Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl // Contributing Photography by: Gina Cholick
Two simple white string lights illuminate the long dirt path that leads to the entrance of Descanso Gardens. Despite being sold out tonight, I find myself alone on the path with only the sound of my own footsteps as my companion in the inky dark night. I can see my breath clearer with each step I take, amazed at this simple joy that almost never happens in LA as I practice blowing clouds around me, giggling in delight. A full moon peeks through wisps of mist above, a feeling of magic fills the air—and I’ve barely left the parking lot. My fellow Sirens await at the front, all bundled up for a surprisingly chilly Los Angeles evening. We’ve been drawn here by the promise of light. Enchanting light, to be exact. Never ones to turn down an opportunity for enchantment, we dive in…ready to be immersed in some light magic.
The moment we step foot inside Descanso Gardens’ “Enchanted: Forest of Light”, the world suddenly starts to slow down, get still and fall silent. Even with people milling around, a deep hush permeates the 150-acre botanical garden underneath all the commotion. Perhaps it’s the 4:30pm sunset giving way to an evening sky dark as the dead of night. Perhaps it’s the full moon already directly overhead that makes us feel like we’ve slipped out our bedroom window after midnight for a secret garden rendezvous. Perhaps it’s the fact that none of us have ever walked around a botanical garden at night before. But it all combines to feel like we’ve landed in a secret after-hours party for nature lovers—one that includes a treasure hunt for light.
If you’ve ever wished that Alice in Wonderland and Tron had a baby that lived underneath the Northern Lights…that’s pretty much what Forest of Light feels like. (C’mon…we’ve ALL dreamt about that, right?) Eight interactive light installations stretch throughout the garden grounds, waiting to be discovered with each new twist and turn in the meandering path. In truth, it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible and allow yourself to be surprised. Because isn’t that the best part of a treasure hunt—the joy of not knowing exactly what you’re looking for until you find it? And there’s A LOT of treasure to be found here, if you have your eyes open.
So while we don’t want to give away too much about the installations themselves, we will offer you some key tips to get the absolute best user experience:
1) Get a map. Or at least double-check to make sure you have discovered all eight installations before leaving. There is an entire section at the end with several displays that can easily be missed. The illuminated number sign posts at each station can help you keep track.
2) Slow down and take your time. This is not a sprint-through situation. It’s also not a passive situation. Each installation has its own unique interactive experience with light and sound design. Explore each one from different angles. See what it’s like standing or sitting, on one side versus the other. Find different perspectives. Take the time to stop and smell the proverbial illuminated roses.
3) Take photos, but then put your phone away. The exhibit is meant to be a fully immersive experience, so be really present if you want to get the most from it. Let your eyes, ears and body be awash in each new wonder. Immerse yourself in the magic. Connect to your inner child and your inner artist, the part of you that believes in fairy tales. If you do, it’s better than being at The Happiest Place on Earth…plus you get to keep $170 in your pocket where it belongs.
4) Speaking of connecting…this makes a great date spot, so be sure to bring along your sweetheart. Did we mention the late-night magic and wonder? The dark meandering paths for snuggling up in the cold night air? The little pockets of pure joy to laugh and play in? It all adds up to a très romantique destination for those looking to set hearts aflutter. For those currently flying solo, bring your gang with the best sense of fun and let the big kids run wild.
5) Hit the coffee stand near the entrance to grab a hot beverage as you start your stroll. It’s a great food-meets-function hand warmer that you will be grateful for. Midway through, stop at the little lakeside pub, take in the beautiful view and grab some wine or beer before launching into the second half of your enchanted journey. For those of you on a first date, it’s the perfect spot for a little “getting to know you better” conversation over drinks.
6) Dress warmly. Descanso Gardens is in the mountain base of La Cañada Flintridge and has a steep temperature drop at night. Hats, scarves, mittens, winter coat—bring them all in the car and feel it out once you get there. It’s colder in the gardens than the parking lot. All the better for cozying up in!
7) Advance timed-entry tickets are required, between 5pm-10pm most nights through January 8, 2017, and are available for purchase on Descanso’s site: HERE. A limited number of discounted tickets are currently available on Goldstar: HERE. We recommend getting one of the earlier time slots so you can make the most of your visit and enjoy it at your own pace.
Make all your winter woodland wonderland fantasies come true with a trip to Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens. Immerse yourself in awe and celebrate the magic of the Holiday Season with the ones you love as it begins to look and–most importantly–FEEL a whole lot like Christmas!
Happy Holidays!! love, Sirens & Scoundrels
xo xo xo ho ho ho
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