Winter Reimagined at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens is Your Worcester Holiday Light Destination (5 stars)
Tower Hill is a beautiful and curated botanical garden near Worcester but less than an hour’s easy drive from Boston. It was founded in 1986 by the Worcester County Horticultural Society, and in warm weather you’ll find an apple orchard, lemon and orange trees, a wildlife refuge pond, and places to explore include The Secret Garden. Of course it is also available to rent for weddings and other events. During the winter, they run Winter Reimagined, a holiday spectacle where you come at night to stroll the grounds amongst thousands of lights, with plenty of indoor space to warm up.
The entire outdoor property is a curated garden with art sculptures. It’s arty and interesting, not just an open field or empty woods. Outdoors, you’ll find lights hung on trees all around, some static, and some rainbow colored or animated, such as some “falling star” hanging lights. There’s an elegant central courtyard, which surprisingly has running water despite the cold, with statues. And you can walk the grounds, which are largely open for you to go anywhere you please, with paved walkways, making it easy for strollers and with no stumbling hazards. You’ll see lasers projecting sparkling light onto trees, and art installation made from tree branches, a faerie house called The Wild Rumpus that you can walk through, and a gazebo.
Just before you enter the main building from the parking lot, don’t miss the flower garden to the right, made from artificial flowers that volunteers crafted from recycled bottles, all lit up.
Then go indoors to warm up. Although Tower Hill has only a medium-sized holiday light park, it supplements it with an extensive indoors space, which is packed with decorated trees. There’s a cute gift shop selling ornaments, books, homemade goods, garden equipment, Christmas-y stuff, and sea salt caramel. Their indoor garden is open, called the Limonaia, with actual lemon trees protected for the winter from the cold. There’s a model train track, a stand selling draft beer, mulled wine, grilled cheese, hot chocolate, cider donuts, and smores for only $2.25, which you can take to the courtyard’s fire pit.
There’s also a little art installation, an igloo, that you can crawl through, giant butterflies hung from the ceiling, In the basement you can visit the library and “Story Den”, where you can get a pocket guide to animal tracks, but not much was happening down there when we visited. If the two women in the basement were staffers, they ignored us. But it’s an attractive and quiet zone for a quiet romantic or family moment, with comfortable seating and fake hearth. Plus, there’s a kids’ activity area where you can identify animals from their poop. On the ground floor, visit the Farmer and the Fork Cafe, a full cafeteria.
Wonderfully, the event was completely secular. Except perhaps for the Christmas trees, there was no hint of Christianity at all. There are no special events, and Santa does not visit. Management of parking was not good, leading to a line of cars to get in. It’s a shame that one must buy tickets in advance, and I don’t know why they say they’ve sold out, since there was plenty of additional space for people, especially outdoors, when we visited. Perhaps they should open it up a bit more and not mind the crowding, or reserve 20% of tickets for purchase at the gate, or charge a bit more and have extended hours, or limit indoor but allow unlimited outdoor visitors. Think of it this way: the more visitors, the larger your community of potential donors. We were in and out in 45 minutes, but if you linger or buy food and sit, you could spend 90 minutes at Tower Hill.
Although its winter grounds are only medium-sized, Winter Reimagined has such elegance, artistry, lights, and comes with plenty of indoor amenities, I thought about 4.5 stars, but it deserves more. I’ll give Winter Reimagined at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens a full 5 stars. The website says they are sold out at night, but you can visit during the day, or keep it in mind for December 2019.