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Lightscape 2022 brings new magic to LA County Arboretum

Lightscape is back at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Is is worth revisiting? The short answer is yes. Although the template remains the same, the details are so different that the experience feels largely new, offering enough fresh sights and sounds to justify a return trip.

As before, the event consists of a nighttime walk through the Arboretum, with trees and foliage illuminated by entrancing shades of blue and red, interspersed with several installations. The path has been slightly altered, omitting the garden decorated with tinsel and ornaments last year; though running through holidays, Lightscape 2022 features even less seasonal decoration than before – a Christmas tree inside a giant snow globe is almost the only nod in that direction.

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Instead, guests encounter dazzling light shows, illuminated “tunnels,” outdoor disco balls, neon stars, and hypnotic laser lights. Not counting Arboretum features that have simply been bathed in decorative lighting (the waterfall, the Queen Anne Cottage), there are over a dozen installations (as opposed to nine last year), and most of them are new.

Lightscape 2022 Review: New Installations

Light Fall offers waves of spotlights and glowing orbs timed to pulsing electronic music. Pampas features lighting fixture shaped like oversized pampas grass. Jungle Disco, despite the disco ball dangling overhead, is more psychedelic trip than dance party, thanks to the undulating light patterns on the asphalt. Movie Snow Globes provides a trio of scenes under glass. Bubble Baubles resembles a collection of giant pinballs suspended overhead. Ocean of Glass is an installation of waffle-shaped window panes. Remembrance Garden enhances the Arboretum’s Garden of Reflection with artificial, lighted roses. Red Herbum is (per the description of TILT light designers) “a large scale light sculpture that evokes a tuft of wild glowing grass.” Whole Hole suggests a tunnel blazing with white light. Will-o-the-Wisps imitates the ephemeral lights seen in marshy areas. Winter Cathedral (returning from last year) uses forced perspective to create the illusion of a long walk through a cathedral-shaped arch. Movie Tree Stars is a set of neon stars among a grove of trees. Neon Strings resembles some kind of large-scale, new age musical instrument, like glowing harp strings suspended between trees.

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The highlight of the evening is Venus, a spectacular lightshow set to seasonal songs, with beams of light etching rainbow-like images in the spray of water over the Arboretum’s Baldwin Lake. Expect to find a crowd of people gazing in wonder and taking photos at the designated vantage point, but if you move a little farther down the path, you can watch in relative isolation through the trees. After that, the last installation is Laser Garden, which is essentially last year’s Disco Tansi without the cyborg-like humanoid figures; what’s left is a hypnotic display of light beams dotting the leaves and branches of the surrounding trees and foliage.

Lightscape 2022 Review: Other Amenities

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In addition to decorations, Lightscape offers offers merchandise, snacks, and beverages at a few points along the path. The first stop, just after Light Fall, is a small booth selling hot chocolate and cookies. The latter two locations include a merch shop, a café, and a bar, where you can get specialty coffee drinks and seasonal cocktails, including a bracing hot toddy that will warm your bones and put you in the seasonal spirit. The final station offers smores, which you can roast over open fire pits near picnic tables.

Our Rating of Lightscape 2022

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not recommended but not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Thanks to a revised path and several new installations, the 2022 version of Lightscape feels like much more than a repeat of last year. The Venus light show is worth the price of admission, and seasonal beverages (including coffee and cocktails) will steel you against the cold weather while you make the hour-long trek around the Arboretum.

Lightscape continues at Los Angeles County Arboretum through January 8. The address is 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007. Tickets are sold in fifteen-minute intervals from 5:30pm-9pm; show closes at 10pm. Prices start at $37 for adults, $18 for children, and free for children under two and under; $2-off discounts for Arboretum members. Off-site remote parking included with all tickets; on-site preferred parking $20, on-site valet parking $40. Get more information at the official website.

Lightscape 2022 Review: Photo Gallery

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.