For the holiday season, Descanso Gardens transforms into a spectacular enchanted forest of lights
- Do you like the lights?
JULIANN ROOKE: My name is Juliann Rooke, and I'm the Executive Director of Descanso Gardens. So our largest special event now is Enchanted Forest of Light. I was looking for a way to attract visitors to the gardens during a slower time of the year.
And I know that gardens and museums across the country were doing things at the holidays to inspire guests to come to their facilities because we knew that people would come to the show who had never been to the gardens before. In fact, in the first year, 70% of the people who came to the show had never come to Descanso before.
So before Enchanted, our daytime attendance was about 250,000 visitors a year. And now it's a half a million a year. We sell out most nights. As soon as people go on Christmas break, every one of those nights becomes a sold out situation. There are 12 different exhibits that you will walk through, and every year there are some additions, so it's never the same thing.
When you walk through all the exhibits, they were designed with the gardens in mind. We spent a lot of time talking about why do visitors come during the day to Descanso. So for example, the first exhibit you come across are the tulips.
SHANNON DILLON: This is one of my favorites, 4,000 illuminated tulips mimicking the 30,000 tulips we have blooming in spring.
JULIANN ROOKE: The day we take those lighted tulips out, we will plant 30,000 real tulips. And the tulips are really one of the things that people come in the spring to see.
SHANNON DILLON: Every tulip has been designed to turn a different color a different time.
JULIANN ROOKE: So for every exhibit, they bring in a programming board and program how the lights act because we change it every year. It's never the same.
SHANNON DILLON: New this year is Tom Fruin's installation called "Camouflage House." It's a mosaic tiled house that really reflects the beauty of Mulberry Pond.
JULIANN ROOKE: We wanted it to be about Descanso. The trees are the star of the show.
- My is the Symphony of Oaks. They've got these large rings of light around these huge oak trees. It's gorgeous.
JULIANN ROOKE: That was really wanting to highlight our 3,800 oaks. It's a way for you to interact because you are able to change not only the lights, but the sounds on that exhibit. So you're actually able to play with the exhibits, which is really fun.
- I really like the Luminous Lawn. It's like kind of like a Candy Land board. And you just, every time you step on it, it's a different color. It's really fun.
JULIANN ROOKE: This main lot is where people run free. So we're like, whatever we put here, whatever we're doing, we want it to be something that kids are playing on. We're thinking about different exhibits in the future. But this is always going to be a place to play.
Our mission is to inspire people to have an appreciation for nature and Descanso Gardens. And so education is a big component of what we do. If you just come here and you experience the garden in some way, you're being educated.
I think the highest compliment I got was I had a gentleman come up to me, and he said, I've lived on this Earth for 86 years, and this is the most wonderful experience I've ever had. And that really touched me. I think most people really, really love it. I wanted to design it for ages 1 to 99. People are looking for experiences. And families are looking for something to do together.
- We've come as a family for a couple of years. And we really, really love it. It's like the best part of the year.
- It's awesome. It's seriously like the best time to come to Descanso Gardens is for the Lights Festival.
- This was a fantastic experience. I can't wait to come back again.
- Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.