Luminaries glow at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

Dispelling the myth that deserts are barren and boring, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix offers 50 acres of stunning specimens of pipe organ cacti, 100-year-old saguaros, and unexpected blooms in rainbow colors. And while many public gardens go dormant in the winter, this one only gets brighter at holiday time.

Luminaries line Garden paths during December

In the weeks before Christmas, the Desert Botanical Garden becomes much more than a museum of living plants growing in beautiful outdoor exhibits.  For the 33rd year , Las Noches de las Luminaries is attracting thousands of visitors who come to see garden paths outlined by seven thousand glowing luminaries.  Nightly entertainment includes jazz bands, mariachis, violin, handbell choirs, percussion, flamenco guitar, and more.  Carolers add to the festive spirit with songs of the season.

Bands play music of the season

Glowing lights add to the festive mood

Each evening about 30 volunteers take an hour to light all the pathway candles, while additional lights twinkle from tree branches overhead.   As the temperature drops, which it always does after dark in the desert climate, guests warm up with hot cocoa and cider. Make it an evening to remember at the optional sit-down buffet dinner featuring a large variety of main courses, desserts, and drinks at $16.50 for adults.

While Las Noches de las Luminaries began on weekends early in December, it runs daily from December 16-30 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), with certain days selling out in advance.  Admission is $25 for non-member adults and $10 for children. Enjoy all the merriment from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Not only is the Botanical Garden in a region that gets less than 10 inches of rainfall a year, but it’s also located within the city, another challenge to growing one of the finest collections of desert plants in the world.  Nestled among the red buttes of Papago Park are 50,000 plants, 139 of which are rare, threatened, and endangered species.

Visitors gather around warm fire pits

A hundred species of prickly pears, aloe vera with yellow and orange blooms, and striking specimen plants are showcased in the Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Gallery. Designed by landscape architect Steve Martino, the galleries feature an arching canopy of steel mesh that shades plants and highlights vistas in the garden.

The best part of garden touring, day or night, is strolling along the well-planned paths observing surprising diversity among the forms and types of flora growing in desert ecosystems. At every turn there’s something new to see, whether it’s an unusual variety of succulent, one of more than a hundred bird species, or a half-century-old turtle crossing the path.

In addition to holiday activities, the Desert Botanical Garden offers tours and regularly scheduled bird walks year-round, with night blooming plants and nocturnal creatures on display during flashlight tours from May until August. The Garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ

Photos by Larry Burmeier

Find more travel articles at Going on Adventures and Austin Adventure Travel

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