This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Enchanted Garden of Lights, and Rock City is all dressed up for the occasion, with over a million sparkling lights and one of the world’s largest walk-through Christmas trees, the first of its kind anywhere!
While we’ve spent many an afternoon squeezing through the Eye of the Needle or looking for reindeer, it’s been a few years since we’ve done the lights. It’s hard to say who was more blown away – our 7-year-old, my husband or me.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by live music drifting from across the street – Starbucks hosts Winter Weekend Nights music on Fridays and Saturdays on their patio. While a hot latte and the outdoor fireplace beckoned, my child was nearly pulling my arm off to get to the main event.
After arriving at the ticket desk, we were led to a friendly elf at the original roundhouse gate entrance to begin our journey. The elf welcomed us and told us about the four “realms of wonder” along the pathways at the Enchanted Garden of Lights. We were able to create our own holiday adventure by exploring these themed pathways in whatever order we chose: Magic Forest, Arctic Kingdom (with new northern lights touches this year), North Pole Village and Yule Town using the North Pole Highway. At this point, my daughter was almost shivering with excitement. We chose to take the traditional route, as many have taken in years past, by starting at Yule Town. The tree trunks were wrapped in beautiful twinkling lights and doves hung from the bridge above; we were literally surrounded by lights.
As we journeyed through the Grand Corridor and into Gnome Valley, also known as Toy Land, there was an entire scene of children’s toys flashing with boats, rocking horses and teddy bears. We also saw classic light displays such as snowmen, candy canes and trains. Next, a snow elf directed us into the Arctic Kingdom, where we found ourselves surrounded by a curtain of stringed lights, penguins and frosty characters waiting to meet us. We entered the icy area where Jack Frost and Inara the Ice Queen resided around blue and white lit trees and snow, decked out in new costumes.
After we posed for a picture with Inara and Jack Frost, we crossed the Stone Bridge to the North Pole Village where we found the iconic waterfall star. You know it’s officially Christmastime when the shining star is hung over Lover’s Leap. After enjoying the stunning views of the city below, we headed to Café 7 for some delicious seasonal food, and then to the Cliff Terrace Porch where the man of the hour sits: Santa Claus!
While Santa was a highlight, there was still plenty to see and do, including meeting Mrs. Claus in the North Pole Lodge (Rock City’s pavilion). Each night, she helps kids of all ages decorate gingerbread cookies while enjoying the live nightly entertainment from local choirs and bands. During our visit, the Ladies of Lee gave a beautiful performance of “Silent Night.”
Leaving the lodge, another friendly elf directed us to what I think was the highlight of the evening – the dancing trees. Located in the Magic Forest, the attraction features a beautiful display of LED trees flashing vibrant colors in time to music. And new last season, was a 43-foot walk-through tree of lights – the first of its kind anywhere!
We ended our trip in the Fairyland Caverns. The black-lit fairytale characters we’ve come to love were all dressed for the season, surrounded by snow and tinsel.
As we made our way to the parking lot, my husband and I marveled at how much we enjoyed it – not always the case with family attractions. In a season that (for adults) has come to symbolize credit card debt and bulging waistlines, it’s nice to have something that brings back the excitement of the season.