GALLERY: Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden Sparkles in 2021

Lightscape @ Chicago Botanic Garden 2021. Photo: Antal Bokor If you haven't spent a lot of time hanging around any botanic gardens, conservatories or arboretums in the area, you might think the season is long past over once the first freeze hits, save for a few indoor attractions here and there. That's hardly the case though, as at least in our area, the holidays bring fantastical shows of light and seasonal wonder. Pre-2019, it had been our tradition to take a trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens each year to take in Wonderland Express, a much-loved and pretty tailor-made holiday hit that consisted of a huge array of model railways and trains winding through landmarks from Chicago and the surrounds, all made of organic materials and featuring volunteers dressed as conductors who had real train whistles as well as actual snowfall indoors that delighted people both young and old. And then came Lightscape. Where light shows like the one up north at Cuneo Mansion and at Morton Arboretum are or were also cherished traditions, we were a little shocked to see Wonderland Express replaced with another outdoor light event. But, when we took our first steps into new territory we were dazzled. Featuring a host of different artistic interpretations, each area brought a new sense of wonder, and we were excited to get a chance to take it all in. Last year, with the pandemic, we missed out, so we were eager to get back into it in 2021, and this year it's back and better than ever, with a whole lot of otherworldly, colorful atmosphere that ranges from quiet and contemplative to exciting and bright. While some lightscapes returned, like the ever popular and much photographed Winter Cathedral, much of what we saw this year was brand new, and, we thought, even more surreal and interesting than ever before. This time the fire gardens have been reinterpreted and relocated to the Japanese garden and waterfall garden area, there's a forest of striped neon trees, an entrancing walk through giant flowers that fade in and out of various colors, and a promenade of electric neon lights. This year's walk takes you further into the garden with more to see, and though it takes some time to walk through, there's never a dull moment, and there's plenty of places to stop and get warm, grab hot cocoa, make s'mores or otherwise relax on your way through. As with every other major holiday event at the gardens lately, tickets are hard to come by, with Lightscape already selling out through the end of the year. That said, we highly recommend going if you have a chance, as it's every bit the holiday wonderland we hoped it'd be. Lightscape @ Chicago Botanic Garden 2021. Photo: Marielle Bokor If you'd like to stroll along the Chicago Botanic Garden's glorious pathways and experience Lightscape for yourself, we can only hope you act fast and snag the few remaining tickets for January before Lightscape fades into the past. Get tickets and find out more about the event here.
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Marielle Bokor