Get outside and enjoy the beauty of a Cape Cod winter at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA. Gardens Aglow, Heritage’s annual holiday event, transforms this 100-acre public garden into a twinkling winter wonderland with over ten miles of lights, festive displays, and family-friendly activities, and affords visitors an opportunity to experience these gardens in a whole new way.
“The trees are incredible,” says Heather Mead, Director of Visitor Engagement. “People stop in their tracks and gasp when they see them lit up.” During their main season, which runs from April to October, Heritage is a top destination for families, nature lovers, and horticulture enthusiasts. But Heritage’s commitment to excellence in horticulture doesn’t end with the summer rush.
“At Gardens Aglow, visitors get a chance to see the full scope of the gardens,” says Les Lutz, Director of Horticulture and Facilities. “Plants and trees and background foliage that don’t get as much attention during the summer take center stage.”
“It’s a whole different atmosphere, seeing everything lit,” adds Mead. “During the main season, we aren’t open at night, so at Gardens Aglow, we can really highlight the things that we want people to see.”
The extraordinary lights display is the centerpiece of Gardens Aglow. “We always try to make the show organic in nature,” says Lutz. “We want to show off the character of the trees with new and interesting ways to light them.” Lutz also points out that this is not an easy task. “The largest trees get lit, and some of them are sixty feet tall. We have to rent a lift for ten days when we’re setting up so we can light them all the way up.”
Gardens Aglow features a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. “It keeps getting better every year. Recently, we added ice carvings and baby animals,” says Mead. “The ice sculpting is amazing. The man who creates them, Chip Koser, is so engaging. People sometimes chat with him all night while he works.”
Another staple of Gardens Aglow is impressive replicas of well-known bridges created from materials gathered from the gardens. “Working with natural elements is fun but very challenging. Branches don’t grow straight,” Lutz explains. “The Sagamore Bridge model has this arching curve that can be really hard to build. While you’re working, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s going well at all, but eventually, it all comes together.”
Despite attracting a wide range of visitors from the greater Boston area, Gardens Aglow remains, at its heart, a community event. “It’s a family tradition for a lot of people. We have community organizations that perform and local businesses have displays,” says Mead. “We share the joy of being outdoors. We’re preserving memories and helping families create new ones. One of my favorite parts is the outdoor fire pits. It’s the simplest thing, but the experience of gathering with family is really wonderful.”
Gardens Aglow is held from 4:30 to 8:30 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 25 through December 18.