If I had my druthers, I would start publicly celebrating the Christmas season on Nov. 1. To be honest, I sort of do. I'm never exactly quiet about skipping Thanksgiving, but I do try to restrain myself until Dec. 1, for the most part.
But oh, as soon as our magical final month of the calendar year begins, I am full-on Christmas 24/7. I will never apologize for that either, so buckle up, because all month long I am going to dedicate my life to being as holly and jolly as humanly possible. This is my absolute favorite time of the year, and I will dim those Christmas lights for no one.
From now until Jan. 6, my music is holiday-themed, the Hallmark Channel is my preset, and I will wear every gaudy piece of clothing and jewelry that I own.
More importantly, I make sure to take the time each year to share this season by doing festive holiday things with my family and friends. From visits to La Salette, to Christmas at the Newport Mansions, to my seasonal run for baking supplies at King Arthur Flour, there are destinations that have become part of our holiday traditions.
This year, I am quite happy to say that I have added a new one:
Gardens Aglow at the Cape Cod Heritage Museums & Gardens.
I've been to visit the gardens a few times before now, but that was always in summer. This was the first year that I was lucky enough to visit during Gardens Aglow.
On a recent rainy Sunday, I went with my family to see the grounds there transformed into an illuminated wonderland.
It was worth it to brave the weather, because the rain became a mere mist, and even that tapered off after a while. Because we were among the brave souls who ventured out despite the weather, that meant we didn't have to deal with the large crowds a clear night would no doubt have beckoned to come and visit. Still, I'd say it's worth braving the weather AND the crowds to visit the gardens right now.
The usual blooms have been transformed into flowering displays of Christmas lights. I found the small, purple floral lights to be particularly sweet and clever, and the use of cascading lights where the waterfall normally flows to be especially lovely.
Trees were turned into colorful, cheerful columns, topped with icicle lights and stars. The path leading up to the labyrinth has been transformed into a river of light, that reminded us all of the river of flowers that's such a crowd-pleaser in the warmer months. I also rather liked the archways of light that we encountered in several places. It felt like the doorway to a much more glam Narnia, thankfully without any of the high stakes that actually walking into Narnia would call forth.
The Automobile Gallery, with its display of polished vintage cars, has also gotten the holiday treatment: it's festooned with festive trees, all bedecked with ornaments of different themes. The cars, always well cared for, shine extra bright in the glow of the decorations. And old St. Nick himself is now receiving visitors in the 1913 Model T Ford.
Stop by the Special Exhibitions Gallery for a visit with Mrs. Claus, as well as a truly spectacular train and bridge display.
Outside, in the Parade Field, you will find the Cape Cod Donuts Food Truck selling apple cider to go with what were some very tasty fry-cake-esque doughnuts. I recommend the pumpkin, although to be honest they all looked good.
There are also giant Lite Brites, marshmallow roasting at Nickerson Field, a reindeer scavenger hunt, and, every Saturday, ice carving demonstrations. The Magnolia Cafe is offering warm drinks and festive snacks too, as well as a s'mores kit for hungry patrons.
By far the most delightful and unexpected treat was taking a spin on the 1908 Looff Carousel. There are only about ten still in operation today, so why not enjoy a piece of history? I've always loved carousels. I only intended to take a picture, as it is really lovely, but when the staff (by the by, everyone who works there is always very kind) asked if we wanted to take a ride, how could we say no? It was the capstone to a wonderful visit.
Gardens Aglow is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, now through Dec. 30, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. On certain Saturdays there will be additional parking available, so make sure to check the website before visiting. The Heritage Museums & Gardens are located at 67 Grove St. in Sandwich. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2SwnhJs or call 508-888-3300.