The Moonlight Forest at LA County’s Arboretum

In Los Angeles or heading to the City of Angels for the holidays? While we’ve got our usual lineup of sunshine, beach and more beach, that’s not to say LA doesn’t present some of the best holiday festivals around. I was reminded of this when I checked out the annual Moonlight Forest at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia.

The Moonlight Forest is a magical art lantern festival featuring 60 larger than life displays. Bringing to mind the Tournament of Roses Parade floats, the Moonlight Forest blends beautiful holiday scene displays like Christmas trees and Santa Claus as well as several pieces highlighting Chinese culture and their tradition of art lanterns.

Opening and Parking 

Opening nightly at 5:30pm, we arrived around seven and right away, I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of parking, and that it was free of charge. Having grown up just a few miles from the Arboretum, this, like the Glendale Galleria, was another frequent hang out of Baby Mary, and I’d not been to the gardens in many years.

Check-in and admissions were a breeze, and once inside, be prepared to feel in a whole new world as you’re greeted by twinkling lights, neon colors and maybe even an acrobat. Each work of art has an informative placard explaining the background of the piece, like the Chinese Moonlight Swings and Palace Lantern. While I can’t read or write in any language besides English, I loved that the placards were also in Chinese.

Arriving to the Moonlight Forest. (c) Mary Farah
Beautiful peacock art overlooking the fountain. (c) Mary Farah
Chinese Palace. (c) Mary Farah
The Lantern Art

A photographers’ dream, the Moonlight Forest is one big, great photo opp. While I was concerned about how good the pictures would be, due to the night light, the Forest did a superb job at ensuring each display has sufficient lighting for those lines of eager Instagrammers.

With such a variety of displays, there’s something for everyone at the Moonlight Forest. Two new themes for 2019 are Ocean Visions and Polar Dreams. We adored Ocean Visions, with its “Under the Sea” and nautical vibes. If you want some festive pictures for next year’s holiday card, don’t miss the adorable Christmas tree scene with Santa and his reindeer rotating in their sleigh around the tree. 

Looking to get your best Princess pose on? We loved channeling Cinderella at the horse-drawn carriage, and the crescent moon is sure to remind you of some favorite moon quotes.

Entertainment and Food Trucks

If you noticed I said you might just see an acrobat, listen up. The Moonlight Forest has stunning nightly performances featuring Chinese acrobats doing all of the “how the heck did they do that?” moves they do. Make sure to find out the schedule for the evening when you arrive.

You can also plan to come hungry. The Moonlight Forest has curated an excellent lineup of food trucks available nightly to satisfy your cravings as you walk through the magical lands. Gluten-free pupusas, tacos, and cupcakes were a few of the options as well as the Arboretum’s own Peacock Café on hand with coffee and cocoa to keep you warm.

Acrobat performance. (c) Mary Farah
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (c) Mary Farah
Chinese Dragon. (c) Mary Farah
Visit Arcadia’s Moonlight Forest

Speaking of keeping warm, don’t forget to layer. While it started moderate, we were happy to have our scarves and extra sweaters by the time we left.

The Moonlight Forest will run through the New Year. Its final day will be January 12th, which gives you plenty of time to plan. Make sure to keep up with the Arboretum’s Instagram as they’ve been having fun door prizes and contests during the festival. No surprise, it’s been selling out so make your reservations HERE and be ready to leave in awe!

(*Disclosure: Special thanks to the Moonlight Forest and LA County Arboretum for hosting me. All opinions are my own.)