WPS Garden of Lights {2018}

Green Bay Botanical Gardens

WPS Garden of Lights: 20+ Years of Lighting Up the Green Bay Botanical Gardens

2018 marks the 22nd year of WPS Garden of Lights at Green Bay Botanical Garden. It started as an idea with Jerry Landwehr, the Executive Director in 1997, and used less than 100,000 lights in the first display. The display has grown to include over a quarter million lights and takes over 4500 total volunteer hours over the year to light up the gardens. Each feature is built by hand by either the staff of the Green Bay Botanical Gardens or NWTC students. WPS provides all of the electricity for the display using renewable energy through WPS’s NatureWise Renewable Energy Program and the light structures use almost exclusively LED lights which consume at least 80% less electricity than traditional incandescent lights and also have a longer lifespan.

New features are built almost every year. In 2010 an animated five point 18 point star was added to the 45-foot tree. 2012 brought a light replica of the Thome Fountain with 7000 blue and white LED spraying upward. Introduced in 2014, the Under the Pond display was added guests can swim with koi fish and a turtle, and dance in the seaweed where 7000 multicolored LED lights take your family on an underwater adventure. Last year a 15,000 LED light display was added, watch as the rich blue, green, pink, teal, and purple lights change as you take in the Garden’s own Northern Lights. A Field of Flowers has been added this year. Featuring over 1,000 RGB LED lights found only here in Wisconsin and lighting up the hillside with flowers in a variety of colors.

Special Features of WPS Garden of Lights

  •  Icicle Forest
  • Glistening Flowers
  • The area’s tallest and brightest tree
  • 60 foot walkthrough caterpillar
  • Model train exhibit from the G-Gagers Train Club
  • Campfire to warm up around
  • Holiday gifts to be found in the WPS Trellis Gift Shop
  • Natural Christmas tree featuring decorations made by volunteers and staff from plant materials that are grown and collected from the Garden.

Green Bay Botanical Gardens


Photos Courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Gardens & Amenson Studio


Special Events during WPS Garden of Lights

  • Family Night: Sunday, November 25 from 5 – 9pm
    • Children 12 & under free with one paid adult. Wagon rides $5/person.
    • Meet and greet with Mrs. Claus, letters to Santa, face painting, and visit with Santa for photos from 5 – 9pm.
  • Photos with Santa: Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Christmas from 5 – 9 pm.
    • Photos are taken by Ambrosius Studio. Photo packages start at $12.50.
  • Face Painting: Sunday, November 25th and Saturdays, December 1, 15 & 29 from 5-9 pm.
  • Stories with Mrs Claus: Every Saturday before Christmas from 5pm to 8pm.
    • Venture inside to warm up with a story about the North Pole.
  • Letters to Santa: Sunday, November 25th and every Saturday before Christmas from 5:30pm to 8pm.
    • Bring your letters to the North Pole Mailbox and meet two of Santa’s elves and receive a free candy cane.

Things to know before you go!

  • WPS Garden of Lights glows on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through the end of December from 5 to 9pm.
    • The display is closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
  • Ticket Prices
    • Walking Tour Adults (13 & up): $10 Children (3-12): $5 Children (2 & under): Free
    • Horse-Drawn Wagon Tour* Adults (13 & up): $15 Children (3-12): $10 Children (2 & under): Free *The Horse-Drawn Wagon Tour includes the Walking Tour.
      • The horse-drawn wagon tour begins on the lower mulched portion of the light displays. It is recommended to by 8 pm to allow enough time to experience the upper paved portion of the light displays which is walking. The horse-drawn wagon fits 20 passengers. Children are able to sit on their guardian’s lap. Wagon rides run from 5-8:30 pm. Wagons are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved. On Saturdays there is usually is a line to get onto the wagon. We do our best to accommodate all wagon ride guests in a timely and safe manner and appreciate your patience. For night-of wagon updates, please go to the Garden’s Facebook page.
    • Buy tickets ahead at Green Bay Botanical Garden’s admission desk in the Fischer Visitor Center and online at www.GBBG.org/WPSGardenofLights  AND Select Festival Foods locations including: Green Bay East & West, De Pere, Appleton, Darboy, Suamico, Manitowoc, Menasha, Neenah, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac.
      • Tickets purchased ahead are good for any night that the WPS Garden of Lights runs. No reservations are necessary.
    • Or purchase your tickets at the door!
  • How long to plan to be at WPS Garden of Lights.
    • Spend as much time as your family would like, but typically the walking tour takes about 30-45 minutes and it covers just under a mile of walking paths. The wagon tours last about 10-15 minutes. Plan to arrive at least an hour before closing to have enough time to enjoy the experience.
  • Best Time to Visit
    • The number of visitors increases on warmer winter nights and on Saturday evenings. Visitation tends to peak between 5:30–7:30 pm. Visitation is lighter on opening weekend, early Friday evenings and Sunday evenings (Green Bay Packers afternoon and evening games). Please remember the Garden is closed December 24 & 25.
  • Pet Policy
    • No pets are allowed in the Garden. Certified service dogs are allowed with a vest or other identification.
  • Weather Policy
    • WPS Garden of Lights closes for extreme inclement weather. Notices will be posted to their website, Facebook page, and local news and radio stations. The Garden is open if it is simply snowing.
  • Parking 
    • Parking is FREE. Five shuttle buses take guests from NWTC lot F and G to the Garden. Follow the signs on Larsen Road or Country Club Road to the shuttle bus parking. The buses pick up and drop off in the same location at the Garden. Handicap parking is available at the Garden’s main lot by showing your parking permit to the volunteers at the gate; in the event that the parking is full in the main lot, a handicap accessible shuttle bus will run continuously through the night.
  • No carry-ins of food or beverages are allowed.
    • A variety of food and beverages are available in the Winterberry Café including: homemade soup and/or chili, hot dogs, nachos, cookies, popcorn, candy bars, trail mix, chips, gummi bears, hot chocolate, apple cider, coffee, tea, water, soda, beer, wine and shots such as Peppermint Schnapps or Baileys to compliment a hot beverage. Please bring ID for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. 
  • Accessibility
    • The paths in the upper Gardens are paved, shoveled and salted and should be accessible to wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and pull-along wagons. The lower mulched path is difficult to navigate and not recommended for wheelchairs and walkers. Horse-drawn wagon rides are typically available on a first come, first served basis. Golf cart rides from the building to the horse-drawn wagons are available for those unable to walk down the mulch where the wagons begin. There are three large steps up into the horse-drawn wagon. Please bring someone to assist you in getting onto the horse-drawn wagon. There are no motorized scooters or wheelchairs available at the Garden. Families walking with small children should bring a large wheeled stroller or pull along wagon.
    • Suggestions for those with limited mobility.
      • Prearrange a date with the Garden so parking volunteers and staff can help accommodate your group by calling 920.490.9457.
      • Purchase your tickets in advance at the Garden, Festival Foods locations or online.
      • Choose a Sunday when WPS Garden of Lights experiences less foot traffic.
      • There are some steps, inclines, mulch, snow, salt, and puddles.
  • Photography Tips
    • Turn off the flash!
    • Shoot at twilight for better exposures
    • Steady your camera to avoid blurry photos
    • Visit earlier in the evening or on Sunday nights to avoid crowds
    • Dress warmly and wear gloves

Green Bay Garden of Lights




Photo Courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Gardens & Amenson Studio











  1. On Christmas eve night my 4 kids exchange and open gifts that they purchased for each other. Then we all watch a Christmas movie together and make shakes. When the movie is done they make up a plate of cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. They do a camp out together in one of their bedrooms for the night and track Santa

  2. Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving we go and cut down our tree as a family. We decorate the tree over the period of a week or so and break about a dozen ornaments each year in the process. The kids love hanging up wall and window clings, but that means we usually have to take the halloween ones down or put the Christmas ones next to those. The kids get a count down calendar and St. Nick comes on the 6th. We take different routes home at night to see all different lights. Christmas cookie decorating lasts about 8 minutes with kids, but they are great tasters. A lot of family, Christmas movies and snuggling by the fire for our family.

  3. Every year we decorate a gingerbread house, we always take a drive around town to see lights and our favorite is we have a professional Christmas picture taken every year for the past 17 years, I love to see how our family grew and changes over the years. Even the 2 years my husband was in Iraq his deployments fell where we were able to get pictures done!

  4. One of our Holiday traditions is that Daddy and Little man are the ones who get to go out and pick out the perfect Christmas tree. It’s a men only thing. 🙂 Mom gets to be suprised by the first gift of the season! (And make hot chocolate and cookies for when they get home all cold, lol). They always do a beautiful job at picking the perfect tree whether it be tall or small, thin or thick!! Then we all put on our favorite decorations together.

  5. Our favorite is the cousin sleepover at my husband’s aunts house. He has 5 aunts and an uncle and then and all their kids get together and have a “sleepover” and then get the next day play games and enjoy a nice dinner together.

  6. We start the holiday season with a Xmas Breakfast from our Elf and Joy tells us to get our tree. Then we enjoy lights, hot chocolate, making cookies and being a family.

  7. Our house first tradition of all is to put up Christmas tree & nativity , then decorate the house, I always buy pannetone for me and Ginger & honey houses for my kid, watch the old classic movies for kids ( I try to record all of them for my son he can watch them as many times he pleases) and the list can go on with so many things to do.

  8. When I was little my parents would load us up in the van on Christmas Eve to drive around and see the lights.
    I have continued this tradition with my family- but we’ve added to it. When we get home we drink cocoa with a scoop of ice cream in it and read the Christmas story from our Bible.

  9. Christmas eve church, then driving around to look at Christmas lights & home to open presents…
    Time with family & friends by the fire!

  10. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making cookies together. My Mom, Sister & Cousin all come over with their kiddos. We spend the day baking together and making memories. The kids love frosting and adding sprinkles to the sugar cookies.

  11. My grandmother passed away when my father was only 10 years old. We celebrate Christmas on her birthday, by getting all 9 of her children, 20+ of thier children, and 25+ of our children together for an amazing Christmas Eve. She may be gone but 40+ years later we still celebrate with her!

  12. We love to celebrate the season by making cookies and giving them to our friends and neighbors. We also like to do some random acts of kindness, listen to Christmas tunes every chance we get, look at all the lights and have family movie nights throughout December.

  13. I like to do some of the traditional things we did in the UK when I was growing up. One of those is Christmas crackers – not a food! They are tubes that you pull with a family member. Out pops a toy, a bad joke and a paper crown. You wear the crown during dinner. You can get them at HomeGoods or World Market. I need to get some for this year.

  14. We try to watch all our favorite Christmas shows, especially the classics! Bake together and see the lights. It’s all about family time for us!

  15. The weekend after Thanksgiving is when we decorate the inside and outside of the house for Christmas. Lights, tree, and a St Nick’s village. We start watching all sorts of Christmas movies on the weekends and driving around to look at Holiday lights. About 2cweeks before Christmas we bake lots and lots of yummy treats

  16. We watch lots of Christmas movies starting in November and always take a weekend in December to bake lots of Christmas goodies 🙂

  17. Our family cuts down a tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorates it while listening to classic Christmas music. On Christmas Eve we have a traditional Filipino dinner and on New Years Eve we have all of my husband’s family favorites: seven layer bean dip and cheese ball with crackers. As you can see food is a large part of our holiday traditions. =) On Christmas Eve we always read the story of Christ’s birth. We love to take drives to see beautiful Christmas lights too.

  18. Our NEW Christmas family tradition will be donating our time as a whole family to local emergency shelters or Red Cross that have families that have been displaced by a fire. We had a house fire on Saturday December 3rd of this year and are currently displaced family of 5 and 1 dog. We lost everything inside. We received so much from our community that we vow to give back every year on the anniversary of our fire.

  19. We pick names as a family and then all shop at the same store and try to avoid each other! Throw in a Santa visit and dinner out and it makes a great family night. Kids love it!!

  20. We drive to Oshkosh to visit their Celebration of Lights, but would love to start a new tradition or alternate the display of lights, by including in the GB Botanical Garden lights too!

  21. Every year we drive around and look at lights together, decorating cookies is a MUST, but most of all spending lots of quality time together during the kids time off is my most favorite time?

  22. We love to drive around and look at lights on Christmas Eve…specifically the little neighborhood in Neenah that lines their street in paper bag luminaries. So magical!

  23. The Saturday before Christmas, my family gets together to make Christmas cookies and candies. There are 7 adults and 4 kids (age 7 and under) and we work the whole day. Lots of work, but also lots of fun!

  24. We always go to grandma and grandpa’s house for brunch on Christmas Day. Since we have our first little one for Christmas this year, we decided now is the time to start new traditions too, so we put up our tree the Saturday after Thanksging and we all got new Christmas jammies for Christmas Eve!

  25. Our family has holiday traditions that we continue from when I was a child & some that my husband and I started together when we got married. When I was a kid my mom made lots of cookie and treats. I have two sisters and we always helped my mom with the baking before Christmas. Now my sisters and I continue that tradition, every year. We are all married and two of us have children and we now include them all. We get together and have a day full of baking and decorating! We have a blast! Another tradition is my parents have always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with our family (growing up we had to go to 2 grandparents house and great grandparents house on Christmas Day so Santa came on Christmas Eve to our home.) To this day we all still go to my parents house,with our families now, and spend the entire day together celebrating Christmas! We still use finding the pickle hidden on the tree to start our gift opening, which my mom’s parents also did (another long passed on tradition).
    My husband and I started our own traditions. My favorite is going to cut down our own tree from a tree farm. Love it!! We also put up a separate tree (6 foot artificial tree) with all of our ornaments from when we were growing up. My parents always called it our Hallmark Tree, as we got a new Hallmark ornament every year that we picked out. My husband and I now take our kids to the Hallmark store and let them pick out any ornament every year. So on this tree we have my husbands, mine, my son and daughters ornaments, most of which are all Hallmark. It’s so beautiful! The favorite are the ones that light up, sing or move!! So fun!

  26. We make fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint bark and Christmas cookie sandwiches, yummm!!! The kids leave treats out for Santa on Christmas Eve. We celebrate Christmas in our pj’s unless we venture out to the movie theatre. 😉

  27. We love going to look at Christmas lights, going to visit Santa and do fun Christmas activities. It’s our favorite time of the year and since it only comes around once we try to do all we can to make it special.

  28. Getting ice cream, blasting the heat in the van and driving around looking at lights. We do this when my husband has his December drill weekend, I try to do something extra fun every drill weekend. My kids also love decorating the ginger bread house every year.

  29. We started a book countdown a few years ago. On Dec 1 I have 24 books wrapped, and each night we open a new book. Once we’ve read all the books it’s time for Christmas! My kiddos love picking their book each night.

  30. Growing up , my parents always took us kids driving around at night after dinner to look at all the xmas lights. I hope to continue that with my daughter. We have never been to the garden of lights and would love to start our tradition there. Thanks for the opportunity.

  31. Baking holiday cookies with the kids helping out. Attending WisconSibs Santa Celebration, a fantastic annual event for kids with disabilities and their families.

  32. We put boxes together that are given during an accident, fire or emergency. A little stuffed animal, toy, treat, activity…helps during the hard time.

    We make popcorn balls and peanut brittle. Just like I did with my Grandam…passing on the memory and fun I had with her as a little girl.

  33. We try to do one new holiday display each year like the lights at menominee park or the north pole. The botanical gardens could be this year’s new thing!

  34. Our favorite holiday tradition is attending Christmas Eve service as a family. Nothing makes it seem more like Christmas than celebrating Jesus’ birth by singing beautiful carols together and hearing about WHY we celebrate the season. We also started the Christmas book countdown a few years ago and the kids really enjoy unwrapping a new Christmas book to read each night before bed. And of course, we’d love a visit to see the lights at garden 🙂

  35. Every Christmas my family gets together and instead of ham or whatever fancy Christmas meal most people eat, we make pizza. We burn pizza really. It’s not Christmas until the smoke alarms are going off. It’s my favorite holiday eating pizza and seeing all my loved ones. I can’t wait!

  36. We love hiding a plastic pickle on the tree Christmas Eve. Whoever finds it gets a special gift.
    We also love driving around during December and seeing the fun light displays at homes.

  37. My favorite tradition: we pick a date in advance when ALL our family can get together, names were drawn earlier in the year and gifts are exchanged on our chosen day along with lots of good food and games. Lots of fun for everyone.

  38. We love cutting down our Christmas tree and adding ornaments that the kids pick out each year. It usually gives us a story to share about each one!

  39. Our favorite family Christmas tradition is going up to Whispering Pines to get our tree. We take a ride on the wagon, pick out a tree, and visit Santa. We have been doing it for 13 years now which is 8 years before kids and 5 years after kids.

  40. We LOVE Christmas! But our favorite tradition is the Davis Family Polar Express. We surprise the kids with a “ticket” on their pillow one night when they go to get Jammie’s on. Then we pile in to the car with hot chocolate & blankets. We drive all over the valley to check out the awesome lights (your guides are helpful ;). It’s a great way to get everyone in to the spirit and go on a little adventure.

  41. We get together with each extended family. Since our daughter is 2 we are starting our own traditions. Last year we started cutting our own tree. We decorate the tree together and let her help. Hoping to start more traditions for our little family.

  42. Christmas Eve we like to do family potluck, gag gifts, board games and watch christmas movies. Christmas morning we open gifts from youngest to oldest so that everyone can see what each other received!


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