As the holiday season begins, the University of Georgia will present a light show along a half-mile walking trail at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to display magical scenery, bright decorations and sparkling lights. Winter WonderLights will transform various parts of the garden into 11 festive light displays.
Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden, said she hopes this event will generate funding for the garden to invest in their people and mission of research and teaching.
“One of our objectives was to imagine we were gardening with lights. They really accomplish that goal. It's very magical, and the garden is transformed,” Cruse-Sanders said. “I think it'll create a little magic and good memories for people who visit.”
The installation and design of the lights was a collaborative process with Koons Environmental Design, CloverLeaf Group, College Pro Landscaping and Universal Concepts. After some prior work in the gardens, the staff approached Koons Environmental Design about creating their first Winter WonderLights show.
Josh Koons, a landscape architect for Koons Environmental Design, said even though they are more experienced with hardscape and traditional landscape elements, they had the confidence to design their first light show experience. They first began the light design process September 2020 and started the installation process at the end of August 2021, according to Koons.
“The inspiration was remembering how much fun it was to be a kid at Christmas time, the holiday lights and everything that went with it,” Koons said. “It’s just a fond memory, and there’s some of us who haven’t grown up yet and still appreciate all of the magic that comes along with the holiday season.”
Also featured in the garden, local artists, Mike Harboldt with St. Udio and independent artist Chris Taylor created animal figures strung with lights. Cruse-Sanders said these whimsical creatures transform the garden into a magical scene encompassed with twinkling lights.
“It instills this child-like feeling of wonder and merriment. It wraps up nostalgia and the present walking through,” Koons said.
Winter WonderLights will be open from 5:30-9p.m. on Dec. 1-5, Dec. 8-12, Dec. 15-23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 2-9. Tickets cost $15 per person and are free for children under three. A 10 percent discount is offered to members of the Friends of the Garden membership program and groups of 20 or more. This event is fully ADA accessible.
Tickets are only available for purchase online at the botanical garden website. The light show experience should take 45 - 60 min., but guests are welcome to stay longer, according to the botanical garden website
Along with the University of Georgia as a presenting sponsor, other sponsors include Friends of the State Botanical Garden, Trumps Catering, Barron’s Rental Center, Condor Chocolates, Synovus and Westminster Christian Academy.
To park on-site at the botanical garden, VIP parking can be purchased with a separate ticket online for $25 per car. Free parking is located at other University of Georgia parking lots on South Milledge Avenue, like the UGA Soccer/Softball Complex. UGA buses are available for a shuttle from these free parking lots. Persons with disabilities can notify the botanical garden for free on-site parking.
Throughout the light show, sweet treats such as cookies, s’mores, hot chocolate, coffee, bottled water and other beverages will be available for purchase. Guests can shop for gifts and souvenirs at the holiday market located at the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory.