Tulsa Botanic Garden’s Garden of Lights:
A new holiday tradition worth bundling up for!
I was beyond excited when Tulsa Botanic Garden invited us to a preview evening of their first ever Garden of Lights celebration. The Garden itself is one of the most beautiful destinations in Tulsa, so the Garden covered in Christmas Lights was definitely something I wanted to see! Plus, having attended previous TBG events such as their annual DIG: Day in the Garden, I knew that the Garden staff would put together a stellar kid-friendly event, complete with fun activities, nibbles, etc.
The preview evening was on Sunday, Nov. 18, and thankfully the day’s low-key drizzle had let up by 6 p.m., but I still made sure to dress Joss and myself in triple layers, complete with winter accessories, as I knew we would be doing a lot of walking. When we arrived just before 6, it was already dark, and the view coming in the Garden gates was spectacular–you come in from a hill, so you get a view of the entire Garden of Lights as you drive in. After parking, we walked up to the festive Visitor’s Center, tried (and failed) to get a photo of a Garden Cat with some Christmas decor in the background, browsed their gift area, enjoyed their unique Christmas Tree, and very wisely took a trip to the restroom before heading out to explore.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Christmas Lights are hard to photograph with an iphone!
The gift area is small, but they do have some fun items!–Loving that little gnome in the background!
Because my top priorities are always warm beverages and tasty treats, our first stop was the firepit area, where you could roast marshmallows for s’mores and grab a cup of hot cider, hot chocolate or (if I remember correctly), coffee–with additional add-in options for those wanting a more adult hot chocolate 🙂 The firepits offered a welcome warmth, and Joss enjoyed gobbling up his first-ever s’more before we walked over to his top priority, the Christmas Train!
S’mores are messy regardless, but I appreciated that they came in these nice cardboard trays! Pro tip: Bring some hand sanitizer!
The Christmas Train was so fun–festively decorated and playing Christmas carols–and the view the ride offered of the lights reflecting on the lake was incredible. Joss was a big fan of the this, saying, “There are the reflections!” The train will run Fridays and Saturdays throughout the Garden of Lights celebrations, so if this is an important element for your kids, make sure you get tickets for those days!
Afterwards, we headed to the Children’s Garden, where we met some friendly Ice Giants and got a view of the Spring Giant, complete with orange, glowing eyes! Enchanting–and just the right amount of slightly spooky!
The signs read: Happy Holidays from the Ice Giants
And his mouth was glowing purple!
Beyond the Children’s Garden is Mabee Grange, which, being indoors, is such a nice addition to the festivities. Inside Mabee Grange were two Christmas Trees, a fabulous photo booth, a drink station for adults, some nibbles, and my favorite activity where guests can write their wishes for the world, their community, their family and themselves on cards and hang them on one of the trees. I just thought it was such a lovely way to remind people that Christmas is more about making gift wishlists, it’s about giving back and wishing for peace on earth, goodwill toward men, etc. Of course, on that note, Joss’s wish for the world was that there would be more cows that breathed fire onto cats (I shortened this to “More Cows”), but…it’s still a nice thought.
Photo booth props and activity table
Perhaps a more appropriate Christmas wish: “That we are always happy”
Food! And while we’re at it, more fun lights lighting the pathway to Mabee Grange
Although he didn’t make an appearance on Sunday evening, Santa Claus will be visiting the Garden on Wednesdays throughout the duration of Garden of Lights, from 6-9 p.m. for informal photos both on the Garden grounds and inside Mabee Grange, I believe.
Our final Garden of Lights destination was the beautiful Tandy Floral Terrace Gardens, which are impressive any time of year and complete with some fun, Art Deco touches. At the top of the terraces is a Christmas Tree of lights; lining the pathways are trees covered in red lights, funky balls on sticks, and other sights both fun and lovely. After this, we headed back toward the Visitor’s Center/exit, taking time for one last train ride on the way.
Garden of Lights is a ticketed event, and tickets must be purchased in advance! Tickets for non-members are $15, for non-member children, $5. Children 2 and under get in free. Members receive a discount. (Purchase your tickets here.)
Garden of Lights will run from November 23-January 6, and will be open daily from 5-10 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 24 and 25. Special activities include Wednesdays with Saint Nick (6-9 p.m.), Musical Thursdays (find the schedule here), Holiday Express Train Rides (Fridays and Saturdays), and a Holiday Train Display in Mabee Grange every night from Dec. 7-14, 5-9 p.m.