The Garden of Lights is back at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. Walking down the paths, hearing soft Christmas music play in the background, with a warm cup of hot chocolate while admiring the lights is the best way to start the Christmas season. The entire route stretches a mile long, making for a nice relaxing walk at the end of a stressful day. Stopping at the food truck before starting the mile walk truly makes the experience one for the books.
With the lights starting early November and ending on Jan. 1, it is one of the best ways to start off one of the biggest and most popular holidays.
Each twinkle of light brings up childhood memories of driving though the lights and listening to the staff suggested Christmas station the staff members would tell you to listen to. For most of the Hampton Roads natives, that is what makes Christmas feel more and more special each year.
Compared to the Oceanfront lights, the Botanical Garden’s lights have way more interactive features and more special feeling since it is a walkthrough. While the Oceanfront is a drive thru light show, they don’t have many lights that catch one’s eyes.
The lights at the Botanical Gardens started in 1994 with a drive thru tour and are now on their twenty-eighth year. Having such an extensive history shows that the lights have been a major part of many residents’ lives, whether they are visiting or have grown up in the area.
In past years, they have done a drive thru, especially during COVID-19, when they focused more on having the drive thru as a safe way to view the lights. Having done the drive thru option when it was available was nice and fun, but, it generally doesn’t give off the same experience. Walking through Botanical Gardens gives a different special feeling in regards to really being able to see everything while still being safe.
They are still open during their normal business hours during the day but the routes of lights will close at 4 p.m. due to safety and maintenance reasons.
With different time slots for people to pick, it gives the best opportunities to see the lights in all of their glory and to take your time, while still choosing a time where it may be less crowded. The times go from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. For me personally, the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. time is the absolute best since many people try to come by earlier, it leaves you to enjoy the atmosphere with less crowding.
Monday through Thursday are the value nights ranging from $15 for adult members and $18 for not-yet-members. Friday through Sunday are Premium nights ranging from $20 for adult members and $25 for not-yet-members. Dec. 21 through Dec. 25 will be premium nights as well, even with Dec. 21 and 22 ending up on a Wednesday and Thursday.
Botanical Gardens is located at 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk VA.
By Mikayla Moscatelli