If you want a magical date experience during the holidays, check out Descanso Gardens Enchanted: Forest of Light in La Canada Flintridge. It really is “enchanted”!
You definitely should buy your tickets in advance as this does sell out almost every night. In 2017, tickets were $28 each. I think it was well worth it! Note that tickets are non-refundable and it’s a rain-or-shine event.
My biggest tip would be to dress very warmly because it gets much colder there than in other parts of Los Angeles, and you’re outside for almost the whole time.
The on-site parking lot was nearly full when we got there at around 8:15 PM, but there were still spots towards the back.
The tickets have set admission times, but once you get in, you may stay as long as you like until closing.
What Is It?
Descanso Gardens is a 151-acre botanical garden that originally was the property of newspaper magnate E. Manchester Boddy. It contains various sections including a rose garden, Japanese garden, Camellia collection, and Oak forest. During the day, it looks like this:
When I went during the day, it was blazing hot. There was less shade than you would expect there.
But during the time around Christmas, they light up the gardens at night with colorful displays, making it a much more spectacular experience.
There is a one-mile path that guides you through the exhibits, which consist of glowing objects or lit-up trees and interesting variations on that theme.
There are bars at various points where you can purchase alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. I had the hot cider with a shot of rum to start my journey.
Some exhibits are more spectacular than others but the overall experience is really good. The crowd consisted of mostly adults on dates and some families, but the exhibits are not as kid-focused as the Zoo Lights show at the LA Zoo.
The highlight of the walk for us was a forest that was lit up with tiny green laser spots. It was almost impossible to photograph, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. It really must be experienced in person!
Towards the end of the path was the Japanese Gardens with cool red ball lights.
Overall, it’s a very sublime and romantic experience!
Before you leave, check out the gift shop, which actually has some charming and cool stuff!
While you’re in the area, drive to Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena not too far away. This is a one-mile stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue with enormous trees that have been decorated with Christmas lights. Driving up this street is an appropriate end to an evening of enchantment.
I highly recommend Descanso Gardens Enchanted: Forest of Light as an excellent date idea. No, it’s not as spectacular as, say, Disney’s Phantasmic or the Main Street Electrical Parade. It’s more sublime and quiet, but still very cool and unusual… and romantic. If you have the right expectations, you and your date will really enjoy the experience.
What did you think of Descanso Gardens Enchanted: Forest of Light? Any questions? Please comment below! – Brian