A Christmas in Maine is the stuff songs are written about: the snowy, winter-wonderland feel, jolly folk saying hello to you on every corner, sleigh rides over hills (for real, you probably wouldn’t have to look too far to find a sleigh ride somewhere). This December, I made an oath to enjoy as many wintery activities as possible, instead of my go-to curling up on the couch with fuzzy socks, Netflix, and flannel blanket every.single.day. I’m not one to typically venture out into the cold, unless it’s the trek from my parked car into Target, yet this year I find myself looking forward to hikes, skiing, and other Maine adventures. You know, like the “Gardens Aglow” light festival at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay. This was my first year attending the event, and I wish I would have written this post last weekend, right after I went! But don’t worry- there’s still a couple weeks left for you to check it out for yourself! Here’s the lowdown:
The Botanical Garden is absolutely decked out with lights of every size and color. We’re talking the trees, the ice, the walkways. It’s breathtaking, especially if you take the time to see the forest for the trees; the amount of time and effort that had to be put into the small details of this sight is unfathomable. Gardens Aglow began back on November 17th, and goes until December 31st. It has only been open Thursday through Saturday 4-9pm , but starting on Christmas day, it is open every single day until Sunday the 31st. Yes, it is open on Christmas day! The website shows that this Saturday and Sunday, the 22nd and 23rd, has limited availability left. A friend said that she tried to take her family last weekend, but the show was sold out. So, buy tickets online in advance, if you can!
It’s cheaper online, too. I bought tickets online for a friend and myself, and they were only $12 per person. At the gardens, they were being sold for $14. There’s also discounts for children, seniors and members. In my opinion, it was totally worth the money. Parking was free, and super stress-free. There were plenty of staff working to direct the traffic, and it was only a short walk from the parking lot to the garden. The process was very well organized, and luckily for me- fool proof.
If you do choose to buy earlier online (I really do think that’s the better option), make sure to print your tickets out! Don’t be like me. When you first enter the garden, you can either go left towards the nice staff waiting to check your tickets, or you can be herded right towards the gift shop with the long line of guests waiting to buy tickets, or show them on their phone. Luckily the line moved relatively quickly, but it definitely would have saved time and sanity to just have them already printed.
From Bangor, it was about a two hour drive to Boothbay. The walk through the lights took overall around an hour, and we stopped for many photo ops, such as with the garden’s fairy house, oversized chairs, light tunnels, and boat. It’s really up to the viewer how long they want to stroll. Honestly, we could have spent more time and really explored- but man, it was cold. Like, 18 degrees. We actually saw a couple people in snow pants. Of course you’ll know that in a Maine winter at night time, you’ll need to bundle up, but don’t be afraid to go all out with cold weather gear. I wish I looked more like Ralphie in a Christmas Story instead of the jeans and sneakers I went with.
There’s also the Kitchen Garden Café, and opportunities for cocoa, coffee, and rumor has it, even adult beverages. Their gift shop is filled with local Maine goodies from t-shirts to jewelry to soaps and lotions. Before heading back to Bangor, we stopped in downtown Boothbay Harbor, which still has plenty of stores and restaurants open.
I would totally recommend attending the largest light show in Maine if you can find the time! You’ll feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie, minus the “which man to choose” drama. Have fun, dress warm, and Happy Holidays!