares and larger sites such as the Place Bellecour, Antiquaille and the theatres of Fourvière.
From popular international installations to specially commissioned works of art, the Lux Helsinki Light Festival rounds out the holiday season January 4 through 8, 2020. There’ll be UV graffiti, video projections that “manipulate” architecture, and topical works addressing social issues.