Longwood Gardens transports visitors to a magical holiday land filled with lights, merriment, and (boozy) hot chocolate! The perfect winter wellness escape.
Nature is good for your health. The fresh air. The beauty. The relaxation. The sunlight. Your immune system thanks you, especially in the winter, when getting outside can be a challenge. Longwood Gardens combines some of the most stunning elements of nature (read: colorful flowers, majestic trees, etc.) with one of the most dazzling electric light displays in the country. With a half-million lights, this decadent holiday display is one your definitely don’t want to miss!
My trip to Longwood Gardens enhanced my health and wellness this winter by helping me:
- Get outside, even though it was cold
- Be present with nature
- Take a deep breath of crisp, fresh air
- Be grateful for the flowers, trees, and all the natural beauty the world has to offer
- Be active (there’s a lot of walking involved – be prepared!)
I’ve been to a lot of gardens throughout my life, but very few quite compare to the sheer vastness of Longwood Gardens. Simply put, there’s a lot to see there. But, as we all know, it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality. Luckily, Longwood Gardens has both, with some of the most vibrant plants I’ve ever seen.
We spent most of our time during the day in the conservatory because 1) it was cold outside and 2) it’s huge and takes several hours to really do it justice. They have everything in there—from orchids to grapefruit trees to fountain displays. They even have a children’s garden! (Full disclosure: I was tempted, but decided not to venture into the children’s garden alone as a full grown adult. My dad, on the other hand, went straight in there without hesitation and loved every second of it. You do you.)
Many of the plants in the conservatory change seasonally, so they had lots of displays to reflect winter and the holidays. Most notably, they had an extremely impressive display of the most elegant and colorful poinsettias I’d ever seen (who knew that those exquisite flowers came in colors besides red and white??)
Honestly, I can photograph the flowers WAY better than I can describe them, so enjoy!
Longwood Gardens has events and programs year-round, but it’s hard to beat their plethora of holiday entertainment. From a strolling quartet of Christmas carolers to a band playing jazz versions of Christmas classics, there was music and merriment around every corner.
One of the many things that Longwood is famous for is their large organ that dates back to 1930. It’s touted at the “largest Aeolian organ ever constructed in a residential setting”. Yup, it’s a big deal (literally—excuse, the pun). Their unique organ museum gives you an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the organ pipes along with other fascinating exhibits. Checking out the organ museum is a must-do if you have kids, but, honestly, everyone who visits Longwood Gardens should take a peek! How many people can say that they’ve been to an organ museum? Not that many I’m guessing—check that one off your bucket list and impress your friends! 🙂
While there are organ concerts and events year-round, the holidays are special in that they have an organ Christmas carol sing-along! For about 45 minutes, we got lost in the magic of holiday music as we sang along with the majestic organ to classics, such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “12 Day of Christmas” (yes, we sang all 12 verses!) If you love to sing, the organ sing-along is not to be missed!
Whenever I go to a place with limited food choices, I always have three concerns: 1) Will I be able to find gluten-free options? 2) Will I be able to find healthy-ish options? I always look for “healthy-ISH” food on vacation—you have to live a little. 3) Will I be able to find delicious options? (#3 being the most important concern, of course!) I didn’t have to worry at Longwood Gardens.
They had two main places to eat: 1906 Fine Dining and The Café. They’re both located in the same building adjacent to the Conservatory. They also had two tents set up, one with “BBQ” options (it was basically hamburgers) and another with pizza. I’m not sure if those are there year-round or if they set them up because of the high holiday traffic. Either way, neither one was really gluten friendly, so we decided to give The Café a try.
The Café is set up with various stations, including a hot food bar selection, salad and sandwich bar, and a dessert station. The sandwich and salad station looked like it was more “grab-and-go”, so I decided to give the hot food bar a try. OH. MY. AM. I. GLAD. I. DID. First of all, the ladies who worked there were super knowledgeable about food allergies. They actually had a list in the back with all the gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc. options. Always happy to see that.
After consulting the list to see what was gluten-free, I decided on the prime rib (without the jus, which contained gluten) with rice pilaf and green beans. Gluten-free? Check! Healthy-ish? Check! Delicious? Check plus! Even without the jus, the prime rib was juicy and flavorful. The green beans were fresh and crisp with a slight hint of shallot. The surprise star of the show was actually the “rice pilaf” which was anything but ordinary. It had red quinoa, wild rice, and jasmine rice all blended together with carrots, onions, and an amazing blend of spices. It was addicting.
The downside is that it was a little pricey at $26, but it is prime rib AND you’re paying a bit of a premium for eating in the Gardens, so I didn’t really mind. All-in-all, I was more than happy with both their allergy awareness and the quality of the food.
Also, please note, that the menu does change at the hot food bar, so they won’t necessarily have the same meal that I had during your visit. No biggie though—it’s good to be surprised right?
Pro tip: We decided to eat dinner around 4:50 pm and it was WAY less crowded than it was both later and earlier in the day. If you can swing it, especially during the holidays, eat at odd hours. You’ll thank yourself when you have more time for the Gardens.
Okay, so now the part that you’ve all been waiting to hear about. I saved the best for last because patience is a virtue right? 😉 Longwood Gardens boasts a half-million lights in their stunning outdoor display (honestly, it felt like even more than that).
Many of the holiday light displays I’d seen previously relied heavily on lights shaped like teddy bears, snowflakes, and other recognizable figures. Longwood Gardens takes a different approach in that they make expert use of the grounds and the natural resources available to create a completely unique experience. They use their lakes to create otherworldly reflections in the water. They backlight their trees to create a fairy-like effect. And, most importantly, they string their lights in the exact right density to create a whimsical effect. It’s simply breathtaking.
The grounds are also filled with tall tree houses allowing visitors to climb up and get a new perspective on the lights. Plus, boozy (and regular) hot chocolate around every corner. The piece de resistance is definitely the fountain show, where streams of colorful water dance to delightful holidays tunes. It truly is a holiday miracle.
Plan Your Visit
If you’re interested in visiting Longwood Gardens, you can purchase timed tickets online at https://tickets.longwoodgardens.org/. For hours, prices, and the most up-to-date information, please visit the Longwood Gardens website at https://longwoodgardens.org/.
Alright, folks. Time to hear your opinions! Have you visited Longwood Gardens (or anywhere similar) before? What did you think? What was your favorite (or least favorite) part?
Planning a visit to Longwood Gardens soon? Have questions? I would love to answer them, if I can. Post a comment below and let’s get chatting! 🙂