Let there be lights. And night. In winter, Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Alabama, explodes with excitement and unexpected grandeur. Bright shapes emerge from the backdrop of skies that darken before dinner. It's a perfect time to go, when illumination meets imagination.
Bellingrath's annual Magic Christmas in Lights is a walkable art form. Holiday flowers, including various types of poinsettias, dot the grounds. The comfortable temperatures of South Alabama allow for this unusual floral treat. Yet this may be the only time you forget to look at the gardens themselves.
"You arrive, leaving the outside world where you're barraged with elements," says Clare Graham, former senior managing art director at Disneyland, who designed the 605 set pieces strewn with 3 million lights. "Our progression tells a story of Bellingrath and the season." Major scenes include Butterflies in Flight, Peace on Earth, Cajun Christmas, Toyland, and The Night Before Christmas (with readings of the poem). The Bellingrath home itself, dating to 1935, provides yet another delight, decorated as if for a festive soiree.
Spinning the magic―finely wrought doves, brilliant lotus blossoms, illuminated snowflakes in the live oaks―Bellingrath holds to its mission. It's a must for your Christmas to-do list.