International Traditions and New ‘Winter Glow’ Experience Light Up Frederik Meijer Gardens

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

The 29th annual University of Michigan Health-West: Christmas & Holiday Traditions celebrates what it means to "Gather" in colorful community across the world.

Those looking to experience the wonder of the holiday season will find plenty of options to do so with a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as they welcome guests to the 29th annual University of Michigan Health-West: Christmas & Holiday Traditions exhibition, on display now through January 7, 2024.


Photo Courtesy of Van Dis Photography. 


Guests from around the world visit Meijer Gardens to take in more than 40 trees and displays representing countries and cultures across the globe. The adored and enchanting Railway Garden—and the holiday wonderland encompassing it—once again loops through three lush indoor garden spaces, among them the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse and the Earl & Donnalee Holton Victorian Garden Parlor.

A hallmark of the holidays at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the anticipated annual exhibition spotlights the meaningful ways people Gather for the season as it marks its 29th year. As guests wander the winter wonderland illuminated by glistening lights and artfully adorned trees and cultural displays, they'll witness the diversity in festivities that bring people together to recognize time-honored traditions. From feasts and festivals to ceremonies and stories to crafts and carols, folks near and far gather to celebrate in good company.


Photo Courtesy of Frederik Meijfer Gardens and Sculpture Park. 


Each winter, Meijer Gardens transforms into a botanic winter wonderland with fresh poinsettias, evergreens and amaryllis. The sights and sounds of cultural celebrations from throughout the world make it a place to gather and reflect on the holiday season. Indoors and out, the grounds sparkle with 350,000 lights, and volunteers donate hundreds of hours to decorate trees and set up displays.

The unique horticultural artistry and water features of the Railway Garden, sponsored by Warner, complements the trolleys, trains, and handcrafted buildings replicating 40 West Michigan landmarks. Five landmarks representing Grand Rapids Sister Cities around the world are also highlighted in the Railway Garden.


Photo Courtesy of Peter McDaniel. 


Only a short distance from the main building, venture out to the DeVos Van Andel Piazza to enjoy a new immersive and majestic Winter Glow lighting experience, surrounding Nina Akamu's The American Horse. Beacons of colorful light pull guests in to begin the journey, color-changing light sabers come alive with undulating and chasing dance-like choreography, and playful patterns of light projected onto the hilled topography give the feeling you've stepped inside a snow globe or another world. A custom soundtrack accompanies this theatrical experience. Gather outdoors with family and friends to cozy up around firepits and enjoy hot drinks as you celebrate the season.

"This year, we're embracing many traditions from around the world that highlight the importance of gathering and togetherness during the holiday season," said Steve LaWarre, Vice President of Horticulture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. "With the introduction of our new Winter Glow experience near The American Horse, we've created a space that encapsulates the spirit of community and shared celebration, offering an additional layer of connection to the cherished components of this beloved exhibition."


Photo Courtesy of William J Hebert. 


In many cultures, the holidays bring people together in distinct and memorable ways difficult to capture in a display. Meijer Gardens again presents the original film joy, which explores the diverse festive fabric that is holiday life across our local communities. This film will be shown continuously in the Hoffman Family Auditorium and is also available on the Meijer Gardens YouTube channel.

To learn more about the exhibition and corresponding programming such as Santa and Reindeer Visits, the Original Dickens Carolers and more, visit Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Courtesy of West Michigan Woman.

Main Photo Courtesy of Dean Van Dis Photography. 


More stories you'll love