family walking through holiday light display at night

Imagine strolling down candlelit paths through tranquil, snow-covered woods as the stresses of the holiday season melt away. Every November, the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens offers this opportunity with its Luminary Walk, a series of festively decorated trails leading to areas such as a colorful children’s garden, magical gnome and fairy villages, and gardens aglow with more than 365,000 colorful holiday lights.

The Luminary Walk began as a fundraiser 22 years ago. The first events featured simple candlelit paths through the gardens, according to Irene Parsons, the event’s chairperson. Her favorite section of the modern trail continues that simple approach.

“One loop is called the Quiet Woods Walk because it just is so serene,” she says of the tour’s candlelit portion. “We have a music tent in there with instrumental music, we have live musicians playing, and it’s a serene walk through the woods with the beautiful music drifting through the air.”

One of the most popular spots is the gnome and fairy villages featuring 30 houses tucked among the trees in clusters in the sculpture garden.

“We have a crew of four or five ladies, and that’s their passion. They love building those gnome houses and the fairy houses that are smaller,” Parsons says, adding the unique homes are one to three feet tall. “Some were professional artists in previous careers, and this is a way to continue to use their artistic skills, and they enjoy it so much. Every year we have new homes, and they’ll take the old ones and refurbish them and enhance them again. The little details are just amazing.”

It takes several crews of volunteers to prepare all sections.

“We have marbles; they are big balls that light up, and rings, and we just have a lot of different things to look at that we’ve made in one way or another,” Parsons says. “We have some people who are good with metalwork and woodwork and just patient with putting lights on things. We are kind of homegrown.”

The hand-crafted displays are both unique and economical. The money saved is then used to further enhance the arboretum the rest of the year. Even the model trains in the train garden get into the holiday spirit as they speed along their three different routes.


a group of holiday carolers


“They are lit up with Christmas lights, and the passenger cars have lights inside, and you can see the people,” Parsons notes. “The kids love those.”

The event also will feature live musical entertainment in four locations, hot cider, four fire pits spread about the gardens, and, of course, Santa.

In addition to regular viewings, this year Electric Glow Nights on two weeknights are planned for those wishing to see only the holiday lights. Two adults-only nights for people over 18 ensure a quiet stroll. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Call for details: 913.322.6467         



Dyck Arboretum of the Plains


Tens of thousands of twinkle lights will complement the quiet beauty of dormant native grasses at the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston during Prairie Lights. The path, grounds, and trees will all be lit while the arboretum’s pavilion, with two all-glass sides, will become a “snow globe” featuring a diorama of prairie bird species. Each night, the arboretum will host musical performances and other programming. Tickets for the fundraiser are available online beginning November 1.

Call for details:  620.327.8127





A new art display of floating lotus flowers and ducks will be introduced during Botanica’s Illuminations in Wichita. Guests can follow a path to more than 30 uniquely decorated gardens with different themes. With more than two million lights, the nationally recognized light show also includes a 70-foot-tall Christmas tree, an interactive steppingstone area, a hand-crafted holiday village, a miniature carnival, a train display, and carousel rides. Hot cocoa and other holiday treats will be available.

Call for details:  316.264.0448