Lighting the Way
What started as a season-extender for coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has become a wintertime destination.
When Gardens Aglow began in 2015, the staff at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens were hoping for at least 5,000 visitors. The light display ended up attracting 36,000 attendees its first year. Last year, more than 116,000 people visited during its mid-November to New Year’s Eve run—around the same number of people who visited during Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ regular season. The Boothbay garden is known for miles of walking trails through gardens and forests that feature flowers and plants native to Maine and similar regions, but each September, staff members begin preparing for Gardens Aglow by hanging around 650,000 lights across the property. Kris Folsom, marketing director at the botanical gardens, says her favorite part of the display is in Slater Forest, where visitors are surrounded by lights and trees, with no buildings or other structures in sight. “When you walk through at night, you have these lights that are soaring above your head, and they seem to go on forever,” Folsom says. “It’s magical. It’s sort of dream-like.”