All is Bright

Garden of Lights at Turtlebay…

Twinkling trees, synchronized music animations, s’mores, lit-up swings, train exhibits, fire pits and more will be on display at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park now through January 7. This special event featuring one million lights at the McConnell Botanical Gardens has drawn people from near and far for the past three years and continues to get bigger and better.

Photos courtesy of Turtle Bay

Redding’s Garden of Lights began through the Redding City Identity Project in 2019. In January of that year, it launched a “20 Ideas By 2020” event at the Cascade Theatre where it announced 10 ideas that would be initiated by 2020 to help reinforce the economic vitality and stability in the region (another 10 ideas were announced via social media after the event). More than 800 ideas were submitted to the Identity Project, and feedback was received from 2,440 residents from a citywide survey that was sent out.

Photos courtesy of Turtle Bay

“The Garden of Lights was an idea that had some substance to it, and the Turtle Bay Exploration Park started hosting it in 2020,” says Turtle Bay Director of Marketing Seth McGaha. “Our hope is that all businesses in Redding benefit from this and it creates a tourist attraction. Sixty percent of our tickets are sold to residents and 40 percent of people come from outside of the area, so this supports attracting tourism for Redding and contributing to its economic vitality.”

Featuring “the famous Sundial Bridge at the front door” to the Garden of Lights – as the Identity Project’s website calls it – this holiday display allows families to experience something beautiful and unique and invite their friends to partake in Redding’s holiday tradition, as well.

Photos courtesy of Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay has a 200-acre arboretum and 20 acres of gardens, with the Garden of Lights display being held in 10 of those acres. The organization hired 3. Fromme Design to draft the concept, as they specialize in garden design, master planning and seasonal displays across the country. Several staff members from Turtle Bay attended a few 3. Fromme Design display shows to get ideas.

It’s first Garden of Lights show was widely successful. McGaha says they hoped to sell 40,000 tickets and ended up selling 70,000. In the years that followed, it maintained those visitation numbers throughout COVID (as long as the weather has held up) and has added new features every year.

Photos courtesy of Turtle Bay

This year, along with the million lights, Turtle Bay has added model train exhibits, neon glow swings and a VIP igloo experience where groups of up to eight people can have a private party with food and beverages, with a shining Sundial Bridge as its backdrop. It can take one to two hours to tour the garden, and includes access to Meadow Merriment, Prismatic Pollinators, Candy Cane Lane, Holiday Allee, Glowing Swings, Polar Path, Photo Pavilion, Light Tunnels and Holiday Village. Bringing a camera is highly encouraged. Food and beverages are available at Mosaic, the restaurant onsite.

“My favorite part is the holiday music with animation, and seeing families walking and spending time together,” McGaha says. “We look forward to seeing families, couples, and visitors come out and celebrate the holiday season with us.”

The Garden of Lights is funded by local grants and donations, including sponsor Dignity Health-Mercy Medical Center Redding. For an extra fee, guests can purchase a Flex Ticket, which allows you to change the date of your visit due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.•

Redding Garden of Lights Through January 7
Hours: 5 to 9 pm Wednesday through Sunday
(closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day)
Tickets are $20 to $30 for adults 16 and older,
$13 to $25 for children 4-15 and free for children 3 and under
(Turtle Bay members get a $5 discount).
Reservations required at
(530) 242-3123

Photos courtesy of Turtle Bay
About Kayla Anderson

Kayla is a freelance writer, marketer and action sports enthusiast who grew up wake-boarding on Lake Shasta and learning to ski at Mt. Lassen. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chico State University and loves to visit her parents in Redding.

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