Real Richmond Review: Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

photo credit: Catherine Matheny Bell
photo credit: Catherine Matheny Bell

Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden promises you a magical evening. Enjoy a festive atmosphere with holiday decorations, lights, bicycles and flowers all rolled into one. Archways, walkways, fountains and everything in between are aglow with shiny bicycle streamers, bicycle baskets, and bicycle wheels. Celebrating Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s 30th anniversary, this year’s theme is: A Legacy in Lights: 120 years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden, a nod to the Lakeside Wheel Club, founded by Lewis Ginter in 1895.

Whether you have visited GardenFest in previous years – or are new to the festival of lights – you are in for a beautiful evening. The creatively decorated bicycles appeal to audiences of all ages. Bicycles of yesteryear and modern bicycles all have a home here, artfully displayed. Bicycles, tricycles, and penny-farthing bicycles. Some bicycles are bedecked prominently with lights, flowers, and other decorations and others almost seem camouflaged. My kids excitedly pointed out the bicycles and took photos of them. Each and every one.

photo credit: Patricia Cancro
photo credit: Patricia Cancro

So just what goes into making GardenFest a magical winter wonderland? Lights, volunteers, and months of preparation to plan and install lights. I asked my oldest how many lights he thought made up GardenFest. He thoughtfully suggested 500 million. (Yes, Virginia, it certainly seems that way). Actually, the answer is a half a million lights, an impressive number.

As a first time visitor of GardenFest, I expected it to be packed. Although there were plenty of folks enjoying the evening, the displays were spread out over the Garden’s expansive grounds, so it did not appear crowded.

Need to warm up while you are there? Take a break from the cold in the Conservatory where you can check out botanicals, model trains chugging past historic Richmond landmarks, and a larger-than-life Christmas tree. The Kelly Education Center also offers a warm respite, with a chance to enjoy Victorian decorations, dollhouses, and a gallery walk of photos documenting the Garden’s rich history. Other strategies to warm up include enjoying hot chocolate, and s’mores (for purchase).

gf family (2)GardenFest is appropriate for the entire family, but check out these tips for visiting GardenFest with children before you go. Check out this link for additional information about GardenFest, including nightly events as well as an Instagram contest.

Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden runs now through January 12, 2015 from 5-10pm.*

$12 adult
$11 seniors (age 55+)
$8 children (ages 3 – 12)
Free for children under age 3
$7 Garden members
$5 Child on Garden Membership (ages 3 – 18)
Tickets are also available by phone at 1-800-594-TIXX (8499) and online; please note there are convenience fees.
Online sales for General Admission
Online sales for Garden Members

*closed December 24 and December 25


I was provided free tickets to GardenFest in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.