Lights in Bloom Brings a Tropical Twist to the Holiday Season

Things To Do

Pictured: Twinkling butterflies soar overhead at Lights in Bloom. Photo by Cliff Roles and courtesy of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden.

Every December, reindeer descend upon the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Downtown Campus. Unlike the fluffy, hooved creatures that may or may not possess the ability to fly, these bright pink Florida reindeer, aka giant wooden flamingos, don twinkly antlers and symbolize Selby’s annual Lights in Bloom, which brings a Floridian flair to the holiday season.

Lights in Bloom, which runs most days this December and into early January, is a favorite local event. “USA Today named us the sixth-best botanical holiday light show in 2022, and we have over two million lights on display,” says Jennifer Rominiecki, the president and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. As the flocks of Florida reindeer that roam around the gardens to delight visitors illustrate, Lights in Bloom has become emblematic of the Gulf Coast. In a region where holiday celebrations are spent outside on the lanai in 80-degree weather and you’re more likely to see a “sandman” than a snowman, it’s easy to feel a bit left out in the cold while our northern friends go sledding and sip hot cocoa in ugly Christmas sweaters.

But Lights in Bloom reminds both Florida residents and visitors that even tropical destinations can get into the holiday spirit. As you stroll through the garden, festive tunes play in the background like a soundtrack to a Christmas movie. There’s no shortage of lit-up paths to explore, like the magical mangroves and cactus garden. Glowing flowers in a rainbow of colors sprout up across the garden, and along the way, you’ll happen upon blue dolphins leaping from the water, butterflies and toothy alligators sporting Santa hats. Stop for a meal from Michaels On East and other vendors, and once you’re refueled, try your hand at the fun activities spread throughout the garden, like giant chess and connect four. In years past, the event has featured face painting and a wishing tree, where visitors can tie a biodegradable wishing paper to the tree while reflecting on the past year and the new one to come.

“We add to the installations every year, and there will be some new treats this December,” Rominiecki adds. Whether you’ve been to Lights in Bloom since you were a child or will experience it for the first time, prepare for a magical wonderland that captures the spirit of the season. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a carrot for the Florida reindeer too.

Lights in Bloom will run this December and early January at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Downtown Sarasota Campus. Visit the website for exact dates and to purchase tickets. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota, 941-366-5731, selby.org.

Pictured: Twinkling butterflies soar overhead at Lights in Bloom. Photo by Cliff Roles and courtesy of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden.

Lights in Bloom at the Marie Selby Botanical Garden

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