Text by Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
Don’t let the pandemic dampen your holiday spirit this season. Get out and illuminate your mood at one of two nighttime outdoor holiday light extravaganzas in New York City. The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) outdoor color-and-light experience NYBG GLOW is taking place on select evenings now until Saturday, January 9, 2021. While The LuminoCity Festival, a stunning holiday spectacular of light sculptures, has returned to Randall’s Island Park for its second year. The Festival is running on selective nights now until Sunday January 10, 2021. Both venues offer lots of room to spread out and practice safe social-distancing and have instituted safe health protocols that ensure a safe nighttime outdoor experience.
Gardens of Color
NYBG GLOW illuminates its gardens in a glowing world of color and light, with the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory as the centerpiece. The Conservatory’s iconic exterior serves as a glittering canvas of light, color, and dazzling images created by thousands of energy-efficient LED lights and creative imagery. The expansive lawn in front of the Haupt Conservatory is brilliantly aglow with a sea of lighted ornament designs and changing color effects. Additonally, many of the garden’s trees are awash in a soothing display of color created by a multitude of colored spotlights. A lighted walkway leads you to a sparkling-illuminated gazebo at the Home Gardening Center. The Visitor Center Reflecting Pool dazzles with a picture-perfect installation. Pathways to each section of GLOW are pleasantly illuminated with snowflake-designed lights.
Lively performers add to the illumination experience with music, dance, and artistic ice sculpting. Enjoy pop-up performances from the Hip Hop Nutcracker: NYBG REMIX, a version of the award-winning contemporary dance spectacle set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music. A variety of solo performers get their groove on inspired by the legendary music and magic of the holiday season. The Haupt Conservatory display is enhanced by the festive sounds of Steel Pan Holiday. The ensemble, Khuentertainment, is led by Khuent Rose and was the winner of the International Pan Ramajay Competition 2020. You will be enthralled watching the creative ice carvers from Okamoto Studio NYC transform ordinary blocks of ice into whimsical wintry works of art.
Visitors can enjoy a warming hot chocolate or signature pizza at NYBG’s Pine Tree Café. Beverages and light bites are also available at the Hudson Garden Grill. Or bring your own food and enjoy the picnic area. Shop at the NYBG Shop for some GLOW keepsakes, including an array of glittering ornaments, home décor, new and unusual plants,
In accordance with New York State and City requirements for cultural institutions and safety protocols limiting ticketing capacity and requiring social distancing, timed-entry tickets for NYBG GLOW must be purchased in advance. All staff and visitors over the age of two must wear face coverings. The limited timed-entry ticketing staggers visitors’ arrivals, promotes social distancing, and mitigates the risk of crowding in high-traffic areas. For more information and ticket purchases visit nybg.org/event/nybg-glow/.
Unfortunately because of limited indoor access to the Haupt Conservatory, this year’s traditional Holiday Train Show will be open to NYBG Members, Patrons, and Bronx Community Partners only.
An Outdoor Wonderland of Light
Visitors to the LuminoCity Festival will be amazed as they venture through a wonderland of fantastical ancient
civilizations, lush laminated jungles, and mystical towering light art displays. The 30-45 minute walking journey leads visitors through distinctly themed sets and dreamlike worlds. At the center of the adventure is Lumi, a magical light bulb, whose adventures take him to exotic worlds as he searches for answers to his mysterious past.
Constructed with a fabric stretched over a metal frame, the stunning light sculptures are beautifully designed and spectacularly illuminated in a rainbow of colors. Designs of fantastical flowers, plants, and trees; whimsical animals; glistening crystals; and a variety of structures create a magical world with Lumi front and center.
Traditional Chinese Art Form
The inspiration behind LuminoCity Festival comes from the traditional art of Chinese lantern festivals, intertwined with modern design and storytelling. LuminoCity’s founder hails from China’s Zigong City, the epicenter of lantern manufacture and lantern festival production. Home to the world’s most skilled lantern artists, Zigong City hosts an annual lantern festival that attracts over 2 million people each year. LuminoCity is rooted in Zigong festival industry.
In addition to the light park, the Festival offers a gift shop offering an array of merchandise, including the limited edition Lumi Night Light. Food trucks are on site for refreshments. Maintaining a safe and healthy environment is also a high priority for LuminoCity. Timed tickets are available online only. A limited number of tickets are available for each time slot. Regular cleaning and disinfecting are conducted throughout the day and sanitizer stations are prevalent. For more information on the LuminoCity Festival, tickets, health and safety protocols, and directions for getting there, visit www.luminocityfestival.com.