The South Coast Botanic Garden is lighting up a portion of its 87-acre horticultural and wildlife habitat for the holidays.

But don’t expect a typical holiday display depicting the standards like elves, reindeer and Santa Claus, at the Palos Verdes Peninsula attraction.

Instead, the garden is going underwater with the help of thousands and thousands of lights all connected with about four miles of wire to illuminate a walk-through art installation called  “Glow” that happens nightly through Jan. 10.

After all, not only is the venue right by the ocean, water obviously gives life to everything at the garden. The after-dark event features parts of the garden outfitted with light installations meant to make people feel like they’re in the ocean and rivers.

“We made water come alive in light. When people come through they’re going to see it in all forms, from ocean waves to rain, misty rain, rain storms, there’s even a river,” said MaryLynn Mack, the chief operating officer of the South Coast Botanic Garden.

The lights are paired with music, including some laid-back electro-pop songs produced specifically for “Glow” by Chicago-born DJ Jerzy.

There are also other styles of music that accompany the installation, including surf rock, classical music, and a few contemporary tunes, such as Train’s 2012 song “Mermaid,” and “Ocean Eyes” — the first song released by Billie Eilish. There’s even a steel drum version of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Read on for four things you need to see at “Glow.”

1. Under the sea

As people enter the exhibit, they’ll walk under rows of blue lights dubbed “Wave of Light.” The strings of sparkly lights fold like waves in the ocean while dimmer lights, similar to those emitted by disco balls, are projected on the floor and nearby walls, giving the illusion of bubbles underwater.

2. Stormy nights

You can almost feel the raindrops falling on the forest floor at the garden’s Banyan Grove. The fig trees planted in this area have been outfitted with strings of light that hang straight down to give the illusion of rain. Dots of light flicker along the strings as classical music by Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi plays. As the music reaches its crescendo, the lights flicker faster, making it appear as if the rain is becoming a storm. Pro tip: Don’t focus too much on the lights, step back and try to take the whole thing in and the rain will seem even more real.

3. A raging river

Just to the side of the rainforest is a path that leads to other areas of the garden. But for “Glow,” this is no longer a path, but a raging river. A fast-flowing river is recreated using wave-shaped light projected from above that gently zigzags as it quickly moves forward on the path. However, unless you’re a professional photographer, pics don’t do it justice, so take a video instead.

4. Fireflies

The garden’s Living Wall, where plants hang from, well, a wall, looks like it’s being invaded by fireflies thanks to dozens and dozens of lights that gently pulsate as soft green, pink and yellow lights illuminate the background. Just please don’t try to catch them.

More tips to know before you go

Here are a few more things to note if you’re planning to take the family on a trek to see “Glow”:

  • Dress warmly since it gets really chilly at night.
  • Wear good shoes because you’re going to be doing some walking through a path that sometimes slopes uphill.
  • Bring strollers for the little kids because it takes about 30 minutes or so to really take it all in. And even then, you’re going to want to do another quick walk around if you still have timed. There is stroller parking in case they’re down to walk along.
  • Use the night mode on your phone if you have it, because it makes a world of difference when it comes to capturing great photos.
  • This shouldn’t have to be said anymore, but wear a mask at all times, it’s mandatory.

If you go:

When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 21-Jan. 10. It is closed on Dec. 24 and 25.

Where: South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula

Cost: $24.95 per person for members, $34.95 per person for non-members. Children younger than 4 enter free.


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