While you've been in denial about purchasing a Thanksgiving turkey, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been busy untangling 104 miles of lights, illuminating 1.5 million bulbs and hosting packed private previews of its second annual Garden Lights Holiday Nights this week.
Feeling inadequate yet?
On Wednesday night, invited guests and their families were already celebrating the holidays and taking in this year's new features at the Midtown tourist attraction. For families planning to visit early in the evening, there's Lumina Sparkles, the show's brand-new live character, a mysterious sparkling sprite who will be greeting small fry and posing for photo ops from 5 to 8 p.m each night. For us older kids, the lights display offers Glow Bar, a date night-friendly disco where more adult beverages will be served in the Edible Garden near a roaring fireplace, complete with a live DJ nightly from 8 to 10 p.m. Strolling carolers have also been added this year and I've been assured that last year's frightening s'mores shortages have been addressed (patrons snarfed more than 5,000 s'mores kits in 2011 as visitors assembled DIY desserts by the cozy fire pits).
And joining the Dr. Suess-inspired Funky Forest on the garden's Canopy Walk this year is an LED-lit Ice Storm designed to sooth your frayed holiday nerves and make you forget that Atlantans usually associate the phrase "ice storm" with MARTA buses sliding sideways down Peachtree Street at alarming rates of speed.
ABG executive director Mary Pat Matheson was standing outside Glow Bar Wednesday night sporting festive blinking holiday gloves and monitoring visitor feedback during the media preview of the 30-acre display. She's hoping the holiday offering will rival last year's success for the nonprofit when the display attracted 110,000 holiday visitors. "This is definitely a new business model for us," she explained. "Let's face it. Climate change is real and those hot summers are going to push our season more and more into spring, fall and winter. This is one way for us to ensure that we don't have a down season. The feedback we got last year was 'I loved it so much I came five times and brought different friends, family members and out of town visitors.' When people want to come back and see the same lights display and bring their friends, that's golden. Last year, when I overheard parents telling their kids, 'This is going to be our new holiday tradition,' I knew this was a success. Atlanta just doesn't have many of those holiday traditions anymore. This is something that's multi-generational as well."
Garden Lights Holiday Night opens to the public Saturday night and runs through January 5. Hours each night are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Garden reps caution visitors that Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, New Year's Eve and Day are all peak admission nights. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the ABG official website.
Great Lawn at sunset photo by Jennifer Walker/Brave PR, All other photos by Rich Eldredge