One of the tips we gleamed from a local at the holiday boat parade was about a southern Alabama Christmas tradition that has been a must for many families since 1995, the Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens.
We originally intended to visit on Wednesday night but the threat of rain kept us at home. Once the rain cleared out later in the week, we made the one hour trek around Mobile Bay to the town of Theodore and Bellingrath Gardens and Home.
The estate consists of a 65 acre tract purchased in 1917 by Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the southeast. Located on the Fowl River, the place was initially intended as a fishing camp for Walter to unwind at from the stress of his job. Bessie though, had other plans for the land and in 1927 began developing the gardens. Soon after a 10,500 square foot house was also built.
LOOK UP !
The gardens include a conservatory, a reflecting pond, walking trails and many more features. Opening to the public in 1932, it was soon recognized nationally for its year round beauty, most notably, it’s springtime blooms of Azaleas.
Walter, having lost his wife in 1943, continued to maintain and improve on her beloved gardens until his own death in 1955. Having no children of their own, Walter had the estate converted over to the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation. Today, the estate hosts a variety of events in both the gardens and the house, now a museum. In Winter, one of those events is Magic Christmas in Lights.
With visions of last years’ Holiday in Lights display from James Island, South Carolina dancing in our heads, we were pumped to check out these lights.
The event is designed as a walking tour and the first thing we noticed was the congestion, in the parking area, in the buildings, and on the paths. The parking is haphazard with folks parking every which way. The parking lot lanes are one vehicle wide and two directional. This made things chaotic at times. The displays do not cover the entire acreage, instead it is laid out into two loops of about two miles total. The compacted arrangement combined with the volumne of visitors it attracts makes for cozy quarters on the trail. That said, the lights and the displays were nice. We particularly liked the Under the Sea grouping and the spectacular three dimensional lotus blossoms on the pond.
We were glad we had went as it is very festive BUT at $30 a pop, we would not go again should we find ourselves here at Christmastime in the future. Also because it is our understanding that the exhibits never vary.
This morning finds us on I-65 northbound. We are looking forward to spending the holiday with our family back home in Indiana. Don wants to make the 13 hour run (if we don’t make any stops) in one day, which makes for one very long day indeed. Thankfully he can now help with the driving and will probably do the bulk of it.
At this time, we’d like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and
a Happy and Blessed New Year!