One day at work my colleague mentioned that I take my child to a lot of places. Yes, I replied because when you have child, you need to keep them active. On most weekends you will find my family on the road. Having been to Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center when my child was a toddler and it was springtime, I wanted to return for their holiday light show. Mind you, people thought I was crazy to drive nearly 1 ½ hours when there are light shows much closer to home.
If I can offer one piece of advice, it is to get to Garden in Lights before it opens. We arrived 5 minutes after they opened and ended up in the overflow parking lot, which meant a bit of a walk. Don’t be miffed by the line to enter through the arts building. There are several ticket booths that move very quickly. Before or after the light show, enjoy some munchies in the art lab/café where they serve fast food, wraps, cupcakes and beverages. There is a gift shop where children’s crafts and STEM presents will be on everyone’s Christmas list. A unique display of hand crafted ornaments dots one side of the lobby. In addition, every Friday and Saturday there are holiday pop-up shops. Restrooms are located here along with a seating area to watch live entertainment. A harpist was playing festive tunes, but she was overshadowed by the clan of little girls waiting to meet Elsa and Anna from Frozen along with Moana.
The main treat is the Garden in Lights. While I don’t know how many lights are used, it’s unbelievable to say the least. The only downside is that there is only one small section of a holiday themed light display with Santa, presents and a snowman. Perhaps this was Annmarie Garden’s intention. It surprised me, but didn’t deter me from enjoying the visit. The focus is definitely on Solomons Island, a boating town along the Patuxent River. Walk under an ocean of lights to find scuba divers, surfers, sea turtles, crabs, Nemo and more. There’s Pokemon, Wonder Woman, Star Wars, the Wizard of Oz and a whole area devoted to bugs. Michael Jackson and John Travolta receive a nod while America is welcomed by Mount Rushmore and Route 66. I enjoyed the big display of pop art by the late Keith Haring. The funniest line I heard during the walk was a mom asking her kids “who wants a picture taken with poop?” Ah yes, emojis are everywhere too.
Only one area of lights dances to holiday music with the prime view for little ones being on the second story of a children’s play house. The light displays are basically Lite Brites projecting colors over black board. Near Elsa is a snow machine that softly blows snowflakes around trees lit like icicles. It’s pretty cool.
The quarter mile path through the woods is paved and the railings are woven in lights making it easy to navigate. My family spent a little over an hour wandering through the forest. The event is stroller and wheelchair accessible. If you need a breather, there are benches at various parts of the exhibit. There is one portion of a slightly uphill boardwalk, which narrows when crowded. We saw a few families throughout the walk not paying attention to their children who were running in and out of the masses. You may want to have your children wear bright colored clothing or glow stick necklaces to make them more visible. Don’t be afraid to be festive! My daughter wore her bobbing head reindeer while I was envious of the woman in the ornamental Christmas tree hat. One parent had his iPhone set to holiday tunes making it more enjoyable to get into the spirit given the lack of holiday displays.
The event is affordable. Ages 4 and up are $6; children 3 and under as well as Annmarie members are free. Even better, you can go to their website to download a $1 off coupon. Check out the schedule for special dates featuring a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. There are special nights for free admission to first responders, military and educators. New Year’s Eve brings family game night in addition to the holiday light show. Pets are allowed on Jan. 1 for Pet Night.
This would be a nice event to do when the kids are out for winter break. You can make it a day or overnight outing by adding nearby Calvert Marine Museum or Calvert Cliffs State Park to the itinerary.
Annmarie Garden in Lights is open every night from 6 to 9 p.m. They are closed on December 4, 5, 24 and 25. The event will culminate on January 1, 2018.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Molloy.