This post was written in 2011, so some information may be out-of-date. Please be sure to check their website for the latest event details! For the 2016 holiday season, Holiday Light Fantasia will run from November 24, 2016 – January 1, 2017.
A month or so ago, when we were discussing the upcoming holiday season, Mandy told me about a family tradition from when she was small that sounded just wonderful. One evening around this time, her parents would make up a big batch of hot chocolate, the kids would get cozy in their PJs, and then everyone would pile into the car for a ride around the neighborhood to check out all the magical Christmas lights decorating the houses and yards.
Now, if you just read that and you’re not hankering for a cup of cocoa and ready to run up to your dresser and pull out the coziest, fuzziest pajamas you own (confession time: mine have doughnuts printed on them– there, I admit it!), well then, you just need to go get yourself another cup of holiday cheer, Ebenezer. But seriously, if this sounds like the perfect holiday tradition to start for your family, then I’ve got great news for you: Holiday Light Fantasia is back at Goodwin Park!
After a few years of darkness, this Hartford tradition is back and supporting a great cause: the Channel 3 Kids Camp. Goodwin Park, located at the Hartford/Wethersfield line, is once again filled with stunning displays of holiday scenes created solely from strings and strings (and strings) of Christmas lights.
But this winding, two-mile drive through the park is not just your plain old Santa and his elves diorama. Oh no, they’ve got SpongeBob and Elmo and Harry Potter and an alien landing (yes, you read that last one right).
Based on my own experience this past weekend with hubby and Boo, here are some tips for making the most of your Holiday Light Fantasia experience. (Please forgive my blurry pictures; it’s not easy taking night pictures with my amateur camera. I’m thrilled they are even recognizable!)
1. Save some green. Click here to go to their website where you can print a $2 off coupon (click on the green medallion at the top left of the site; make sure your pointer is on the green medallion and not the white text or it will not click through).
2. Go early. We went on a Saturday evening which, admittedly, is probably the most popular night to go. Different advertisements for this event list different starting times. The official website lists the start time as 5:00 pm, but other listings elsewhere, including this one, say 6:00 pm. I did ask one of the volunteers there for a tie-breaker, but she was not sure either. Although, she did mention that when she arrived for her 6:00 pm shift, the park was already full of cars, which leads me to believe you can safely assume the correct start time is 5:00 pm. We arrived at 6:30 pm and had a 15-minute wait, but when we exited the park 20 minutes later the line to enter was more than twice as long.
3. Bundle up the kiddos. Ok, so I know there is heat in the car, but isn’t this kind of thing more fun when you’re wearing something sunggly? We put Boo in his fuzzy PJs for the ride.
4. Stop for some sweets first. Goodwin Park is only about a mile away from some of the Hartford area’s most storied Italian bakeries. So why not pick up some delicious treats to munch on while taking in the sights? I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Modern Pastry, but since I hadn’t been to Mozzicato’s in years, I couldn’t help get a little nostalgic about their confections.
So that’s where we picked up some cream puffs for the road (and a chocolate mousse cake to eat later at home where we had forks). We parked in a lot around the back of the building.
There is also this little parking area in front, but in the dark we couldn’t really tell how to get in there.
Take another look at their holiday windows!
We didn’t see any hot beverages for sale here in the bakery (just coffee by the pound). But their Caffé next door sells all kinds of espresso drinks, and you can get those to go. (See Momsense for additional information about Mozzicato’s).
5. Go around the block. Because we weren’t really that familiar with the area, we went the long way around the park to find the entrance. THANK GOODNESS. Because the line to enter was much longer from the other direction. Follow the red arrows on this map around to the entrance on Maple Avenue.
The line of cars on Maple Avenue coming from South Street was MUCH longer than the line coming the other direction on Maple. As I mentioned above, at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening, we waited in traffic for about 15 minutes before getting to the entrance. Fortunately, there are police officers directing traffic into the park, so that makes everything run a little more smoothly.
There will be someone collecting admission as you near the entrance. (And you might just see this jolly fellow in red too.)
By the way, the above map came from the program booklet we were given at the entrance. It has a corresponding description of each display, but I’m not going to spoil it 🙂 We also received a coupon that donates 10% of your meal check at any Wood-n-Tap location to the Channel 3 Kids Camp (plus a FREE dessert!).
6. Turn up the tunes. A special low frequency radio broadcast provides continuous, upbeat holiday tunes (think Bing, Dean, and Perry with a little Alvin and the Chipmunks thrown in for good measure). Set your tuner to 88.7 FM when you get near the park.
7. Keep the fun going. Goodwin Park may have the official display, but the neighbors in this area have really stepped up their own decorations too. The drive through the park took us about 20 minutes, but that was only because it was too crowded to maintain the suggested speed limit of 10 mph. So your little gazers might be up for some additional sight-seeing. After you exit the park, spend another few minutes cruising around the area for more fun surprises.
So what are you waiting for? Fix that cocoa, crank up those holiday tunes, and cruise on through with your little ones. It might just become your new favorite holiday tradition too.
Holiday Light Fantasia
1130 Maple Avenue, Hartford (on the Hartford/Whethersfield line)
Get directions here:
Hours & Admission:
Please visit Holiday Light Fantasia’s website for the most current info on hours & pricing.
Mozzicato Bakery and Pastry Shop
329 Franklin Avenue
Open daily from 7:00 am until 9:00 pm
Good to know:
Major credit cards accepted; $10 minimum charge to use a credit card (no minimum if paying with a debit card).
Most of their famous cookies are sold by the pound ($10/lb). See store for specific pricing on all bakery items.
Gluten-free options available
Trying to plan some fun outings with the family over the holiday break? Check back Thursday when we’ll recap some of our best adventures to date.