Wander through gardens filled with massive lanterns, shimmering flowers and whimsical dragons as the L.A. County Arboretum lights up for Moonlight Forest.
This nighttime event, held across the grounds of the Arcadia botanical garden, returns for its second year with two additional themes: “polar dreams” and “ocean visions.”
The nighttime trail includes a slew of Chinese lanterns—but not the small, hanging type—that cover a field at the Arboretum with parade-float–sized structures, with other themed archways and playful creatures lining the pathways around the grounds. The lanterns, crafted by artisans from China’s Sichuan province, are arranged by their themes; this year’s pair of new themes brings penguins and dolphins plus an open-mouthed shark that you can walk through as well as a tunnel of lights filled with marine life.
If you attended last year’s inaugural event, you’ll find a few familiar lanterns (the colorful peacock that greets you, a dragon floating atop the water) but many have been swapped out for ever-so-slightly different variants. Some changes are for the better; well-lit selfie spots have been added, and the pathway around the Arboretum seems better paced, with more immersive pathways and tunnels of lights. A few lanterns are also now joined by light-up pads that, when touched, change the color of the installation. We were a little let down by the central lawn, though. The Chinese temple simply didn’t look as impressive as last year’s (and was missing the beautiful rows of red lanterns in front of it), and some of the Christmas-themed decorations and clashing music seemed questionable. Plus, that area just felt more sparse—but perhaps the extra space and seating for a performance stage will be welcome as Moonlight Forest gets increasingly crowded throughout the season. All that said, we think kids in particular will love all of the sparkly elements on offer.