Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point is an amazing light display This is a walk through light show through the Ashton Gardens, and it also has some interactive activities for families to enjoy. We are sharing our tips for visiting Luminaria, and a little bit of what this experience is like in our post. This has become our favorite Christmas adventure splurge.
Luminaria is set up throughout the Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. During other seasons of the year, there are many paths to take and you are free to wander the gardens as you wish. During this event, there is a clear path to follow. There are volunteers along the way to direct you, and keep you headed in the right direction. The path is about a mile long, and there are ups and downs, but it is wheel friendly, so you can bring strollers or wheelchairs.
Timed Light Display
Luminaria begins with a look over the timed lights that are one of the main features. 1000s of lights are set in the grass and they make patterns including stars, trees, Santa, and more. Later in the walk, you get to walk right through these lights, too. It is fun to stand int the middle of the lights as they make their patterns. And you will be able to see them at the end, too.
As you start down the path, you walk past the only indoor display. Don’t skip the gingerbread house. The greenhouse has some amazing gingerbread houses (and pirate ships) to view. There are also gingerbread treats and warm drinks for purchase here if you’d like to start your night with a treat (we like to get treats in the middle)! Make sure you stop and admire these amazing houses.
Walk the Garden Path
After visiting the gingerbread houses, you will continue your walk through the gardens. The path is full of different colors and types of lights. There are purple and pink trees, a beautiful photo spot in the gazebo, and even a Christmas tree that you can walk through. The kids loved being able to walk under the lights. There is also one area with large stepping lights. So as you step on the lights they change color. It is a big hit with the kids.
We also loved the tulip lights in the spot that is normally full of tulips during the Tulip Festival. There are no rivers or streams right now because of the cold weather. Instead, each streambed is filled with blue lights to look like water. It is beautiful!
Another unique thing about Luminaria is that there are scents along the lighted path, too. In 2023, you could smell the flower smell at the tulip area, and as you walk into Luminaria it smelled like gingerbread outside by the lights. Some years we have smelled peppermint. So make sure to use all of our senses while walking through.
About half way through the walk, you come to an area with a lot of treat shops. Some years there are live reindeer (although in 2023 the reindeer had moved by the Fire and Ice show). This area also has some fun games like ring toss and large Lite Brites. We like to grab some cookies and hot cocoa while we are here to help us stay warm for the rest of the night. The pretzels and mini donuts are delicious, too. There are a few fires to warm yourself by as well.
The path continues and you are at the other end of the timed light display. It was fun to see it from the other side. Then you walk past the carousel all light up before heading to a junction. At the junction, you can head up the path to continue with Luminaria, or you can take a quick side break to walk through Light of the World (which we highly recommend).
Light of the World
The Light of the World statues are the next stop. This area has life size statues of the Savior, Jesus Christ. There are soft Christmas lights throughout the area, and you can feel the reverence as everyone quietly walks through the statues. This is a great spot to contemplate the real meaning of Christmas. We talked with our boys about the different stories that the statues represent.
After leaving Light of the World, you can walk right through a light tunnel by the Secret Garden and head back to the junction.This was one of our favorite spots along the Luminaria path.
More lights at Luminaria
After the secret tunnel, you come to one last gathering area. There are more food booths, and games. They have fire pits here, as well, for roasting s’mores, and a few for warming your cold fingers and toes. In 2023, this was where the reindeer were hanging out, too. Watch for places to take fun photos along the walk through Luminaria.
Fire and Ice
In 2023, Luminaria added a new show called Fire and Ice. It is on the large hill and the show alternates between shooting fire and showing lights to represent ice. Our boys said it was their favorite part of Luminaria. It was pretty cool to watch the fire shoot up! The show runs every 15 minutes, so if it isn’t happening when you arrive, make sure to wait for it.
As you make your way back to the front, there are a few more fun light displays. There is a large tunnel with lights that change and move to the music. There is a disco ball where the waterfall usually is, and some cool lanterns as you make your way back to the start. You’ll also walk through the red and white candy area. Every year Luminaria adds more and changes the light display, so that when you visit again it feels like a new experience.
Our final stop was back at the top of the timed lights. It’s fun that you can start and stop here. We stood and watched for twenty minutes and never heard a song repeat! This area is definitely a highlight.
We give Luminaria a huge thumbs up. We love going with friends and family, too. The kids enjoy exploring the lights with their cousins. There were so many fun things to see and do. Our kids thought all of the games, and being able to walk through the lights, was so neat. We usually spend over two hours and it is always freezing! We try to bundle up well, and we are always enjoying ourselves so much that we don’t notice the cold that much.
The cost for Luminaria is a little daunting, but after going though, we felt it was worth the cost. This is the one event we splurge on every year. The thing we enjoyed most is the uniqueness of the Luminaria. There are plenty of drive-thru Christmas lights, but Luminaria is the only walking show around. There was so much going on, and it was such a great way to see Christmas lights, we felt the cost was worth it.
They do allow you to volunteer to help earn free tickets. And mark your calendars for October because they sell tickets at a discount. That is when we grab our tickets. We know that this event will be out of some people’s price range, so check out our list of Christmas events for other holiday activity ideas.
Tips for Families
- Bundle up. You will be outside for this event, so come prepared for the weather. We wore a lot of layers! Take hand warmers. Anything to stay warm.
- Go early. We like to choose the 5:30 time. The sun is down and it’s just getting dark. We love being able to take our time and still get home by bedtime. The lights do get better as it gets darker, though.
- Wear glowsticks. They were selling glow swords and necklaces, and we thought how easy it would have been to grab some glowsticks from the dollar store. It would have made the event a little more fun, and we would have been able to keep track of the kids easily. In the dark, everyone looks the same.
- Bring water. Our boys asked for water the entire time, and the drinking fountains are turned off for the season, so definitely bring snacks and water for little ones. Or plan on purchasing these items at Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point.