Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court Vienna, VA 22182
Winter Walk of Lights
Runs mid-November through the first weekend in January
Cost: $13 adults, $8 kids (Ages 3-12)
Operates nightly 5pm – 10pm (First entry 5:30pm, last timed entry 9:15pm)
Every Christmas break, we try and squeeze in a bunch of fun stuff. In years past, we’ve made the drive out to Bull Run for their Festival of Lights — a drive-through light display. This year I heard about a new walk-through light display at Meadowlark and thought we should give it a try.
Since it involves walking around outdoors, I tried to pick a day when the weather wasn’t brutally cold, and purchased timed tickets in advance for the evening of January 1.
We returned from out of town that afternoon and when I tried to rally the troops for a fun outing, nobody was having it. With much cajoling, complaining and perhaps a wee amount of yelling, we headed out to check it out.
We arrived just before our appointed time of 5:30 and found plenty of room in the parking lot. We entered the main building, where tickets could be purchased, as well as snacks and light-up souvenirs.
From their website, I had the impression we needed to buy tickets in advance or miss out, but one could have easily walked up and purchased tickets the night we went (weekends/holidays might be a different story).
We handed over our tickets and passed through a door into their gated grounds. Guess what? It was MAGICAL. All the bad attitudes melted away and we were enchanted.
The walk of lights runs along a half mile of paved trail (stroller friendly!) and uses more than 500,000 LED lights to create a variety of scenes.
My studious 7 year old enjoyed using the map to navigate and determine which display we were at (note: the trail is clearly marked and using the map is purely optional).
My favorite scene was the “Lakeside Light Show”, where more than 40,000 lights are set to music in a delightful display.
The kids (and I) loved the “animated stream” where fish spit water and the stream sparkled.
We attempted to take a few family pics, but they didn’t turn out so good. They do prove we were having a good time, tho.
At the end of the walk, there is a fire pit which was a nice way to warm up.
Even better, you can purchase marshmallows ($2/5) or a s’mores kit ($4) and roast them over the fire pit. The smart thing to do is buy them in the atrium before you begin the walk (we didn’t — we went back in to buy them then snuck back out to the fire pit through the exit). I suppose an even more frugal option would be to bring your own s’mores (sticks are provided at the fire).
The last stretch of lights before re-entering the building is a beautiful blue forrest, with the illusion of snow sprinkling over your heads.
Everything about the experience was wonderful and I enthusiastically recommend it.
It is an expensive outing, but I’m glad we splurged on it. We’ve added this to our list of “must do” winter activities and look forward to returning next year.
If you haven’t been yet, the lights will be on display through this Sunday (Jan 6th) so there is still time to check it out!