Tuesday, December 17: I walk past the oversize toy soldier sentries and into Meadowlark Gardens Visitor’s Center to find the place deserted. The front desk has a metal grate pulled over it and a sign that says someone will be back shortly. Usually there is a fee of $5 for those over 55 or $10 for those younger, but happily no one is here to take my money. 🙂
I walk through the doors and out into the gardens, wondering if I’m even allowed to be here. I figure the doors are open, so I’m going. Someone can find me later and tell me to leave, or pin me down for the fee. Just glancing around, I can see I have almost the entire sweep of the gardens all to myself. 🙂
On my walk, I encounter an easy-going Ramblin Robbie, a sculpture valued at $20,000.
While walking, I chat by phone with my friend Jayne in San Francisco, so I have some company for a while. She tells me she’s crossing over the new San Francisco Bay bridge and there’s fog hanging low over the bay, but the weather there is a balmy 65. Here it’s about 36 degrees. I’m looking forward to my trip to L.A. and San Francisco on January 2.
I walk through the fabulous Korean Bell Garden, which I wrote about in a previous post (meadowlark botanical gardens & the new korean bell garden). That walk I took through the gardens in August was much different from today’s walk; flowers were all abloom, green was the color of the day, and it was hot, sticky and miserable. It’s a different kind of pretty today, with the golden grasses and the crisp, cold air. I actually prefer this kind of day for a walk.
Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.
The Jeju Dolhareubang, the last picture in the gallery above, are stone-carved statues that stood on the volcanic island of Jeju. Historically, Dolhareubang were erected at the entrances of the areas most characteristic of Jeju Island; they were meant to protect the public spaces and the surrounding villages like a guardian deity. The Dolhareubang wards off danger and harm, while exhibiting the humorous and smiling appearance of a friendly neighborhood grandfather.
I can see the signs for the Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights, which officially opened at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. The winter wonderland of sparkling lights runs daily until Sunday, Jan. 6, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night. The park, off Beulah Road at 9750 Meadowlark Garden Court, is owned and managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
I want a walk for exercise and pictures on this cold winter day, and although the gardens don’t have much blooming at this time of year, it’s still lovely to walk through the myriad trails and enjoy the brisk winter air. I love the golden colors of the grasses and the reflections of the bare winter trees in the ponds.
When I return to the Visitor’s Center, there is finally someone manning the front desk. I take out my money to pay. After all, I don’t want to be considered a criminal interloper. Happily, the friendly man tells me there is no charge for the gardens during the winter months. The charges will apply again after March 1. I ask him about the light show, and he tells me there ARE charges for that, as outlined below. I might have to come back one evening for that walk. 🙂
Weekdays—Monday through Thursday—online admission fees are $12 per adult, $7 for children aged 3 to 12, and children under 3 are free.
Weekends—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—and holiday online admission fees are $13 per adult, $8 each for children 3 to 12, and children under 3 are free. Holidays include Nov. 22, Dec. 24, 25, 31, and Jan. 1. Use coupon code WINTERWALK when purchasing tickets and receive $1 off per ticket.
A limited number of walk-in tickets may be available at $14 per adult, $9 per child aged 3 to 12, and free for children under 3.
Light refreshments, from hot chocolate to sweets, will be sold throughout the illuminations season from a tent on the grounds. A firepit burns for warming and for roasting marshmallows.