Holiday Magic: Let it Glow!

This year, Phipps Conservatory is pulling out all the stops for their Winter holiday installment, appropriately called “Holiday Magic: Let it Glow!” As the name suggests, the decorations focused on using lights and colors to convey a festive mood, something that is immediately clear from the way the Conservatory is illuminated at night.

Inside, things just get better. When I visited on the last Friday of Thanksgiving Break, Phipps — which to me was always very green — looked completely transformed, resembling a Christmas wonderland more than a botanical garden. Countless Christmas trees, wrapped in brilliant lights and ornaments, were dotted throughout, and fairy lights hung from the ceiling. Even the workers who were surveying the crowd and acting as guides were dressed in elf hats and Christmas lights. Everywhere I looked, people were crowding for pictures, giving the otherwise spacious rooms a very packed and cozy feeling.

Continuing through the different rooms, the decorations became increasingly whimsical. There were interactive diorama displays showing Phipps’ history in the South Conservatory, a giant gingerbread house, gargantuan presents, and posh tea sets decorating the Serpentine Room, penguins (not real ones) enjoying themselves in the East Room, and the massive Fir tree in the Victoria Room. Other rooms, such as the Orchid Room, Fern Room, and Stove Room had minimal decorations, but it was a pleasure nonetheless to see the colorful flowers and the carefully curated flora.

The most impressive exhibit, however, was not inside the Conservatory but outside it in the Outdoor Garden. I had never visited the Outdoor Garden before, so it was doubly shocking to see this previously unexplored outdoor space transformed into a field of lights. With curiously shaped light sculptures, strings of colorful LEDs, and even more trees both real and fake, there was something to look at wherever you turned. With the saturation of families and couples, the atmosphere felt warm and encompassing despite the cold, with hot chocolate and other treats available from vendors set up around Phipps. Admittedly, I felt a little out of place wandering solo among the crowds, but it was all well worth the visit.

Holiday Magic is around until January 6th, so I would recommend going before leaving for break. When I went, the event was not free even for CMU students because it was the opening night and thus required the purchase of a timed ticket, but things might have changed by now. Despite the price, it was a wonderful experience, and one that I highly recommend. Whether it’s with friends, a date, or by yourself, a visit to Phipps is sure to help lessen Winter’s cold and put you in a festive mood.