Saturday, September 30, 2023

Bridgeworthy: Colorful Starlight Experience at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Seeing how high they could jump in the illuminated tunnel of the Winter Cathedral with tens of thousands of LED light globes and Christmas music playing inside.

We recently embarked on a star light, star bright adventure to Lightscape, at the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG) in Encinitas, with two grandparents and three kiddos in tow. This illuminated wonder trail runs November 18 through January 1, so is a perfect holiday outing that gets the whole family off their screens and into nature.

The waterlilies really stood out in the dark.

Be sure to look for the Laser Garden, feel the disco vibes at Mirror Ball Alley, view colorful waterlilies, wander through the vibrant Neon Strings, listen to the Singing Banyon Tree, visit Poinsettia Gazebo, gaze at Fire Garden with more than 200 glowing paraffin wax candles in a fenced enclosure, take in the Neon Trees, stroll Nautilus Forest, and enjoy the Winter Cathedral, with so many great photo ops along the way.

We suggest arriving when they open at 5 pm to avoid the crowds. The kids enjoyed having the trails to themselves as they led our pack through the one mile trail with more than one million twinkling lights, which takes about one to one and a half hours to complete, but there is no time limit. Bringing small flashlights or glow sticks for the kids is something we would recommend to add to the fun.

Taking a quick break from the illuminated trails.

Our littles gave glowing reviews and had a great time getting outside on a brisk evening. Jackson, age 9, emphasized that his favorite thing was the glowing string art section of the garden. Andrew, age 10, said the big colorful tree at the front reminded him of a really bright Christmas tree, and Dominic, age 6, said he loved the fire ball, because it had real fire.

The fire ball was a hit! Photo courtesy of San Diego Botanic Gardens

There are some grab-and-go savory snacks, desserts, drinks like hot cocoa, apple cider, and beer. Since it was dinnertime, we ended our evening at Leucadia Pizza, located nearby at 315 S. Coast Hwy 101, which is family friendly. The kids gave the cheese pizza and made-to-order warm chocolate cookies three thumbs up.

Lots of fun photo ops along the way.

Lightscape has had sold-out runs in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, and SDBG is the seventh installation in the U.S. It was founded in the United Kingdom in 2013, and was developed in conjunction with Sony Music, Wad Entertainment, and Culture Creative. They are anticipating 1500 guests on opening night. It will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day, and open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The Garden closes daily at 4 pm for daytime guests and reopens for Lightscape attendees from 5 pm to 10 pm. Tickets for adults are $29, children (3-12) are $18, and ages two and under are free. Military discounts are available for active and combat-disabled veterans and their families with ID. Advance parking is $10, and timed ticket reservations are recommended.

Established in 1970, the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG) is a 37-acre San Diego landmark, located in Encinitas. During the daytime, guests can enjoy four miles of trails and an 8,000 square foot glass conservatory with more than 5,300 plant species and varieties on display. SDBG has the largest public bamboo collection in North America; 29 uniquely themed gardens that represent 15 regions and many habitats from around the world. There are also Children’s Gardens, where kids can climb Toni’s tree house, ride the miniature train, and balance on logs at Junior Quail Trail. SDBG also offers a variety of exhibitions, classes, and tours.

For more details on Lightscape and everything SDBG has to offer, visit

The mesmerizing neon string art garden was a highlight.



Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]