Posted Dec 19, 2018
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia transforms into a whimsical, half-mile, animated light show during the holiday season. Filled with dazzling nature-themed displays, Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights is a perennial Northern Virginia family favorite.
We sent two of our MOM Squad ambassadors and their families to experience Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights. They received free admission in exchange for providing an honest review of their experience.
Keneisha: Meadowlark is a walk in the park full of Christmas lights; no tree goes undecorated. Christmas decor is animated, well executed, and fun to experience.
Heather: Upon entering the front building we were greeted with cascading lights that instantly transported us to a whimsical land. Just next to the building is a cute fairy garden.
There's also some wonderful well-lit spaces to take family photos.
There is one well paved path to follow, which leads you through the light show. The path is well marked and flows smoothly through a small section of the gardens.
The light displays are colorful and enchanting; some of the displays slowly change colors, others are time-lapse animated, but almost all of the displays have something to do with nature and woodland creatures.
My 4-year-old son had a wonderful time identifying all the creatures, and asking if they were something we needed for the scavenger hunt.
As you wander down the path and towards the pond there is a display, which synchronizes to holiday music. While there are only two small benches to sit and watch, there is lots of room for youngsters to dance, or stand in silent awe. I personally enjoyed watching the reflection of the gazebo and trees in the the pond, while my son enjoyed watching the light display of the leaping frog.
Another crowd-pleaser was an interesting sculpture of lights. The louder you spoke or sang the brighter they lit up. My son was fascinated with seeing the lights respond to his voice.
After meandering through the creatures there is a fun light bridge to walk through and a small section of holiday lights, which lead up to the fire pits.
A small concession stand sells drinks (including hot chocolate, water, etc) and snacks. For a minimal price, $4.50, you can purchase a s'mores kit (5 marshmallows, one chocolate bar and three sets of graham crackers) along with two sticks for roasting. The fire pit is well set up with tall walls on the sides and a grate on top. While it makes it a little hard for a teenager (or adult) to achieve the perfect roasted marshmallow, it does allow the youngsters to safely roast.
After leaving the fire pits we walked through a short section of lights that made it seem like falling snow and were back to the main building again.
All said, the path was easy to navigate and only took us 45 minutes to slowly enjoy. As we entered back into the main building we handed in the scavenger hunt and my son was ecstatic to receive a sticker.
Getting There and Getting In
Keneisha: Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights is easy to find. It's in a quiet neighborhood on a small road, really hard to miss. Parking is free and you are guided to the nearest area available. Getting in was quick and easy. We visited on a Thursday at 7 p.m., exhibit closes at 10 p.m. There was no wait. The entrance is similar to a small recreation center, decorated with seating areas, gift shops and restrooms.
Heather: The location is easy to find and the entrance is well lit in the nighttime. We arrived on a weekday night and parking was readily available. Two parking attendants were present as you drove in with lit torches to easily direct us. Additionally, the lot is well lit and easy to navigate with a stroller. There was no line or wait to get in.
Recommended Age Range
Heather: My son is 4-years-old and my daughter is 19. I would recommend this activity for ages 3 - 8.
Keneisha: My children are 8, 5 and 1. I'd recommend all ages.
Time Recommended to Enjoy Experience
Heather: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, just depending on how fast the little ones are.
Keneisha: 1.5 hours. We were done walking and roasting s'mores within 1 hour, 10 minutes.
Tips for Families
Keneisha: The park doesn’t allow outside food or drinks, and please remember a stroller for babies and toddlers. This requires walking the entire time. Tyson’s corner mall is nearby, if you’re able to visit as soon as the sun sets, feel free to stop by the mall for your last minute holiday shopping!
Heather: Don't forget to ask for the scavenger hunt from the ticket collector. The path is well paved so if your child likes to run off a stroller may be recommended.
There is a beautiful sleigh inside the main building with a bunch of different props on a side table to take some fun family pictures. I would imagine it would be pretty crowded on a weekend, but we were able to take a handful of different shots without any line.
Check out our guide to the best free and cheap holiday fun for families in Washington, D.C.
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