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Today's Family Magazine

Cleveland Botanical Garden’s annual "Glow" event to shine brighter than ever

Nov 19, 2018 03:49PM
By Nina Polien Light

Glow, a Cleveland Botanical Garden holiday tradition since 2012, celebrates the people of northeast Ohio—those who infuse the University Circle institution with holiday cheer and the families who come to bask in it.

“Two of the most important aspects of Glow are put together by the community,” says Dave Lowery, vice president of marketing for Holden Forests & Gardens, the environmental and cultural merger of Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden.  “It becomes a showcase for members of the community to share their holiday spirit.”

The seasonal spectacular, which runs from Friday, November 23, through Saturday, January 5, features dozens of fir trees designed and intricately decorated by people belonging to more than 30 affiliate garden clubs.  Many of the trees include handcrafted ornaments.  Also showcased are approximately 80 elaborate gingerbread houses decorated by Greater Cleveland residents, representing families and a few professional designers.

Glow, of course, derives its name from the beautiful holiday lights illuminating Cleveland Botanical Garden during the gala.  This year’s outdoor display is greatly enhanced with color-changing lights and motion effects.  For the first time since its inception, Glow will stay open until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the season to allow guests more time to experience the holiday lighting.

“Even the indoor lighting is a little prettier and festive at night,” Lowery observes.

Glow celebrates the natural aspects of the holidays by making full use of Cleveland Botanical Garden’s indoor and outdoor spaces.  Visitors will find more than 100 fir trees, including a fragrant and festive one that stands about 22 feet high in the main ellipse, and more than 1,000 holiday plants, such as white hydrangeas, poinsettias and amaryllis. Guests are encouraged to explore all of the gardens on the 10-acre site, including the Hershey Children’s Garden, which is normally closed in the winter, but will be open on select days during Glow for special activities such as story time with hot chocolate, stringing garland for birds, winter scavenger hunts and marshmallow roasts.

Among other returning Glow favorites are the Garden Express outdoor train ride and the Evergreen Adventures family play and craft area.  Seasonal food and beverages (including something stronger for Mom and Dad) will be available for purchase at the Garden Café as will unique holiday gifts at the Garden Store.  Live music will be performed on select afternoons and evenings.

Families attending Glow should check out the 18,000-square-foot Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, Lowery says.  The year-round favorite contains two biomes.  The first replicates a Costa Rican rainforest and hosts exotic butterflies that, after hatching, are released daily at 2 p.m. during the warmer months. Costa Rican upside-down baobab plants, birds, leafcutter ants and other flora and fauna thrive in the biome throughout the year.  The other side represents Madagascar’s spiny desert. Among its many features are three radiated tortoises, chameleons, red-billed fire finches and a host of spiny succulents.

“We have new lighting in the glasshouse that is festive and decorated for the holidays,” Lowery adds. “There are also holiday trees made of succulents.”

Setting this glasshouse apart from other institutions’ conservatories is its success in displaying the delicate interaction of plants, animals, geology and climate.

Cleveland Botanical Garden, which is open year-round, was founded in 1930 as the Garden Center of Cleveland.  Today, more than 150,000 guests visit annually, including 12,500 schoolchildren.  It joined forces with Holden Arboretum in Kirtland in 2014.  It is supported, in part, through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

Tickets for Glow are $16 for adults, $12 for children ages 3–12, free for children age 2 and under and complimentary for Holden Forests & Gardens members.  Show a ticket stub from the nearby ice skating rink at Wade Oval to receive $2 off Glow admission. 

Cleveland Botanical Garden is located at 11030 East Boulevard in University Circle.  For a complete schedule of Glow or to purchase tickets, call 216-721-1600 ext. 1600 or visit