A fun, memorable, and family-friendly way to celebrate the holiday season!
With 200 acres of gardens, landscaped grounds, ponds, and lakes, Old Westbury Gardens is a favorite spot among Long Islanders to walk around and spend some time outdoors. Throughout the year, Old Westbury Gardens also hosts spectacular seasonal events, such as the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns.
New in 2021, a winter holiday event has been added called Shimmering Solstice: Long Island’s first-ever walkthrough nighttime lightshow! Best of all, it’s family-friendly and stroller-friendly! So if you’re looking for something to do this holiday season – or you’re thinking about going to Shimmering Solstice and wondering what it’s like – here is a guide on what you’ll see and what to expect. Hopefully it gives you some ideas and tips to help you have the best experience!
The first stop of the walkthrough are the “Dandelions”. You will see these as you walk by the West Pond on the way to the Rose Garden. They actually look like real dandelions and are quite charming! My oldest two children loved to run around this area and race from one dandelion to another.
The Rose Garden
Heading onward, the second stop of the walkthrough is the Rose Garden. Here, a number of lightbulbs have been placed throughout the Rose Garden to mimic roses. The lights change color to simulate the many different colors of roses that typically inhabit the Rose Garden:
The Ghost Walk and Walled Garden
Next, the third stop of the walkthrough is the Ghost Walk and Walled Garden. The Ghost Walk was spectacular! It was very enchanting to walk down the illuminated path – or run down it as my oldest daughter wanted to race me!
Our family didn’t spend much time in the Walled Garden. The paths in the Walled Garden aren’t that wide, and due to the large number of visitors it was difficult to maneuver through the paths with a stroller. So we largely skipped this part of the walkthrough.
One place to note, right after the Ghost Walk and Walled Garden – and right before the South Allée – are several wonderfully placed and quite welcomed pyramid flame outdoor heaters. They’re perfect for warming your hands up if you’re walking through the Simmering Solstice during a particularly cold evening as we were! Definitely keep an eye out for them:
The South Allée
The fourth stop of the walkthrough is the South Allée, which is split into two parts. If you turn away from Westbury House and face toward the iconic southern gate – this area is called the Shadow. The hedges and trees are illuminated in colorful lights, giving a magical feel to this portion of the walkthrough. My oldest daughter loved the open space and running through the “rainbow” as she called it!
Opposite the Shadow – that is if you turn north toward Westbury House – is an area called the Meadow. It’s aptly named, as the lights here are reminiscent of weeping lovegrass that you’d find in an open meadow. Wide paths zigzag through the Meadow, allowing ample space for walkers to enjoy their stroll (or for my children to run around!).
The fifth stop of the walkthrough is next – the Finale Projection Lightshow!
Finale: Projection Lightshow
The walkthrough culminates in the great lawn in front of the southward face of Westbury House. Here, a really entertaining and captivating lightshow is projected onto Westbury House. Designed by Lightswitch (a collective of internationally-recognized lighting, media, and visual designers), this is definitely the highlight of the event!
Before the lightshow begins, Westbury House is illuminated in blue and purple hues. Event organizers broadcast over speakers when the next lightshow will begin, and the lightshow lasts for about 10 minutes.
The lightshow is set to music, and starts with the famous The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Beginning with spring, viewers watch as each season comes and goes until winter finally comes. At that point, classic holiday music takes over as the lightshow concludes.
The Four Seasons: Spring
The lightshow begins to the serene and gentle music of the “Spring” (La primavera) movement of The Four Seasons. Green vines envelop Westbury House, which soon start to bud with flowers:
After this, ivy covers Westbury House. Red roses begin to appear – a definite nod to Old Westbury Garden’s own Rose Garden:
Soon the ivy recedes and the red roses completely blanket Westbury House:
After the initial red color, roses of all sorts of different colors and hues appear as the “Spring” portion of the lightshow comes to an end:
The Four Seasons: Summer
The lightshow transitions to the “Summer” (L’estate) movement of The Four Seasons. A beach and ocean appear on Westbury House, adorned with ice cream cones, starfish, seashells, and sailboats:
The warmth of the summer scenery is a welcome distraction from the cold outdoor temperatures! A nod to the many airplane banners and aerial advertising common on Long Island beaches, a plane flies by with the phrase “Summer Beach Party” in tow:
Soon the more dramatic and energetic music of the Presto in G minor (the third part of the “Summer” movement) takes over. The peaceful summer scenery recedes and storm clouds take over:
And rain begins to fall on Westbury House:
The Four Seasons: Autumn
After a storm comes a calm! The lightshow transitions to the stately and elegant “Autumn” (L’autunno) movement of The Four Seasons. Clear skies and trees with beautiful fall colors appear:
The colorful trees soon recede as pumpkins and other fall decorations adorn Westbury House:
The Four Seasons: Winter
Lastly, the lightshow transitions to the spirited and climactic “Winter” (L’inverno) movement of The Four Seasons. Snow begins to fall on the roof of Westbury House, which is decorated with green garland and red bows:
The traditional holiday decorations transition to Christmas trees (here shown in yellow):
Playful holiday decorations then reappear, as reindeer, santas, and presents are projected onto Westbury House:
End of the Projection Lightshow
As the music of Vivaldi ends, traditional holiday songs begin to play. The cute decorations that were projected onto Westbury House give way to a mesmerizing fireworks show:
As the projection lightshow concludes, the phrase “Happy Holidays!” is projected onto Westbury House:
I do want to note that exiting the projection lightshow is the one part of this experience that is not stroller-friendly. Visitors need to walk up one of two stone staircases to return to the parking area, so if you have a stroller you will need to carry it up the stairs. It’s not a big deal – just something to note.
Christmas Tree in front of Westbury House
There is one final stop of the walkthrough – in front of the northward face of Westbury House. Here you’ll find a Christmas tree with a string of ornaments on display as you return to the parking area. It’s a nice place for photos as not too many people stopped here (due to the cold, most visitors continued on to their cars!).
Parking, Tickets, and Other Information
Event parking is free. Upon entering Old Westbury Hardens, event staff will direct you to park in rows in the Parking Field.
You can purchase Premier Parking, which means you’ll get to park right in front of the entrance tent. But it’s really not worth the extra cost.
You can purchase tickets for Shimmering Solstice through this link.
Ticket prices vary slightly depending on whether you attend during a “Peak” or “Off-Peak” time:
- The cost of an Adult Peak ticket is $32.95 and a Child (ages 3-17) Peak ticket is $17.95
- The cost of an Adult Off-Peak ticket is $29.95 and a Child (ages 3-17) Off-Peak ticket is $16.95.
- Children 2 and under are free
- For those 62+, a reduced ticket price is available on Senior Monday for $24.95
Event Dates & Times
Shimmering Solstice show dates are between November 20, 2021 and January 9, 2022. However, there will be no showings on November 22-25, 30, December 7, 14, 21, 24, 25, 28, and January 4.
Entry times are available every 15 minutes, starting from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. The last show time slot is 9:30 p.m. and the event closes at 11 p.m.
Entrance, Restrooms, and Concession Stands
Having parked, you will see a very large white tent near the Parking Field. That is the entrance to the event. Directly adjacent to the entrance tent (to the right) is a trailer for restrooms (I used them – they’re nice and clean).
Concession stands are located immediately upon walking through the entrance tent. Various light-up toys are available for children, as well as some food, snacks, and beverages.
Walkthrough Length and Duration
The Shimmering Solstice walkthrough is self-directed, so you go at your own pace. The general path you walk covers a little over a mile. My family spent about an hour at Old Westbury Gardens, stopping frequently to look at the lights and to let my children run around some. You could probably do the walk in 30 minutes if you were short on time, but I wouldn’t recommend rushing a fun experience like this!
With three young children, our family makes heavy use of strollers! Fortunately, there is a “Stroller Route” for this event, where organizers have built platforms over some of the rougher terrain. Keep an eye out for these signs:
What to Wear
I would definitely recommend wearing layers and bringing hats and gloves. I also highly suggest bringing Hot Hands hand warmers. I use them frequently with my children as they’re too young to keep gloves/mittens on for more than a few seconds!
Event organizers encourage photography, and you can use the hashtag #ShimmeringSolstice to share your pictures. The only real note is that no tripods are allowed.
I used a Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera during the hike to take these photos. It’s a great camera and takes such high-quality photos! For nighttime photography of lights, make sure you have your flash off and experiment with different settings for aperture and shutter speed.
Did you see the Shimmering Solstice at Old Westbury Gardens? What did you think of the lightshow and experience? Let me know in the comments below!
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