Inventor Thomas Edison demonstrated the first incandescent light bulb in December 1879. A year later, he changed Christmas forever with a light display outside his laboratory. A few years later Edward Johnson, an inventor who worked for Edison, made a string of Christmas lights. By 1890, department stores were using stringed Christmas lights in displays. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first White House Christmas tree to have electric lights. As the lights became safer and more affordable, more and more people started decorating with them. Today, light displays are a holiday staple. The Sandhills are no exception. Here are some must-see attractions in the area.
Holiday Lights in the Garden
Weekends in December through Dec. 23, Cape Fear Botanical Garden is aglow with holiday cheer. This year marks the eighth year the garden has hosted Holiday Lights in the Garden. The theme is Polar Express. The hours are 5:30-9 p.m.
Highlights of the experience include music and a synchronized light show over the Cyprus pond, a mile-long walking path lit with thousands of lights, a hayride that includes caroling, a train ride, story time with an edge, photos with Santa, an opportunity to roast marshmallows and make s’mores, and crafts for children.
Local music groups will perform on selected days as well, featuring Dec. 14 — FTCC Ensemble & Saxophone; Dec. 16 —Reid Ross Classical School Choir; Dec. 20 — Cumberland Oratorio Singers; Dec. 21 — Honeycutt Elementary Chorus; and Dec. 23 — Reilly Road Community Church.
The garden gift shop will be open during the event. An addition this year is Santa’s Workshop, where children can shop for parents and other loved ones. The workshop has a hot chocolate bar and includes a scavenger hunt. Santa will be at the garden every night during this event.
Visit www.capefearbg.org/holiday-lights-garden or call 910-486-0221 for more information.
Christmas in the Park
Arnette Park features 100 acres of woodland adjacent to the Cape Fear River. And it’s magical decked out for the holidays.
Open daily through Dec. 20, Christmas in the Park offers a half-mile paved walking path bursting with the sights and sounds of Christmas. After taking in the lights, guests can roast marshmallows and make s’mores around the fire pit or get creative at the craft station. An outdoor movie screen will play holiday films throughout each evening. There is also a train, the Christmas Express, ready to take visitors on a ride. And Santa will be there each night, too.
Christmas in the Park runs from 6-9 p.m. each night through Dec. 20. Call 910-433-1547 for details.
Lu Mil Vineyard Christmas Light Show
Lu Mil Vineyard offers the beauty of Christmas lights from the warmth of your car. Tune the radio to the Lu Mil setting and enjoy the synchronized show as hundreds of thousands of lights dance in time to the music. Groups of 20 or more can rent the double-decker bus and enjoy the show together.
Enjoy dinner at the country buffet (open 5-11 p.m.) before heading out to enjoy the lights. Help yourself to free wine-tastings daily and peruse the gift shop as well.
The light display runs nightly Dec. 13-23. Call 910- 862-1603 for tickets and information.
Located on Godwin Lake Road in Benson, Meadow Lights has light displays that cover more than 30 acres.
One of the things the owners of Meadow Lights embraces is the nativity and the story of Jesus Christ. There are more than six light displays showing the life of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection.
In addition to lights, there is an old country store stocked with 300 varieties of candy — preserves, hard-to-find drinks like Sun Drop, Cheer Wine, Nehi and more — including Radio Flyer wagons and scooters and bikes.
There is a train on-site ready to take visitors through 10 of the 30 acres of lights.
Find out more at www.meadowlights.com or call 919-669-5969.
Chinese Lantern Festival
If you’re willing to drive to Cary, the Chinese Lantern Festival fills the Koa Booth Amphitheatre and runs through Jan. 13. Lanterns and silk structures steal the show.
The festival features hundreds of colorful, largerthan- life lanterns and displays. The lanterns honor the more than 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition of lanternmaking. Each lantern at the festival is handcrafted, and more than 25 visiting artisans from China will be at the festival.
There are 20 displays made up of more than 15,000 LED lights, including the star of the show — the Chinese dragon. Weighing 18,000-pounds in total, the dragon required a 15-person crew to install its head.
Other displays include a bull fighting a tiger, and panda paradise and more.
There are Chinese culture performances that showcase things like martial arts, dances, acrobatics, and drum performances each night as well.
The self-guided walking tour takes about an hour. Food and beverages are available to purchase. Photography is encouraged. The festival is open Tuesday through Sundays from 6-10 p.m.
Visit http://boothamphitheatre.com/nc-chineselantern-festival-cary or call 800-514-3849 for tickets and information.