Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by Jeremy
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In 2022, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden near Oakdale announced they were hosting a new holiday light experience, aptly named Dazzling Nights, which transformed 65 acres of the property into a gorgeous walkthrough experience.
We, naturally, were quite excited about this one as walk-through Christmas lights in Pittsburgh are few and far between, and hit this one shortly after it opened in November.
While this one comes at a significant premium over just about every other holiday experience in the city, we have to admit, we had quite a good time here all the same!
Walk Around the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden at Dazzling Nights
The Dazzling Nights show at the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens transforms many areas of the gardens into unique themed sections that can be enjoyed during an evening.
The Japanese Garden turns the pond area into a synchronized sound and light show that guests can enjoy from all angles. One path through the woods becomes a 65-foot light tunnel that is great for photographs. Other sections of the garden evoke imagery of the aurora borealis, fireflies, neon Christmas trees, faux snow paths, and more.
To us, two key factors resulted in a great evening. First, it is because the lights are tastefully done with several areas featuring light experiences that we truly have never seen before (the firefly field is of particular note in this regard, and there were no inflatable Santas to be seen). Second, as of our late November visit at least, the crowds were not insane. We had free reign to walk around the park at our leisure and often had any given light experience to ourselves- perfect for photos.
Will you get the latter during your visit, especially near Christmas? That is hard to say, but this helped elevate the experience for us all around.
In fact, after leaving this one, we remarked about how the gardens would do well having a light experience throughout the year, not just at Christmas, as it was quite well executed and helped bring the unique ambiance of the gardens to life after dark.
Our only regret was there was no snow on the ground to complete the experience! Although we should note there is a section of the gardens for a spray snow experience via soap bubbles, but the wind was blowing it off the path.
Ultimately, while we walked away having enjoyed our experience at Dazzling Nights, we have a few tips on how to get the most out of your visit in part because this one may be the most expensive holiday experience in the city!
How to Get the Most Out of the Experience
While we generally had quite a fun time at the Dazzling Nights show at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, there are a few things you likely should be aware of before you buy a ticket and visit this one.
First, and perhaps most importantly, tickets are expensive. During our 2022 visit, adult prices were $25 per ticket, children 3 to 13 were $22, and premium parking was $12. A free parking lot is available nearby but requires a shuttle transfer, but for two adults plus premium parking and fees/service charges, it cost us $72 just to enter this one. We're told member discounts are about 20%, but we have not heard that officially- only via 3rd party sources.
Second, while the gardens put down plastic tracks on some of the walkways, we noted that not all of the paths had this special covering. We found ourselves walking on the dirt paths in some sections, often with poor lighting, and ended up stepping in the mud a few times, too. Those with less sure footing should plan to have a flashlight ready either from your phone or separately. Likewise, we're not sure how well strollers, walkers, or wheelchairs would do on some of the trails here.
Finally, it is worth noting that there is food and beverages available at this one as well, including mocktails from Goodlander Cocktails, spiked beverages (available for the mocktails and separately in the form of mulled wine, spiked cocoa, etc.), and more. During our visit, non-alcoholic beverages were about $6 and alcoholic options ran $12.
Overall, despite the quality of the lights at Dazzling Nights, we can see how the price would be offputting to many. Between two tickets, premium parking, one mulled wine, and all fees, taxes, and bartender tip, our night out quickly exceeded $85 and would've tipped over $100 had we ordered a second drink. Since we are often quite fast at these experiences, it is also worth noting we were there for just under one hour.
For families with kids, this could quickly become an expensive night out all the same as kid's rates are not much cheaper (short of receiving a member discount, at least)- but you can walk around as long as you want to get your money's worth, too.
Is this one worth the price? That is up to you to decide. But I would also be lying if I didn't say I walked into this one grumpy about the price and walked out having a good time all the same.
Dazzling Nights takes place at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden at 799 Pinkerton Run Rd in Collier Township near Oakdale. Timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance and premium parking is limited and is likely to sell out significantly in advance. For those who opt for free parking, read the shuttle instructions carefully and be sure to arrive early to ensure you do not miss your entry slot.
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