Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022
During the bloom of late spring, Lisa received an invitation to preregister for a new special event at Chicago Botanic Garden that would make its U.S. debut from London. The event would be a stunning immersive light and sound show centered around the holiday season. The allure of this new spectacular experience was too good to ignore as we sweated out the details way back in early June. We invited my mom, and our friends Roy and Adele to join us in late December to experience Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden.
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“The Fire Garden is really cool! It’s ethereal, a little spooky and spectacular!”
One never knows what the weather forecast will predict in late December. We knew of course that it would be dark, which was good, but we feared that it might rain, as in pour. The clouds and crowds were gathering. We could feel the tension mount. I’d like to think our collective energy kept the rain away during our window of a few hours. Taking the temperature of the event, I would have said that the weather was mild, and the mood was heating up with excitement.
The admittance of the crowd was staggered in waves according to everyone’s ticket “departure” time. Everyone could take as much time as they wanted or needed at Lightscape after entering the event. The flow was always orderly and peaceful. Everyone was excited and moving with childlike joy.
The Lightscape walking loop was one mile in length and was centered on the Garden’s main island. The trail was well lit, accessible and attended by helpful Garden staff members all along the way. We knew that there were two refreshment stations and a refreshment stop indoors at the Regenstein Center with a full menu of food and drinks. We were thinking that hot chocolate and a snack at the Rose Terrace Beer Garden might keep us going about midway during the walk.
As we began the Lightscape loop, we were mesmerized and in awe of the beautiful transformation of an already beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden. Despite the bleak, dark nature of winter, we were treated to a heightened celebration of the wonder and magic of the season. Strand lights and spotlights welcomed us as we made our first turn. The stillness of the spectacle was punctuated by childlike laughter and activity, only there happened to be more adults than children. Everyone felt happy and free as we took so many photos and preserved our memories.
Since most if not all of us knew the lay of the land, we could feel the approach of the famous and much-loved Rose Garden. But instead of the fragrance of so many roses in bloom greeting us sight unseen rounding the bend, we could hear flames licking the wind and feel the heat of so much fire dancing in formation.
Lisa moved up quickly to take in everything at the Fire Garden. I could see that she was moved by the sights, sounds and smells of the vigorous flames. Lisa was impressed, “The Fire Garden is really cool! It’s ethereal, a little spooky and spectacular!”
There was so much that I wanted more at the Fire Garden, if that makes any sense. For safety reasons, we could only appreciate everything at a distance, but the heat, sound and the smell of the flames immersed us completely.
“More than one million people in 2018 were delighted by the show across the U.K.”–Chicago Botanic Garden
Lightscape isn’t just about lights. There’s fire, colors and sound. A forested walkway of tall robust evergreens sang to us with phasing lights. From a distance, an entire choir could be heard from the stand of trees. With every tree that we approached, we could hear one distinct voice from each tree, singing as the lights pulsed and changed colors. I pressed Lisa if this was her favorite highlight. She said, “I can’t pick a favorite, but the Singing Trees is definitely the most creative and unique. It sounds amazing from a distance but as we walked through the Singing Trees we could hear the individual voices and enjoy the changing lights.” And we had so much more to see and hear at Lightscape.
The entire Lightscape loop felt very comfortable to walk in the dark as it was well lit, well attended by visitors, and well staffed by helpful Chicago Botanic Garden guides with cone lights. The flow took its natural course from the Welcome Center to the Fire Garden, the Singing Trees and to view Horaijima, the Island of Everlasting Happiness, which was completely transformed with its unattainable beauty and tranquility. Trees burned with a fiery orange as the island was dotted with Zen like concentric circles glowing brightly from afar. Even the water shimmered with the island’s aura.
Not far from Horaijima we found the waterfalls at Chicago Botanic Garden. Normally they are shut down for the season without a drop of water to move us. But at Lightscape, the typical offseason stillness in the dark was forgotten. Everyone gasped and clamored to be close to the dazzling “flowing” lights falling endlessly like water in summer, filling us with hope for the season and giving us a preview for a return to the growing season.
Soon we approached something that looked just amazing from afar. There were strands of colorful phasing lights suspended in the air as everyone walked through them, completely immersed and just giddy with excitement. Ambient music played to set the mood, which I thought otherworldly. This was my favorite highlight of Lightscape. I felt like a kid. Who just woke up after a happy dream. And the dream continued during my waking life.
My mom was continually amazed by the spectacle of Lightscape. She is well familiar with Chicago Botanic Garden and all the beauty of the growing season and the cherished beauty of the offseason too. But this was completely new and beyond our imaginations. My mom summarized the experience, “Lightscape was a wonderful way to spend a winter night. Each area gave me a different feeling. Some brought me happiness and others gave me a feeling of Zen. I also felt magic too!”
We made our way to the Rose Terrace Beer Garden where refreshments were offered, along with the chance to warm up at several fire pits for toasting marshmallows. Roy and Adele shared a Peppermint Schnapps Hot Chocolate. After being carded, wanded and patted down (not really), Roy was served his special hot cocoa. He took a sip and appreciated the holiday heat, “The Peppermint Schnapps Hot Chocolate is very good!” And then his sips became gulps. I hope Adele had enough to enjoy.
“Lightscape was a wonderful way to spend a winter night. Each area gave me a different feeling. Some brought me happiness and others gave me a feeling of Zen. I also felt magic too!”
There were a couple huge highlights to go, one of which made the cover of the Chicago Botanic Garden magazine, while the other just made our night. The Cathedral of Light loomed over the horizon like a sparkling hillside as we walked toward this stunning structure that we could stand before in awe, enter fully dazzled and walk away thrilled by the experience. Even though there were many visitors, there always seemed to be enough space and time through the tunnel to capture some magic with our photos and memories. The finale proved to be most worthy with the Field of Light, a six-minute finale of light, color and music that Roy found to be his favorite, describing it as “Hypnotic.” This was the perfect description to a perfect evening.
Where do I begin? How about at the beginning. Because of the sheer popularity of Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden, I highly recommend that those interested in attending Lightscape next season start looking into making reservations in summer. Visit Chicago Botanic Garden online or in person for more information, to get the lay of the land and to appreciate all the seasons. Magic is everywhere all the time.
You can find Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022. The website for Lightscape is Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
To experience an amazing dynamic presentation of Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden, click on the link to my Adobe Spark photoblog at Adobe Spark – Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
To see more photos of Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden, follow my Instagram page at Instagram – The Simple Luxuries
Dedicated to Foxie and Cheetah, and also to Pepper.