If you are one of the many Angelenos whose paths rarely lead them through La Cañada-Flintridge, then perhaps you've never visited Descanso Gardens. It would be understandable; most of us need to drive a befuddling combination of highway numbers to get there. Well, 'tis the season to download Waze and get there, because Descanso's new holiday light display, Enchanted Forest of Light, is worth the drive and then some. Home holiday lights are lovely and cheery. Boat parades are delightful and so SoCal. But Descanso's new holiday woodland light show is an experience unto itself and one to bundle up the kids and make time for.
Controlling the lights at the Lightwave Lake
Enchanted Forest of Light is a mile-long walk through the woods on what is likely to be a chilly evening, making it one of the most Christmasy thing this native New Englander has felt in a long time. Along the way are 8 haunting and serene works of light art: colored lights displayed in a surprising variety of ways (who knew there were so many ways to play with lights and trees?), changing colors, reflecting, moving, seemingly dancing at times in the different themed groves of the gardens. Some areas are just for taking in, while others are interactive, allowing visitors to control where the lights move, when they change colors, etc. Some work with levers; some need to be jumped upon; others react to the lightest touch. Some include sounds or music, but always subtly, in a way that honors nature above all.
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Leaping from disc to disc at Luminous Lawn changes the colors.
There are a few stops along the (stroller-friendly) path where a kid can get a cup of hot cocoa (and a parent can get something stronger). There are even one or two spots serving warm food (tacos, tamales, and snacks) and tables with heaters, as well as one indoor restaurant, so that a family could easily fit a dinner plan into the evening. This seems like a good idea with little ones, since the mile is a slow one and could easily take up to two hours to complete; even if you fill them up at home, the clamorings for churros and popcorn (and light-up cotton candy!) are going to be persistent. But it's all in a night's walk, and keeps energy going as you trek through the glowing woods.
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Yes, we were enchanted.
My words don't do this breathtaking arrangement of haunting lights on towering trees justice. My photos don't either. Enchanted Forest of Light is an all-senses-on experience that requires bundling up (did I say that already? Let me make sure: Bundle up!) and setting foot to forest floor to take part. Adults and children alike will thank you for bringing them.
Enchanted Forest of Light is open nightly (except Christmas Eve & Day) November 19, 2017 - January 7, 2018. Tickets are timed, should be purchased in advance, and cost $28-$30 for adults and $24 for children. When purchasing online, e-tickets is the prefereable option, as the line for Will Call was quite long all evening on the Sunday evening we visited.