Surviving the Crowd at the ‘Garden of Lights’

Today is the 18th of December and holiday crunch time is upon us.  You know what I mean.  Hopefully, you’ve had opportunities to get all those chores and activities, that come with Christmas time, accomplished.  Some, I’ve finished because I enjoy them, others I’ve been putting off.

Decorating for the holidays is something I particularly love, especially the outdoor lights.  If you ask my neighbors, they would probably tell you that I’ve overdone the yard.  It’s a quandary, I was going for festive holiday cheer but may have over sold, presenting my residence as a Vegas casino instead.  Alas, I love Christmas lights.

This year, we drove through a couple of neighborhoods and gawked at all the creativity that abounds locally.  Yards are spectacularly, and classically, presented to passers-by throughout the neighborhoods of Green Bay.  Yet, after a while, they all seem to mesh together.  After all, one can only see so many Santa Clauses, lit deer, Icicle lights and snowmen in one neighborhood.  I mean, there were other decorations, like wreaths and candles, but Christmas themes can only include so many elements

So, as it’s sculptures are a little out of the box, we planned a trip to the Green Bay Botanical Garden’s ‘Garden of Lights’.  The garden becomes a magnificent world of 300,000 shimmering lights, as many break the mold of the Classic Christmas theme.  Things like arachnids and vegetable gardens, while really having nothing to do with the holidays,  cause one to point as they exclaim to their companions, “Hey, that’s Cool!”

We arrive on a Sunday at 5:30 pm, as the ‘Garden of lights’ runs Friday through Sunday and begins at 5:00 pm.  What I should say is we almost arrive.  We’re caught on an intersecting street of the garden of lights’ Larsen road.  There is an interminable line of cars slowly crawling towards the festive gardens.

After a few minutes, we find our way to an overflow parking lot.  There is a parking area further down the road, at the college, that is equipped with shuttles. These free shuttles transport people to the Gardens.  However, we don’t mind walking a slight distance.  Besides, people are probably waiting in line to use the transports.  Their will be quite an extensive line when we leave the gardens, as people await shuttles to bring them to their cars.

After a notable walk along the busy road,  we realize we could have saved time at the ticket counter, as we see a large crowd meandering towards the entrance. Actually, the delay would have been non-existent had we purchased our passes online.  However, we’re stuck in another procession of humans.

The weather is not bad, probably in the low thirties and a clear starry night.  I do recommend, if you decide to catch this show, to wear appropriate attire.  We have layers on and are quite comfortable during tonight’s adventure in the garden, which is entirely outdoors.

After declining the horse-drawn wagon ride, we settle for the ten dollar per person fee to stroll the entire park.  The tickets for the wagon ride are an additional five dollars per person.  Not bad, however, this place is absolutely packed, and I can only imagine having to endure another line.  I want to be free to roam the park as I please.

I must note, the wagon ride does not traverse the entire park, just a segment of the gardens. whether you select the wagons or not, you will be traveling by foot for a substantial length. Also, I must divulge to those that decide to hike the entire path, you do have to be attentive to the sounds of the approaching horses, as travelers by foot  and wagon share the same path.

As we enter, I’m a little enchanted and a little dismayed.  I’m dazzled by stunning light sculptures, as they dance in accord to the Charlie Brown theme.  Even if I do enjoy the scene, the crowd is moving at a snail’s pace. The cause, as you may have seen people post the moment on Facebook, is the group photo opportunity the arches of the famous 60 ft caterpillar provides.  When we reach the lighted tunnel, we discover a sign that directs those capturing the moment to the right, and passers-by to the left.  We go to the left but sneak a photo midway through.

After the caterpillar archways, the congestion abates and I feel a bit better.  It’s still crowded, but now I can move at my own pace.  There’s much to enjoy and, as much as I complained about the crowd, the popularity of this event is fully understandable.  The sculptures are simply awesome!

Like I said, there’s all matter of lighted creations here.  From Christmas themes, like snowflakes, trees and Icicle forests, to botanical subjects like swans and gardens , each bend we happen upon is cause for a smile.  At times the scenes seem to encompass its spectators, as one would feel they’re in a world of luminescent bugs, flowers and birds.

We reach a shelter where the wagon rides begin.  Here we find the relieving sight of a restroom.  To melt the chill of winter, hot cocoa and cider is served inside the building.  There’s also a campfire to lounge around for those cold and weary souls.  We stay for a bit and then continue around the loop.

It’s here one must be wary, while trying to snap a photo, of the approaching horses.  My best advice is stay to the left and you will have no problem.  We don’t always heed that advice.

Finally, we’re finished and find ourselves in the entrance building.   I enjoy the model train and am out the door.

The Garden opens tomorrow and runs through sunday December 23, also Wednesday December 26 through Sunday Dec. 30th The hours are 5-9.  They do suggest, if you plan on the horse-drawn wagon, to arrive by 6:30.  I did enjoy this a ton, even if it was too crowded for my taste.  I do  believe, had we shown around seven, we’d  have avoided the crowd.

Safe Travels!

Author: Chris Karas

I am a 44 year old man living in Green Bay, Go Pack!! I love History, give me the origins of almost anything noteworthy and I'm all ears. I also love outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and camping. However, I don't mind a few days in fresh, bustling cities with interesting historic attractions.

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