Illumizoo, Jack’O’Lantern World Gone—But the Glow Lives On at Meijer Gardens
For 2023, West Michigan will unfortunately miss two beloved fall events: the John Ball Zoo’s Illumizoo lights and Jack’O’Lantern World. While their absence leaves a gap in West Michigan’s Fall Activity List, don’t fret.
We’ve discovered captivating alternative that’s not only enchanting but also easier on your wallet.
If live music, great food, a forest painted with colored lights, log lights, and intricately carved, glowing pumpkins sound good, then pack up the family and head to Meijer Gardens‘ Glow Garden this fall.
At just the cost of regular admission, this is the cool fall experience you didn’t know you were missing!
A Closer Look
Glow Garden in the Forest
Yep, the glow hasn’t gone out! It’s alive and well at Meijer Gardens.
Specifically, the gardens glow up on three Tuesdays this fall: September 19, 26, and October 3, 2023.
As dusk settles in, take the pathway from the main building to the Farm Garden. Along the way, you’ll step into a world of wonder: the Gwen Frostic Woodland Shade Garden has been transformed.
This is where Meijer Gardens shines the spotlight on some of its oldest trees, like beech and sugar maple, bathing them in colorful lights.
The pathway, sprinkled with local artist Alynn Guerra’s intricate hand-etched pumpkins, makes it feel like you’re walking through a page of a storybook.
It’s straight-up enchanting, albeit on a smaller scale than Illumizoo’s 1-mile path.
WIN Glow Night Tickets
Prize: Family 4-Pack (2 adults/2 children)
Immerse yourself in a world of wonder and awe. Picture your family strolling through a luminous forest, surrounded by captivating lights and artistry, while enjoying live music and savoring delectable food.
Glow Nights are Tuesday, September 19, 26 & October 3.
FINE PRINT: This giveaway will close on September 19, 2023 at 11PM EST and the winner will be notified via email. The winner will have 24 hours to respond by email accepting the prize. No purchase necessary to enter the contest. These tickets expire on December 31, 2023. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to grkids.com and not to Facebook. Entrants will release Facebook from all liability. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age and reside in Michigan. Only one entry per household or IP address. GRKIDS’ liability is limited to the value of the prize.
Pumpkin Carving Demos: See Artistry in Action
While the Glow Garden might be the first thing you see, don’t forget to swing by Michigan’s Farm Garden for the other activities happening on these special Tuesday nights.
This part of the evening is called Tuesdays at the Farm and is where the live music, food, and pumpkin carving demos come onto the scene.
Definitely find time to watch Alynn Guerra showcases her masterful pumpkin carving skills.
This isn’t your average Jack-O-Lantern; think of it as pumpkin art, coming alive right before your eyes.
Artist’s Corner: Meet Alynn Guerra
You can’t talk about the Glow Garden or the incredible pumpkin carvings at Meijer Gardens without shining a spotlight on the print-making artist behind it all.
Alynn has been hand-etching pumpkins for Meijer Gardens for the past few years. She’s also one of the local artists who designed who designed a giant glowing card in the House of Cards display at World of Winter last year.
Additionally, she painted a large outdoor mural as part of the 49507 project.
Alynn discovered her passion for art and found her true calling in printmaking after learning about the politics of food in 2002. Her works are both eye-catching and meaningful.
She has an online shop where you can snag some of her prints on t-shirts. (We got a kick out of The Skeleton Bike Team design!) Alynn also has an Etsy Store – it’s a great place to grab some of her work in sticker form. Keep up with her busy event schedule, too.
Aside: We’re pretty excited that FMG has chosen to work with local artists when it comes to events like this. It’s just another way that GR is growing and supporting artists. With the launch of Cultivate and the rebirth of ArtPrize, we have high hopes for the art community in West Michigan!
Foot-Tapping Live Music
The music starts at 6:00 pm, but with the Glow Garden’s allure, you might feel like you’re dancing in a fairy tale.
Live bands will keep the atmosphere buzzing.
In the past, the talent roster has included acts like The Moxie Strings and Serita’s Black Rose, so you can expect a musical mix that could range from catchy tunes to a fusion of funk, rock, and blues.
Adult Beverages & Food Pop-Up: Treat Yourself!
Food and drinks are available from 5:30 PM. There will be a pop-up of the Gardens’ Balk Café, so you can munch on some delicious bites.
Choose from local fresh fare, along with West Michigan beers, hot cider and adult cocktails. Because what’s an autumn evening without a glass of something to warm you up?
Flower Show: An Endless Chrysanthemum Display
As if all this wasn’t enough, the event coincides with FMG’s Chrysanthemums & More! exhibition. Now in its 25th year, this is the largest display of its kind in Michigan.
This is where you get to see walls covered from top to bottom with bright, bushy chrysanthemums, grouped to look like big, flowy tapestries.
And get this: there are even flower “balls” hanging in the air, like floating mini-gardens!
This year’s colors are warm and cozy—perfect for fall.
Deep reds, soft blush pinks, creamy whites, and pops of orange carefully chosen to make the whole place feel connected and harmonious.
The flower show spills over into the BISSELL Corridor where the focus is on one color at a time. Here, local florists have added their own flair, creating arrangements that add a little extra ‘wow.’
In the Gateway Garden the main color is orange. The beds of flowers here are long and narrow, like a fancy carpet you might see in a grand hallway.
From the colors to the shapes and the way they’re all arranged, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into making this chrysanthemum display something special.
The mum theme is extensive in the outdoor gardens, too.
If you’re a fan of flowers or just want a cozy, colorful place to wander this fall, you won’t want to miss it this month’s long display of mums!
Giant Pumpkins & Grand Fall Harvest
As you wander around, don’t forget to feast your eyes on the impressive harvest of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and gourds. The FMG folks know how to dress the place for autumn in a way that will activate all of your PSL-senses.
While you’re there, be sure to seek out the impossibly oversized pumpkins.
You know, these are some photo-worthy giants!
And the picture perfect pumpkin patch needs to be on your radar, too.
Glow Garden Dates & Times
Frederik Meijer Gardens
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI
GLOW GARDEN: Select Tuesday evenings:
- September 19, 26 & October 3, 2023.
- Be there by 5:30 PM for food and drinks, live music starts at 6 PM.
- The entire affair goes on until 8:30 PM, the gardens close at 9 PM.
Chrysanthemums & More! Exhibit
September 15 – October 29, 2023: An annual celebration of autumn, Chrysanthemums & More! is the largest of its kind in Michigan, featuring expansive fall foliage and family-friendly activities.
Good news—no special ticket is needed to enter the Glow Garden or the Chrysanthemum & More! displays. The events and displays are included with your regular Meijer Gardens admission or membership.
Pro tip: Meijer Gardens is open from 9 AM to 9 PM on Tuesdays. Come early, around 5 PM, to get yourself situated before the fun starts.
The Whole Garden Experience: Family-Friendly and More!
One last thing – if you head to Glow Garden, you should know that the entirety of Frederik Meijer Gardens is open during the event.
Yes, you can also visit the Children’s Garden, the Tropical Conservatory, or any other part of the garden you’re interested in.
And this isn’t a one-time affair—Meijer Gardens hosts seasonal events year-round that stay open late on Tuesday nights. Look forward to Christmas and Holidays Around the World next, and Butterflies in the Spring!