Galaxy of Lights

Huntsville Botanical Garden Galaxy of Lights A Long Time Ago… In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Sounds familiar, right? Well, THIS particular Galaxy is neither a long time ago nor Far, Far Away – it’s right here in Huntsville and is going on NOW! The Huntsville/Madison County Botanical Garden are all dressed up for the holidays and there is something for everyone at this popular area event.

The Origins Huntsville Botanical Gardens Galaxy of Lights

The 2012 Galaxy of Lights began with “walking nights” for Garden members on November 9th. Since that time, the agenda has included walking nights for the public and the ever popular “dog walking” night where canine cuties are invited to see the lights with their humans.

Thanksgiving night (Thursday November 22nd) marks the beginning of the Galaxy Driving Nights, allowing guests to enjoy the displays in the warm comfort of their own vehicles, and will continue on through New Year’s Eve.

For those who are new to Huntsville, the “Galaxy of Lights” is an incredible extravaganza of light displays, lovingly crafted and maintained by a group of retired NASA engineers and other electricians/volunteers/lovers of the garden known affectionately as the “Galaxy Guys.” They work yearlong to catalog, inspect, design, provide electricity for and place hundreds of light displays.

After Galaxy is over, they then repair and store the displays for the coming year. Breathtaking displays of favorites include Santa in a helicopter, jumping deer, the Twelve Days of Christmas, Menorahs, Nutcrackers, Cinderella’s Castle, Dinosaurs, an icicle forest (open your sunroof for this one) and as one might expect… flowers. (I personally love the 11 Pipers Piping, which my company sponsors in honor of my Scottish grandmother… )

holiday lightsPurpose

“Galaxy” provides approximately 20% of the Garden’s annual revenue through attendance and display sponsorships, which is particularly ingenious when you consider that the winter months are usually the least likely months for people to visit a garden. It has also become tradition for many companies, civic groups, churches and schools to volunteer as Galaxy Greeters in place of their holiday parties. These greeters staff the entrance to the displays, taking up donations of canned goods, toys, paper products, dog/cat food and warm coats for local charities. Guests, in turn, receive $1 off the price of admission with a donation, so everyone wins!

New Event

A new event has been added this year, so hold onto your running shoes… The Galaxy of Lights 5k run will be held at 6 p.m. on December 3. For those who are marathonally-challenged, as am I, this is an easy 3.1 mile run/walk through the Galaxy displays.

And don’t worry, the cars won’t be joining you… Enjoy the full experience of Galaxy without having to apply your brakes! I am so excited to be able to run through the icicle forest and keep telling myself that this experience alone may make the running worth it.

If you had trouble with the new entrance last year, never fear because there’s a “NEW new entrance!” You can enter the Galaxy of Lights just west of the main Garden entrance on Bob Wallace. It’s right across from Landry’s Restaurant but before you get to I-565. This year’s map is provided for your convenience and, if in doubt, follow the lights.

What you should know:

  • Can I buy tickets online? – YES! Purchase your Galaxy of Lights tickets online here
  • What time does it begin and end each night? 5:30 – 9:00pm
  • What is the last day of Galaxy of Lights? December 31, 2012 (New Year’s Eve)
  • How much is admission? Passenger Car – $20 per car (up to 10 people), Vans – $20 for 10 people and $3 for each additional person
  • Tour buses – $20 for 10 people and $3 for each additional person (tour bus driver is free). Purchase in advance here.
  • Admission fees may be changed without notice. Discounted drive-through tickets are available for members ($15) in Gazebo Gifts and must be purchased in advance.
  • How do they do it??? – So many people have asked that the Garden put together a video to tell us more. View it here.

How to Prepare:

  • Make everyone go to the bathroom before you leave. There’s nothing better than the Galaxy of Lights but nothing worse than a Galaxy of Lights plagued by, “But I have to GO… nowwww.”
  • Be sure to bring a canned good, toy, warm coat, package of dog/cat food, etc. to get your $1 discount off admission. It’s the easiest thing you’ll do for yourself… and someone else
  • Make sure your car has plenty of GAS. The Galaxy of Lights is a mile long or more and there are no gas stations inside the Garden. You’re warned!
  • Turn on some festive music. Somehow, it makes the lights twinkle even brighter.

Event Information

Dates and Times: 
November 16-20: Public Walking Nights
November 22-December 31: Drive Through Nights
Location: Huntsville Botanical Garden
Walking Night Prices: $6/Adult, $3/Child
Driving Night Prices: Passenger Car – $20 per car (up to 10 people); Vans – $20 for 10 people and $3 for each additional person; Tour buses – $20 for 10 people and $3 for each additional person (tour bus driver is free)
Tickets: Purchase your driving nights tickets online or at the gate the night of your tour

WBCNA The BIG Event 3
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Never miss the events that matter!


  1. Pamela says

    My family love Galaxy of Lights. We always end a day of Christmas shopping with an evening of lights.

  2. Roy Johnson says

    This was my first year to drive thru the lights at the botanical gardens. I must say, it was very disappointing to myself and my passenger. The charge to drive thru is way to much, which makes that mile long bumper to bumper drive very boring. It gives a person alot of time to think about just how the public is being ripped off. Oh sure, there are those that brag on the galaxy of how great and wonderful it is, and sadly myself and my passenger will not be bragging. We are not scrouges, we saw many many light displays, and in our book spring valley down in the shoals area beats the galaxy of light badly. Spring valley runs on no set fee, but has a donation box set up, this was my first year to visit spring valley, and from what i understand, it has been running over 20 years. ok i will stop bashing the galaxy of lights, all that truly matters is “whatever floats your boat”.

    • Larkin Grant says

      Roy, I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience at your first Galaxy of Lights night. All events have off nights and I hope you’ll give the Botanical Gardens another chance. We have passed your concerns along to the folks at the Gardens.
      -Larkin, Our Valley Events Digital Media Wizard

    • says

      Roy, we at the Garden are so sorry to hear of your experience through the Galaxy of Lights. We would hope that no one spends their time driving throughout feeling as though they’ve been ripped off. That is never our intent nor the spirit in which 100’s of volunteers meant for the experience to be. Our Galaxy of Lights has become a popular tradition for many in the Tennessee Valley and we know through, not just the great comments, but helpful comments such as yours on how we can improve upon the experience from year to year. We will be in contact with you and hopefully earn another opportunity to make your experience a better one for ALL in your car as our guest.

  3. Holly says

    I have always loved coming to the Galaxy of Lights. It’s been a tradition that I have stuck by through the years but this year I was highly disappointed. In years past, as soon as you paid, you immediately drove through a plethora of lights. This year, there was a lot of pointless winding through areas with no lights or a little light stand on the side every once in a while. It was a waste of time having to wind through areas with no lights when traffic was stopped most of the time. It has never been like this in the past and I will not return next year if this is how it is going to contiue being. We waited for two hours before seeing the true light show. I am upset that it cost $20 for me to wind through the streets with no lights. I can drive through neighborhoods for free and see more lights than I do this year. I appreciate all of the planning and hard work that went into this production but please go back to how it was in years past.

    • Larkin Grant says

      Holly- I’m sorry you were disappointed in your Galaxy of Lights visit this year. The folks at the Huntsville Botanical Garden work hard to make sure that everyone attending has a good time and are always looking to improve the event for next year. Thank you for sharing your experience; we’ve passed your concerns along to Gardens.
      -Larkin Grant, Digital Media Wizard for Our Valley Events