Lightscapes: Illuminated Flowers and Fairies in Hudson Valley
Note: Lightscapes will not return for 2017.
Every fall, we rave about Historic Hudson Valley's amazing Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, which transforms the stately grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor into an immersive, glow-in-the-dark, Halloween-themed treat. The team behind that annual installation has created an eye-popping experience in honor of the current season: Lightscapes, a springtime garden fantasy.
Featuring whimsical handmade sculptures that incorporate lots of recycled materials, Lightscapes is an illuminated spring wonderland filled with larger-than-life flora, fauna and fantasy creatures. The eye-popping display is a must-see and, unsurprisingly, it's selling out fast. We have what you need to know about visiting this magical event with kids.
Installed throughout the grounds of the 18th-century Van Cortlandt Manor, Lightscapes catches your eye before you even arrive, as the front lawn and house are aglow with flowers and vines visible all the way from Route 9. After making it through the lantern-festooned hospitality tent (where you can snag some delicious ice cream from The Blue Pig), you enter Lightscapes by walking under an enormous, color-changing rainbow. And then the real show begins.
Everything is aglow in illuminated colors. It's no wonder kids (and grown-ups) just stop in their tracks and stare. Hovering in the air, above the illuminated structures, are bubbles and glowing mist. At the start, small flowers line the walkways, eventually giving way to a garden of tall, space-age-inspired flowers and down-to-earth daises and Lilies of the Valley. Take your time to observe it all as there are awesome sights around every turn. My family's favorites included the embryo nestled inside a giant egg, an endless line of ants, seasonal flowers and massive mushrooms, a gigantic dragonfly hanging off the mansion's roof and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
There's also the chance to walk through an enormous caterpillar tunnel, get lost in a garden maze and come face-to-face with giant insects, including a praying mantis. However, the biggest and most wonderful surprise is discovering what all the illuminated art is made of: recycled plastics. Upon careful examination, you'll see that all of the fantastical flowers, fairies, insects and animals are crafted from thousands of soda bottles, plastic cups, milk jugs, detergent bottles and bowling pins held together in ingenious ways. Cut and bent, shaped and arranged, every structure is fashioned from materials that are normally tossed aside, making this a particularly eco-friendly celebration of spring. The care and creativity put into each piece is evident.
As you can imagine, there are endless photo ops, and we found that caused a few short backlogs. (Tag your photos #Lightscapes if you want share your experiences.) Overall, the grounds are stroller-friendly, save for the garden maze (there's stroller parking just outside). Just like the Blaze, Lightscapes funnels visitors through a gift shop at the very end. (We got lucky since, by this point, our 3-year-old was out cold on my shoulder and couldn't beg for souvenirs).
Tickets are sold in 30-minute increments, but Lightscapes took us about an hour to get through (we went at a leisurely pace). There are lots of great kid-friendly restaurants nearby if you want to have dinner before or after like ümami café, Tagine and Justin Thyme. Or you can pack a picnic and watch the sunset in Croton Point Park, located just down the street from Lightscapes.
A few things to know before you go:
Buy your tickets online in advance. Like the Blaze, it looks like most Lightscapes time slots are going to sell out fast. Also, be sure to read the FAQs on the website—someone clearly had a lot of fun writing them.
Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the time on your ticket. You'll want that cushion to get settled and parked. Speaking of which ...
The line to park along South Riverside Avenue gets backed up just before each entry time. To get around it, make a right into the ShopRite parking lot and drive along the front of the store; there’s another Lightscapes entrance through the shopping center.
Got young kids? Opt for an earlier time slot. Even though it may not be completely dark, going later means they might pass out (or melt down) before the end.
Bring a sweater or jacket. Even though it's spring, the breeze coming off the Hudson River makes Van Cortlandt Manor pretty chilly.
Pack the camera but don’t bother with the flash. It will ruin the photos.
Lightscapes takes place at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County Thursdays through Sundays beginning Friday, April 29. It will also be open on Memorial Day. Check the website for a complete schedule. In advance: $20 for adults ($25 on Saturdays), $16 for children ages 3-17 ($20 on Saturdays). Tickets cost and additional $2 more per person at the door and if you purchase them over the phone. Purchasing advance tickets is strongly recommended.
No car? No problem: Lightscapes is accessible via Metro-North or Amtrak. Get off at the Croton-Harmon station and then it's just a five-minute cab ride away (or a nice walk in warm weather).
This was originally posted in 2015 and has been updated for 2016.
All photos taken by MommyPoppins.com.