When you tell a two year old you’re going to see lots of lights in a garden, the reaction is part excitement and part confusion. When I told Norah we were going with her best friend Nina and her family, the reaction was ecstatic. With great anticipation and lots of bundling (it took a lot of explaining to convince a 2 year old to wear two pairs of paints) we headed out.
As always, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden delivered. The squeals of delight when Norah and Nina reunited at the garden entrance set the stage. They quickly hopped in the double stroller—provided for free by the garden, which is so awesome—snuggled under some blankets, and we hit the garden.
First stop was a photo op in front of the LOVE letters… Virginia is for Lovers of lights and two-year-old besties. We strolled on through a tunnel made of a lighted peacock’s tail, past a lion and several butterflies, down what I called candy cane way and across the bridge to the Children’s Garden. Game over stroller. Norah and Nina bolted out and ran all through the carrots and tunnels and straight up to the top of the tree house at full tilt. More squeals of delight. They came hurtling back down, ran through a maze, back across the bridge and up the hill to see the trains. (In addition to beautiful lights, GardenFest is great for wearing out the kiddos.)
Elaborate train sets run in the education building. This is a great opportunity to thaw out indoors and was a home run for the girls. They loved pressing the buttons to make different parts of the scene move. We coaxed them out with promises of pink Christmas trees in the Conservatory. The Conservatory’s cottage was the biggest hit. The girls spent a lot of time peeking in at the woodland creatures and asking burning questions about the pigeon mail carrier and candy on the table.
About this time we were fast approaching dinner and bedtime. Against their wills, we took the girls home. But we’ll be back next year for sure. All the parents, grandmother and aunt in tow also had a fantastic time. I’m ready to make it an official holiday tradition.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Dominion GardenFest of Lights 2011
Through Jan. 9, 2012 (Closed Dec. 24 & 25)
1800 Lakeside Avenue
Richmond, VA 23228
Katherine O’Donnell loves Richmond and promoting it to visitors during her job as Director of Marketing at the RMCVB. A North Carolina native, Katherine has lived in Richmond since her undergrad days at the University of Richmond. (Go Spiders!) She lives in the West End with her husband, Darby, and daughter, Norah.