Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights is a beautiful walk-through garden trail decorated with thousands of sparkling lights, perfect for a fun holiday outing in Northern Virginia. The half-mile, one-way walk features outdoor themes and animated displays along a paved, wheelchair and stroller-accessible trail.
Meadowlark’s Winter Walk is one of the best holiday light displays near Washington DC, whether your goal is family fun or a romantic night out. Even when the weather is chilly, it’s fun to bundle up and experience this lovely holiday lights display.
In 2021, the Winter Walk of Lights celebrates its 9th year and is open from November 11 to January 2. One of the first professional holiday displays to open each year, it provides a nice companion to the drive-through light show at Bull Run.
What is Winter Walk of Lights?
The Winter Walk of Lights is an outdoor walk-through holiday light display at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna Virginia. Guests follow a half-mile, paved trail surrounded by beautiful light displays. Many of the displays feature flowers, insects, and wildlife in keeping with the garden location. The popular wheelchair accessible trail attracts visitors of every age who return every year for this holiday favorite.
We first visited Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Winter Walk of Lights in 2014, and it’s been on our list for holiday lights fun ever since. There are new additions every year, and old favorites return.
Your journey begins online when you purchase timed entry tickets from the NOVA Parks Ticket website. In 2021, walk-up tickets are available from November 11 to December 9, but online purchase is highly recommended. From December 10 to January 2 you must buy tickets online to see the show. Your timed ticket ensures that you’ll have a parking space and are guaranteed entry.
What You’ll Find on the Winter Walk of Lights Trail
The walk begins in the Meadowlark Gardens Visitor Center. If you have children in your group, you might want to start at the Snowflake Shoppe where you can buy light-up necklaces, wands, and other sparkly goods. You can also pick up a Light Search activity sheet and give your kids a fun extra challenge.
Once you enter the grounds, visitors follow a set path along paved walkways that wind between displays. You can walk at your own pace (maintain social distance!) and spend as long as you want at each display. The ADA-compliant, paved trail is a wheelchair and stroller-friendly destination. You will have to navigate some gentle hills on the half-mile walk.
Favorite Light Displays at Winter Walk of Lights
The Fairy Garden was full of lights and fairies in 2019, and we heard kids squeal with delight at the new display.
Meadowlark goes all out with sparkly decorations, many of which follow a garden and woods theme. The large, extensively light-wrapped trees set an impressive backdrop for the smaller displays. You’ll also see traditional holiday scenes sprinkled among the outdoor themes.
Photo Spots at the Winter Walk
Meadowlark has set up several places to take sparkly holiday photos, including a pretty butterfly and several spots with benches. However, you’ll need a camera that can capture both lights and people.
There are charming animated displays throughout. Bees flit around a hive in the flower garden. A squirrel shakes his tail in a tree. A hummingbird lights on a flower and flies away. Fish and frogs jump in a light-filled stream.
At the bottom of the hill, near the pond, stop to watch the Lakeside Lights animated display set to holiday music. Further on, you’ll walk through a nicely lit tunnel.
Near the Meadowlark Visitor Center
Near the walk’s end, you pass under trees that appear to be dripping with stars. Before you reach those dripping trees, stop at the concession stand to buy a snack, hot chocolate, or cider to finish your visit with a nice treat. Unfortunately, the fire pit will be closed in 2020 so there is not marshmallow toasting this year.
Families are in the majority when we visit, but we also see several couples (like us) enjoying the show. We highly recommend the Winter Walk of Lights, even if you don’t have little ones in tow.
Meadowlark Gardens Holiday Tips and Logistics
- The 2021 Winter Walk of Lights is open nightly, including major holidays, from November 11 to January 2.
- Hours are 5:30 to 10:00 pm, with the last admission at 9:15, November 11 – December 9. Hours are 5:00 – 10:00 during peak weeks (Dec 10 – Jan 2).
- Timed entry tickets are required. Purchase online or at the door from November 11 – December 9. Purchase online only from December 10 – Jan 2. Capacity is limited so buy your ticket in advance to guarantee a spot.
- 2021 online tickets are $16.00/$20.00 for all ages during non-peak weeks (Nov 11 – Dec 9). Prices increase to $18 during peak weeks (Dec 10 – Jan 2).
- The Walk of Lights is open rain or shine, except in extreme weather. Tickets can not be refunded, but they are transferable to a different date.
- Masks are required and visitors should maintain 6-foot social distance at all times.
- Pets are not permitted, except for service animals.
- Find more information on the Meadowlark Gardens website.
Plan more local seasonal fun in Northern Virginia with our holiday guides:
- Holiday Lights in the Northern Virginia Area
- 12 Holiday Favorites from Northern Virginia Experts
- Bull Run Festival of Lights Holiday Drive-Through Fun in Northern Virginia
- Fun Holiday Markets in Northern Virginia and the DC Region
This article was published in 2015, and updated in 2018, 2019, and 2020.