Luminaria will be open in 2020 from November 20, 2020, to January 2, 2021. There will be some differences from past years: masks are required, walkways are one-way, and tickets are limited and must be purchased online in advance. See the event’s website for more details.
Luminaria. Just the name sounds inviting, evoking a warm cup of candlelit cocoa by a cozy fire. This magical scene turns out to be slightly less peaceful when you have three little boys in tow, but I was still excited to see Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, illuminated by thousands of twinkly lights, and it turns out Luminaria has ways of keeping all members of your crew captivated this holiday season.
Disclaimer: We were given complimentary tickets to Luminaria for the purposes of this review, but as usual, all opinions expressed are my own.
Where is Luminaria?
Luminaria is Thanksgiving Point’s winter Christmas lights display, where Christmas lights blanket Ashton Gardens. Thanksgiving Point is already one of my favorite kid-friendly Utah destinations with its Butterfly Biosphere, Museum of Ancient Life, Museum of Natural Curiosity, Farm Country, and the stunning Ashton Gardens.
Thanksgiving Point is located in Lehi, only about a 20-minute drive south of Salt Lake City. Which is good, because my eldest son wasn’t sure walking a mile in subfreezing temperatures was worth getting in the car at all. That said, even he was won over by the promise of fireside s’mores and hot chocolate.
Things to Do
Ideally your children will be happy enough just to walk through a magical winter wonderland and take a photo with Frosty the Snowman, but only my four-year-old is in that stage. My other two boys needed more than pretty lights to keep them going, but fortunately Luminaria delivered.
Upon first entering Luminaria, you will find light-up necklaces, swords, and glow-sticks available for sale. I said no to these, but be aware that a small upfront investment may keep squirrelly kids happier on the walk!
There are tons of adorable photo-op spots at Luminaria, with employees stationed nearby to snap your pics for you. If you have cooperative kids, you can get a great Christmas card photo here; I don’t, so you won’t see us with a giant Frosty the Snowman, but trust me, he was HUGE.
There is a fun interactive light display called “Aqueous” by Jen Lewin Studio, that’s new for 2019. Kids and adults alike will love the chance to walk this color-changing path.
Midway through Luminaria, just as your kids are starting to complain about not feeling their fingers anymore, you’ll find Luminaria Village, which my kids LOVED. It’s not huge, but there are a couple little (free) skeeball-like games kids can play, another interactive display where they can change the colors of the lights by pressing buttons, some giant Lite-Brite-type boards to play with, and several large fires to gather around and warm little fingers. There are food stands here, and the s’mores kits were a hit with my kids.
Weaving your way through the sparkly magic of Luminaria, there are all kinds of animal displays, colorful light tunnels perfect for dance parties, music to hear, and even scents to smell…it really is a delight for the senses.
For the more religious among us, Luminaria lights up the Light of the World Garden, which features statues of scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, with hundreds of glowing lanterns. It’s gorgeous, and a chance to explain Biblical stories to your children if you are so inclined.
For the less religious among us, Luminaria also has a friendly employee stationed near the entrance to the Light of the World Garden, who will kindly guide you either toward the garden or away from it, depending on whether you have any interest in viewing statues of Christ. Which I thought was a nice touch.
Food and Drink
After your initial glimpse of the lighted wonderland that awaits you, you’ll see Gingerbread Place, an adorable gingerbread cottage that features food and drink. We skipped this, on the premise that we should get colder first, but I regretted that choice. Just go ahead and buy your hot chocolate here. Kids carrying cups of cocoa can’t run, ruining the experience for you. Trust me on this.
At Luminaria Village, you’ll find several food stands. For reasonable prices ($3.75 for a s’mores kit for two people), you can buy hot cocoa or donuts or even soup if you need some dinner. Toasting giant marshmallows over the outdoor fire pits and sandwiching them between graham crackers and chocolate…I mean, what’s not to love?
Tips for Visiting
Luminaria is a busy event, but very well organized with parking attendants and helpful employees everywhere. Tickets are issued for a specific date and time, which keeps the crowds controlled.
I highly recommend going early. We had tickets for 5 p.m., the earliest time slot. It was definitely dark enough at that point for the lights, and we didn’t have to wait in any entry lines.
Bundle up, but don’t be afraid of snow! The paths were cleared well and the falling snow made the holiday wonderland even more magical.
Food and drinks were reasonably priced, so if you have to promise your kids treats to keep them going (like, ahem, some of us) don’t be afraid.
Luminaria is the perfect winter family event. I almost wished my kids were younger — it’s very stroller-friendly. Ten-year-old-boy-friendly is another matter. Let’s just say my boys loved the hot chocolate, and if I’d sprung for light-up swords they probably would have loved the whole thing even more.