A sneak peek at Garden Lights, Holiday Nights debuting Saturday

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The only thing missing at this week’s media sneak peek of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s new yuletide tradition Garden Lights, Holiday Nights? A chill in the air conducive for hot cider sipping. But with temps in the 50s scheduled for dusk Saturday night, the weather will be perfect when the one-million gorgeous lights are officially snapped on for the public. Personally, we wouldn’t put it past Atlanta Botanical Garden executive director Mary Pat Matheson to schedule a cold front for the metro area to usher in the city’s newest seasonal tradition. After all, this is the same fund-raising force of nature who over the past decade has brought Dale Chilhuly, Henry Moore, a summer concert series and the garden’s new Canopy Walk to Midtown’s greenest tourist attraction.

While giving us an exclusive tour this week, Matheson told us Garden Lights, Holiday Nights has been on her to do list now for a decade. “We needed a new holiday tradition in Atlanta where you actually get out of the car and walk,” explained Matheson. She didn’t allow the worst economic cratering since the Great Depression sideline her holiday cheer either. “We can’t stand still just because of the economy,” she said.

Installation of the estimated one-million LED light display (garden reps are touting the display as the greenest in the country) began in August. “We wanted something that would stay true to our sustainability and green mission here at the garden,” Matheson said. “But we wanted it to be artistic as well. As you can see, we’re taking great liberties with the traditional red and green color scheme of the season. This is also a great way for us to showcase the beauty of the horticulture this time of year.”

A series of colorful glowing orbs have sprouted on the garden’s Great Lawn where a 30-minute music and light show with the city’s skyline as a backdrop mesmerized media types (for all we know, CBS 46’s news crew is still there, crashed in the center of the sidewalk obstructing everyone else’s shots. . .). The low-wattage lasers awaiting visitors in the Conservatory stream sprays of green dots to create an “Avatar” effect that is sure to delight kids. Inside the Edible Garden, a brand-new seasonal mascot, a praying Santa Mantis greets visitors. Approximately 700 luminarias line the pathways of the garden.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights officially debuts Saturday night and will run nightly (except for Dec 24 and Dec. 31) through Jan. 7. Tickets are $14.95 for garden members and $18.95 for non-members. For tickets and info, go to the garden’s official website.

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