Brookgreen Gardens is a sculpture garden and nature preserve founded by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington. Anna was a prominent American sculptor whose claim to fame was the first sculpture placed in New York City by a female sculptor (see her Joan of Arc at Riverside and 93rd Street) Well known for her animal sculptures, Anna and her husband designed and founded the gardens and lived nearby in their mansion, Atalaya, which is now part of Huntington Beach State Park. (You can roam the ruins of Atalaya at the state park)
I've been to a few holiday light exhibitions - and none were like this one. Night of A Thousand Candles is not kitschy, there are no animal characters and the background music played is classical. It's simply a very elegant holiday experience.
This event is continously ranked as one of the top 10 in the Eastern US so be prepared. Cars wait in line on Route 17 turning the corner to get into the entrance to the gardens. I saw license plates from all over the Eastern seaboard so visitors come from afar to see the lights! We arrived before dark - which I would highly recommend! - so that we could see the lights coming on and the candles being lit. Very cool.
Check out the guy in waders lighting the candles! That's how they do it!
There are actually 5,500 candles lit each evening along with a humongous Christmas tree and I don't know how many lights. There are several tents set up with different types of entertainers performing and a snack bar with food available for purchase - including hot cocoa, wine and beer. (No alcoholic beverages are allowed to be brought in) Dinner is also served nightly from 3:30 to 9:30 pm including shrimp and grits, crab legs and oysters on the half shell. Admission to the Gardens does not include dinner - that is separate and is served a la carte in the dining tent)Not your average Christmas lights experience!
Some of the areas of the gardens are quite lit up - and some of the sculptures are just highlighted with spotlights. All are beautiful no matter what the lighting is like.
The cream of the crop, the piece de resistance and the most famous section of Brookgreen Gardens is The Avenue of the Oaks. And lit up in Christmas lights that look to be dripping down the oaks - wow! they look beyond amazing!
And don't forget the lighting of the Christmas tree every night!
All I can say is if you get the chance, go! Go to Brookgreen Gardens for a delightful Christmas experience - you'll be glad you did! I'm so glad I did - in fact, I want to go back right now!
Tips for visiting Night of A Thousand Candles
- Tickets are sold online and there is a savings if you purchase in advance. The website is www.brookgreen.org. Tickets currently are $18 for adults and $10 for children. Members of Brookgreen Gardens receive discounts.
- Traffic can be heavy on Route 17 and near the entrance with long lines of cars. Arrive early if you can.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. Parking is in pine needle covered dirt lots and walking can be hazardous after dark.
- Arrive before dark if you would like to see the lighting of the candles.
- Most exhibits are outdoors but there is also an indoor exhibit which changes yearly.
- Check the website for the entertainment schedule, directions and the dinner menu.