Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park

tunnel of rainbow Christmas lights

I’ve been putting off checking out Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park. I was concerned about the crowds, as I tend to be fairly cautious with COVID restrictions.

A brightly lit blue tree in the holiday exhibit at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus.
This tree, on your right after the rainbow tunnel, was one of my favorites.

Then I was a little overwhelmed by the price. At $22 each, I thought it might be a little steep. If I had little kids I guessed it would be alright, but it didn’t feel like a priority with my grown children. Then a few times I went on the site too late, only to find the tickets sold out for the evening.

An Opportunity to Experience Conservatory Aglow

Last night, I finally connected on an opportunity. Two of my three girls were available and there were still tickets on the site. I reasoned that I would get some nice pictures for the blog and that we’d get to spend some time together.

A tree birghtly lit with white Christmas lights at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus.
Another favorite, this tree provides a stunning backdrop for the Bride’s Garden.

Let me first say that the experience is worth every penny. It was one of my favorite walk-through light displays ever. And, I might add, the girls did get a $3 per person price break with their college IDs.

To begin, I must say they are very conscious of the COVID restrictions. You start by purchasing your tickets online for a specified appointment time. This kept crowds to a minimum and I don’t think we came within six feet of another group all evening. Face coverings are required both indoors and out.

Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park

We began by checking in at the front desk and from there, exited into a world of rainbow lights. The rainbow tunnel, or rainbow road as I’ve come to call it, is just outside the door. You pass through the tunnel into gardens.

Three Christmas trees made up of colorful ornaments at Franklin Park Conservatory.
These three trees, made up entirely of lights and ornaments, were beautiful.

After passing through the rainbow tunnel, you’ll come upon the three ornament trees on your left. These were beautiful and elegant, I loved them. I took a few photos, which didn’t do them justice.

Paul Busse Garden Railway

Another favorite was the Paul Busse Garden Railway. According to the Conservatory’s site, the model trains make their way along over 1100 feet of track, which runs through a little world of villages and castles.

Part of the model railroad exhibit and Franklin Park Conservatory.
The model train makes its way around enchanting scenery in the Paul Busse Garden Railway exhibit.

The trains pass overhead and underfoot through four different themes: Fairytale Land, Wild West Town, Who Lives Here (animal themed) and the European Travels seciton. We spent quite a bit of time here, tracking the trains and watching them travel through the snowy landscape.

An extensive model railroad exhibit at Franklin Park Conservatory.
The railroad even continues overhead in this special exhibit.

We travelled onward to the Children’s Garden. The area was brightly lit with all areas of Christmas bulbs. There were several tunnels all aglow for the smallest visitors. And even though I don’t have any littles at this point, it looked like a lot of fun!

A waterfall scene constructed of Christmas lights.
This water scene was spectacular, viewable from the Children’s Garden.

Back Inside the Conservatory

After our walk around outside, we found our way back in to the Conservatory through the Palm House. The Palm House is always one of my favorites and it was a unique experience being there after dark.

It’s beautiful from both inside and outside and houses a number of large palms. There’s a little seating area tucked into a corner, and a small fountain near the center. But the elegant staircase, currently lit up with blue lights, steals the scene for me.

Holiday Blooms

A poinsettia tree at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio.
The poinsettia tree is the crowned jewel of the Holiday Blooms collection.

Coming up the stairs, we came right into the Holiday Blooms collection. The area is filled with poinsettias and several holiday scenes, which are all picture perfect. But of course, the main draw for this area is the ten foot tall Christmas tree made entirely of red poinsettias.

A holiday setting at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus.
The fireplace area in the Holiday Blooms collections provides an ideal setting for a quick picture of your children or grandchildren.

If you are so inclined, there are a few areas here that are ideal for taking pictures. And the drop in crowds due to the 2020 restrictions, provide you enough time to snap a few shots. Just be respectful of other patrons.

Biomes at the Conservatory

Following the specially decorated areas of the Conservatory, the girls and I did a quick walk through of the remainder of the Conservatory. I am partial to the Himalayan Mountain Biome with its moderately cool temperature. I also love the cave or tunnel which includes a ceiling highlighted by Chihuly glass and a waterfall.

Chihuly Glass inset into the roof of a cave
This Chihuly glass is inset into the roof of a cave in the Himalayn Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Still a little chilled from our walk outside, the girls were relieved to step into the Rainforest. My oldest is a fan of the large, tropical plants and both girls appreciated the temperature.

When we stepped into the Desert Biome I was immediately transported back in time. Narrow steps leading through the rocks made this my girls’ favorite section when they were little. And the plants in this section are so different, it wasn’t hard for them to imagine that they weren’t in Ohio at all.

Chihuly glass in the Pacific Island Water Garden in Franklin Park Conservatory.
The beautiful pond area in the Pacific Island Water Garden.

Lastly we visited the Pacific Island Water Garden. It’s beautiful and lush, full of waterfalls and a wonderful Chihuly glass collection. If you haven’t visited for Blooms and Butterflies, I highly recommend adding it to your spring bucket list. Most of the magic for that event, happens in here.

Experience Conservatory Aglow Today

Following our visit, we all agreed that the visit was worth both the wait and the cost. I highly recommend visiting in the evening so that you can enjoy both the Holiday Blooms and Conservatory Aglow exhibits. Be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time, be there at your assigned time, and make certain everyone in your party is wearing a face mask.

A brightly lit tree in the Children's Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory.
This playful and brightly lit tree is in the Children’s Garden.

Additionally, you’ll want to check the website ahead of time for special performance and event information. During the month of December there will be costumed characters, musical performances, ice carving, Santa visits and more.

And if you’re looking for additional light displays in Central Ohio, check out our tour of several Columbus sites with free admission. 2020 has been a rough year that finds many of us on a holiday budget. These free sites give you the opportunity to experience all the pageantry of Christmas without breaking the bank.

If you’re interested in learning more about the amazing programs hosted at the Conservatory, check out our article on Blooms & Butterflies. Every year in the spring, thousands of butterflies emerge and are released into the Conservatory.

Chistmas in Ohio

There’s so much to celebrate in Ohio during the holidays. If you’re near Dayton or on the western side of the state, check out the historic Clifton Mill lights. In Central Ohio, Christmas is a great time to take a tour of the Ohio Statehouse. And while you’re downtown, stop by the State Farm headquarters to view the nativity and check out the free lights at Columbus Commons. Lastly, you’ll want to check out the Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park while you’re in town. It’s truly magical.

Thank you for FindingOhio with us. We hope that you and your family are enjoying a great holiday season. And, as always, we appreciate you sharing our contact to social media.

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