Each year, around Christmas, Descanso Gardens puts on a light show in the evenings. The gardens are divided into areas with different lighting and displays. The trail through the areas is about a mile long over somewhat uneven ground. Go slow and enjoy the show.
The gardens are in Flintridge, California close to the intersection of the 2 and 210 freeways. See the map here…
The light show in 2023/4 (I visited in early 2024) was divided into ten areas with each area showing a different arrangement of lights. The display here will briefly describe each of the ten areas with one or more photos taken as galleries following the descriptions. [Click on any photo to show it in a light box.]
Area 1: Flower Power
The main feature of the Flower Power area was a large display of artificial tulips displayed as a field. The entire field changed color entirely or, at times, in waves of different colors. There are also some geometric shapes and color ropes leading you further down the trail.
Area 2: Starlight Garden
The Starlight Garden was a collection of lit geometric shapes that were colorful on their own but also produced fascinating shadows on the ground below. In addition, when periodic fog was released by fog machines scattered throughout the displays the shapes issued some very visible light rays.
Area 3: Pixel Grove
The Pixel Grove consisted of two different displays of lit vertical rods. A lit arch led into the area. The main display was a large display of vertical rods, all lit with multiple lights to form a field of what looked like high grass under a number of trees. The gallery below has a panorama of the field. The second display was an area of colored rods that switched between the RGB colors Red, Green, and Blue. For this display I created a composite that has the Green field as the base and three of the Red and Blue rods in the front added to that photo.
Area 4: Mulberry Pond
Mulberry Pond was a small area consisting of a pond with a large sphere in the middle. The sphere had an image of the Moon on it. Several other smaller white spheres surrounded the pond.
Area 5: Symphony of Oaks
The Symphony of Oaks was a field of Oak trees with each having a circular collar around their base. Each collar had some lights facing upward. As people walked around the collar and stepped on the lights, the lights changed color. This seemed to delight the kids who mostly stomped on the lights. 🙂
Area 6: Fantasy Forest
The Fantasy Forest area was quite impressive and very hard to photograph. You moved through a broken arch to an area with a heavy canopy of trees. The canopy was lit with a base color and then small moving dots of color would appear on the base color and move around as well as come together as groups and then break apart. Quite beautiful but difficult to photograph with still images. For reasons that were not obvious, you exited the area by a chandelier mounted on a pole.
Area 7: Luminous Lawn
The Luminous Lawn was perhaps the oddest area name as there was no lawn that even could be luminous. The area contained a number of “houses” scattered about against a solid color background of trees. The houses were basically walls and a roof with open ends and made out of various panes of colored plastic. There were also benches in the area that had internal lighting that changed color over time. You could also get refreshments in this area.
Area 8: Ancient Forest
The Ancient Forest area was striking. You entered through an area of bushes that, like the Fantasy Forest had colored backgrounds and moving lights. Past that was the forest; a beautiful gathering of trees that were lit with changing colors. Walking through was a serene experience, almost like being in one of the few ancient forests left on the planet. Hopefully, the panorama in the gallery below will give you a good idea of how it looked and felt.
Area 9: Spectral Sanctuary
The Spectral Sanctuary was another oddly-named area. You entered over a small stream with multiple bridges. These were well lit and pretty to look at. The main area, however, was filled with what looked like head-high brush that was lit with a steady red light. Placement of the lights made it difficult to get a good photo of the area but the one I shot should give you a good idea of the experience.
Area 10: Garden of Good Fortune
The Garden of Good Fortune had an Asian theme with the central area being a large building made up mostly of connected ramps and viewing areas. You moved to the various viewing platforms by following the ramps up, down, or around. The last ramp took you to a path lined with lamps that directed you to the exit.
The visit to Descanso Gardens for the light show was an interesting evening get-away from TV and/or computers. Well worth going.