Garden Travel

The Lights Fantastic at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

Daniel Stowe botanical garden

While most of us are putting out pumpkins, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (Belmont, NC) are getting ready for Christmas. They have to, how else will they manage to string 600,000 colorful lights for their Holiday Lights at the Garden in time for opening day? 

Holiday Lights opens the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until December 31. I went to this event for the first time last year and was charmed beyond belief. Having been to a few holiday lights events before, I went with preconceived notions of what to expect. However, I quickly learned that my notions were wrong. Instead of driving through the lighting display, it was a leisurely stroll around 8 acres of formal gardens. Holiday Lights at the Garden is a lovely walking tour, lit at night, in a color fantasy of patterns.

The night I went was a bitter cold evening, which as you know, is rare for a North Carolina December. However, the weather was not a distraction. I was too busy being mesmerized by the different light groupings at every turn. Mind you, I also had the best cup of hot cocoa imaginable. That was a good jumpstart.

Before venturing out, I took advantage of the various activities inside the Visitors Pavilion. The night I was there, a choir was performing in the lobby. In fact, there are about 40 performances during the 38-day event. I also watched as kids (and adults) participated in making beeswax candles.

But it was the Orchid Tree that had my camera clicking. Circling the tree, staring in awe, it’s a wonder I didn’t bump into a wall. Gawking will do that to me. Rising up 16 feet and filled with 300 orchids made it worthy of gawking.

The color lights display starts at the entrance with a red allée. The red wows me. I grew up using multi-colored lights, then fell victim to white twinkle lights. Seeing this red makes me want to branch out in my color choices.

Around the gardens were light displays of hummingbirds sipping red flowers, soldiers, palm trees and other trees; the white garden’s white lights glowed blue at sunset. At every turn was a new theme—flowers, trees, birds, and bees. But if I had to name my favorite, it would be the wisteria lights hanging from the arbor entering the garden. If they were sold at the Garden Shop, I would have bought all they had.

Touring the gardens took me to a place, deep in my heart, that I’d never been before. It was an evening of more than walking the gardens, being transformed into something magical. It was a gathering place to slow down during the busy holiday season to savor the moments.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is located at 6500 South New Hope Road in Belmont, NC, and is open daily during the event except Christmas day. Tickets can be purchased at the gardens. Members should also check the website for info on the evening of free admission. Contact the gardens at 704-825-4490 or by visiting

Photo by Helen Yoest.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer, speaker, and author at

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