GardenFest 2015: H2Whoa is right!

Explore water in all its forms at this year’s installment of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights.

Above photo by: Harlow Chandler

When you step through the doors of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Visitor Center and clap eyes on the first of 25 miles of strands making up this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights, you’ll be tempted to veer off and immediately start making your way through the twinkly trails cutting through the property’s 50 acres. Don’t.

Instead, head straight to the Conservatory where you’ll get a proper introduction to this year’s GardenFest theme, “H2Whoa!”–a showcase and celebration of water in all its forms. They’re you’ll meet Octavia, the lovely (and giant) octopus sculpture surrounded by brightly colored fish and flowers handcrafted out of plastic bottles by the Garden’s staff and volunteers.

gardenfest of lights octopus

Be sure to also keep an eye out for the more subtle–but no less incredible–jellyfish, constructed out of painted gourds and air plants. After checking out the Richmond-centric model trains and the 20-foot holiday tree, packed to the gills with water-themed ornaments like coral and sea urchins, head into into the West Wing to check out an impressive rainbow, also constructed out of painted plastic bottles, and find out why we have water to thank for those natural phenomena.

gardenfest of lights

Speaking of rainbows, get ready to spend lots of time with your kiddos underneath one once you head outside. This year a 75-foot Rainbow Road serves as the entryway down to the Lotus Bridge, which takes you across Sydnor Lake and down to the decked-out Bloemendaal House, Children’s Garden, Tree House, Carriage House (with hot drinks and snacks available for purchase), and Bling House Retail Shop. But don’t be afraid to mosey a little and explore the area around the Garden’s Cafe and Tea House–the Pirate’s Booty, Winter Wonderland, and Fairy Lit Forest1 areas are absolutely delightful.

gardenfest of lights

After your little ones–and, hey, maybe you–take a few trips through the ever-popular Light Maze (located again this year in the Anderson Meadow), head up the hill and make your way to the Kelly Education Center, where you’ll find model trains and holidays trees decorated with water-themed ornaments created by local students. Through fish-shaped decals along the Education Center walls, visitors can also learn facts about water, with information ranging from general tidbits, to the Garden’s water conservation practices, to what what we all can do conserve water in our own homes. On your way out, spend some time underneath the arbor by the Education Center’s doors. This year its serving as a Thunderstorm Tunnel, a model of thunder and rain that won’t actually get you wet–and a fantastic example of how the creative gifts of Lewis Ginters staff and volunteers never fail to add a serious helping of awe and appreciation to the holiday season here in Richmond.

— ∮∮∮ —

Dominion GardenFest is open nightly (other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from 5:00 to 10:00 PM through January 11th. Tickets are…

  • $12 for adults
  • $11 for seniors
  • $8 for kids ages 3-12
  • $7 for Garden members
  • $5 for children on Garden memberships
  • Free for kids under 3

Members get in free on November 30th, December 1st and 2nd, and January 11th. Visit for more information on GardenFest and to find out about special events like Merry Mondays, Caroling Tuesdays, Crafty Wednesdays, Musical Thursdays, and GardenFest for Fidos.

  1. This was,without a doubt, my favorite part of this year’s entire display. It’s understated, sweet, and–hell, I’ll just say it–MAGICAL. I can’t wait to go back and just stare at it for a while. 
  • error

    Report an error

Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

There are no reader comments. Add yours.