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Photos of an Enchanted Visit to the Glow Show NYBG Holiday Lights

NYBG Holiday Lights show 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Everything’s aglow this December at the New York Botanical Garden. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly or utterly romantic night out under the stars, look no further. We visited the NYBG Glow holiday light show this weekend, and it was marvelous fun. We’re sharing our journal of photos of how to spend a most enchanted evening during a visit to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Holiday Lights Glow show this year.

the new york botanical garden is glowing this holiday season

The NYBG GLOW holiday light show at the New York Botanical Garden is a magical way to spend some time outside in the fresh air, surrounded by glittering lights, music and stunning native trees and foliage.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

It’s new this year, and boy, do we need it!

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The new experience is entirely outdoors (it doesn’t include access to the Holiday Train Show, which you’ll need to visit in the daytime). NYBG GLOW’s focus is on illuminating the landscape of the Garden and its iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

It’s worth noting that a visit to the NYBG is an essential New York experience in and of itself. The New York Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark. It’s home to multiple individual New York City landmarks, as well, including the Haupt Conservatory and the LuEsther T. Mertz Library – both of which are spectacularly illuminated as part of NYBG GLOW.

get your glow on at the NYBG this month

With a limited number of visitors admitted every half-hour, you’ll feel as if the 250-acre Garden is actually an open playground just for you and your companions, illuminated by thousands of lights (the NYBG notes that they’re all energy-efficient LEDs).

We visited NYBG GLOW recently, and here’s our photo essay of the enchanted evening we spent there.

1. Snow light, snow bright

If you love winter (and we really do) you’ll swoon for the wintry dreamscape you’ll discover at NYBG GLOW.

Photos from the NYBG holiday light show. Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The lamps that light the pathways through the event are adorned with gold and white snowflakes, And snowflake silhouettes are arrayed across several of the wide garden pathways, as well.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Can you imagine how magical it would be with just a flurry of actual snowflakes whirling about? But even on a crisp winter’s night like the one we experienced, it’s pure winter magic.

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2. Take time

The Rolex Clock tower can sometimes go unnoticed during the daylight hours, as there are so many other wonders to see near the Reflecting Pool.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

But it literally glows at NYBG GLOW, and becomes a mysterious marker of the preciousness of the time we have left. It’s a dreamy, Dickensian mood that’s only possible after dark.

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3. See the tree

Of course there’s a Christmas tree as part of this experience. ‘Cause it’s a botanical garden, right? There are LOTS of trees!

However, one tree has to reign above all at this time of year. And the showcase tree in this instance happens to be faux – but we’re cool with that. No one wants a tree to be sacrificed – here of all places – just for decorative effect.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

At NYBG GLOW, the tree serves as a beacon and a landmark, summoning everyone to gather ’round. The glittering tree, along with lighted spheres, fill the Reflecting Pool in a festive vignette.

Photos from the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

On the night we visited, the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker filled the air surrounding the tree. We learned later that there are surprise pop-ups and performances by The Hip Hop Nutcracker, an award-winning contemporary dance troupe.

4. Fire and Ice

Follow the snowflake path, and you’ll find both fire and ice. The LuEsther Mertz Library is graced by one of the most beautiful decorative fire pits we’ve ever seen.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Nearby, an artist from Okamoto Studio NYC carves a new ice sculpture live every evening. Happily, we arrived just as the carver was finishing his work for the night on this T-Rex.

Ice sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

You’ll find a different wintry work of art each evening throughout the season. We loved learning later that the ice-carving artists’ studio thrives on offering new ways to embody the ephemeral quality of ice as the perfect metaphor for “the here and the now.”

In 2020 in particular, that feels really on-point.

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5. The Conservatory

The stately white Enid Haupt Conservatory serves as a blank canvas for an ever-changing light show. It’s a dreamy and mysterious color palette – lots of indigo blue and smoky shades of purple.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

We love the play of light and shadow here, too. It’s a very different look than the daytime vistas we’re accustomed to.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

6. An Garden of Illumination

Alongside the front façade of the Conservatory is a garden of illuminated lights. Accompanied by the music of a live steel drum ensemble, visitors can stroll (or run wild, depending on their age) along a series of winding paths while taking in the dramatic views of the Haupt Conservatory and its front lawns as they’re illuminated by swirls of light.

Photos from the NYBG Holiday Lights Show 2020.

Photos from the NYBG Holiday Lights Show 2020. Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The music is provided by a steel pan ensemble called Khuentertainment. Winners of the International Pan Ramajay Competition 2020, the group is led by musician Khuent Rose.

The display is a lovely series of vignettes – and yes, spontaneous dance parties do break out. Who can resist when traditional carols are being played with a tropical vibe?

The Botanical Garden Holiday Lights Show 2020

The Botanical Garden Holiday Lights Show 2020. Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

6. Time for hot chocolate!

Once you’ve had your fill of the glittering lights, follow the snowflakes to food and drink.

The Pine Tree Café at the main entrance to the Garden is open throughout the evening, so you and your squad can duck in and warm up with a hot cocoa or coffee. Freshly made pizzas are on offer, too. As are a variety of baked goods (we highly recommend the carrot-walnut loaf).

The Pine Tree Cafe at the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Lights. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Beverages and light bites are also available on the outdoor terrace of the Hudson Garden Grill near the Haupt Conservatory. The Gift Shop is open all evening, too – a great source for ornaments, home décor, unusual plants and garden-themed gifts and stationary.

The Pine Tree Cafe at the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Light show. Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

a most enchanting evening at the garden

It’s comforting to know that even in 2020, there’s whimsy and beauty to be found that you can safely share with your family and friends. The Glow Holiday Lights at the New York Botanical Garden is one place that’s guaranteed to charm even the Grinchiest, Bah-Humbug types.

Photos from the NYBG Holiday Lights Show 2020.

Photos from the NYBG Holiday Lights Show 2020. Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

What do you say? Are you in? If you go, definitely have a cup of hot chocolate – it’s the kind of micro luxury we all really need right now. Stay safe and strong out there, dear reader.

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Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. A Detroit native, she has 3 Harvard degrees and has written 3 mystery novels published by Simon & Schuster. After serving as a senior corporate executive, CEO of CNBC and partner at McKinsey, she now serves on the boards of several tech companies. She loves fashion, Paris, New York, books, contemporary art, running, skiing, coffee, Corgis and cats. 

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