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Shannon Bryan

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Posted: December 7, 2015

Stunning lights! 23 photos of Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay

Written by: Shannon Bryan

When I was a kid, I remember my family piling into the car on Christmas Eve to drive around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. There was one street in particular (Dubbed “Candy Cane Lane” around the holidays) that really did things up. Christmas music blared from unseen speakers, 4-foot-high candy canes lined the sidewalks and most of Candy Cane Lane’s suburban driveways, and then there were those lights – oh, the lights! Thousands of bulbs of every color, strung from mailboxes and trees and gutters, blinking and twinkling and lighting up the night. It was absolutely magical.

Gardens Aglow feels kind of like that.

There are over 200,000 lights draped on the trees, stretched over the pond and wound around anything that’ll stand still at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.

There are bright snowflakes and colorful orbs hanging overhead and white icicle lights that dangle delicately from the pergola. There are strands wrapped around towering tree trunks and bundles shining brightly from the shrubs. There are cool blue lights and spirited reds, trees glowing pink next to a bridge lit with green, strands of white lights and multicolored lights that rise to a peak and some that twinkle in that enchanted way Christmas light twinkle.

The self-guided walking tour leads you on a winding loop around the gardens, past the “dancing maples” and “snowy night pond.” You’ll wander by the “rainbow pavilion” and “twinkling curtain” and are welcome to stop off at the Holiday Village and Kid’s Cafe for a hot chocolate, popcorn or hot dog. And while you can get a good leisurely look at everything in about an hour – give or take – Gardens Aglow really feels like it goes on forever. Maybe it’s the way the lights reflect in the still water of the garden ponds, or how the well-lit trees seem to continue on and on toward the horizon, but Garden Aglow feels spirited and otherworldly and expansive.

Kids and adults can partake in the Snowman Scavenger Hunt and look for the six snowmen hidden around the gardens. If you note their locations in crayon on your Gardens Aglow map, you’ll be up for some cool prizes at the end.

The outdoor campfire, where you can roast marshmallows and make s'mores or just sit back and take in the lights. Shannon Bryan photo

The outdoor campfire, where you can roast marshmallows and make s’mores or just sit back and take in the lights. Shannon Bryan photo

Of course, it’s no wonder that visitors have been arriving in droves to see the lights, but as busy as the gardens were this past weekend during my visit (the overflowing parking lot was a testament to that), the pathway felt calm and quiet (well, aside from the occasional holiday tune played over the speakers and the “oohs” and “aahs” of other visitors and the giggles of playful kids. But those are all good, welcome sounds.

Also welcome: $5 Captain Morgan’s spiced eggnogs and Bailey’s hot cocoas. The on-site Kitchen Garden Cafe has an enticing (and well-priced) drink menu, which includes aforementioned eggnog and cocoa, as well as $12 half-carafes of house wine, $7 Moscow mule, $5 beers (Allagash White, Geary’s Pale Ale, Sam Adams Boston Lager, to name a few). The cafe also serves dinner: Macaroni and cheese, apple butter pork loin, maple glazed salmon, among other dishes, and a separate menu for kids.

And there’s always the s’mores roasting pit just outside the visitor’s center, where you can buy all the necessary ingredients and tools to roast a marshmallow and make a s’more over the open fire.

Just another way to add to the magic.

Gardens Aglow

WHERE: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 32 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay
WHEN: 4 to 8 p.m., Thursdays and Sundays, 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through December 31 (closed Christmas Eve)
HOW MUCH: $12 adults ($8 members), $6 children 3-17, free for children 3 and under. $29 family rate for two adults and two children.

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