Winter Wonder Lights is off to a sparkling start! Read all the details about this year’s show, how it came to be and why it makes a wonderful holiday tradition in this amazing Detroit News article!
Meadow Brook Hall ushers in holiday season with Winter Wonder Lights
By Khristi Zimmeth, Special to The Detroit News
For Barb Land, the holiday season starts with a trip to Rochester’s Meadow Brook Hall for Winter Wonder Lights.
“We take the kids and grandkids, even meet aunt and uncles there,” the Waterford Township resident explains, adding that they start the annual tradition with a large family photo before splitting up so everyone can move at their own pace. They meet back up for hot chocolate and for the event’s signature glow-in-the-dark cotton candy.
The self-guided event winds its way through the Meadow Brook property lit with thousands of colored lights. The route measures just under a mile and includes 10 different themed displays, according to Shannon O’Berski, director of external relations. “We wanted to appeal to more people. We’ve been doing the holiday walk for a long time and wanted to expand our offerings onto the grounds and do something different.”
To design the now-popular program, the estate, built for Matilda Dodge Wilson between 1926 and 1929, studied light shows around the country, including similar events in Nashville and Atlanta. None were at historic homes, however. “We like that this sets us apart a bit,” she says. Inspiration was drawn from the landmark’s storied past. “The goal is to create an outdoor experience that breathtaking and unique but also connect it back to Meadow Brook history so people learn a little about us,” she explains.
The walk starts with Woodland Welcome, with huge sparkling snowflakes designed to emulate horseshoes, a reference to Meadow Brook’s equestrian past. Popular stops include Loggia Lumineers, where visitors walk through seven-foot-tall displays that feature patterns that match those on the estate’s chimneys, and Holiday Hallway, inspired by the estate’s Tiffany collection that features stained-glass-style lights and a nod to the hall’s Pegasus Fountain. “It’s my favorite stop and that of most guests,” O’Berski says. “People are blown away when they see it.”
Land has attended since the event’s first year in 2021 (originally scheduled to debut in 2020, it was cancelled because of the pandemic.) and says she wouldn’t miss it. “We go back every year,” she explains. “There are always new things to find.”
This year, kids 12 and under can visit on Sundays for free. “Things can be expensive during the holidays, and this brings more families in,” Oberski says. Patti Finnegan’s, a pub also on the Oakland University campus, will offer a discount and a free meal for kids under 12 on Sundays as well.
Also new this year is “Up on the Rooftops,” a display based on a holiday story drawn from the Meadow Brook archives. Matilda Dodge Wilson’s granddaughter Judy spent many holidays at the 1,400-acre estate, which features multiple fireplaces. One year this prompted her to ask “How does Santa know which chimney to go down?” Every year after, Matilda had one chimney lit with a red light to highlight Santa’s seasonal selection.
This year, the event will do the same, and O’Berski expects it to be a family favorite. “I mean, 39 chimneys are a lot of choices for Santa,” she says with a laugh.
Timed tickets are needed for the popular event, which runs Nov. 24-Dec. 30 and includes a sneak peek of the house decorated for Christmas. “It gives visitors the chance to see the inside and outside together, and it’s also a great time to warm up if it’s cold,” O’Berski says, adding “it’s more fun it it’s cold.” Some visitors return for the longer holiday walk through the decorated house, which is now in its 52nd year. “They’re two different experiences,” she says.
Land recommends warm clothes and boots and checking the weather before heading out. “We had one year that was super cold but we just bundled up,” she says.
Her favorite display is the Pegasus fountain, which she says “almost puts tears in your eyes, it’s so lovely” but says she enjoys the entire event. She loves walking through the lights and enjoying Christmas music and time with family. “It gives you a warm glow,” she says, adding “it really does put you in the holiday spirit.”
Prices for Winter Wonder Lights are $22.50 adults, $12.50 youth ages 3-12; children less than 2 free. Meadow Brook Hall also offers additional holidays events, including Holiday Walk, Starlight Stroll, Holiday Tea and Santa Saturdays. More information as well as timed tickets to Winter Wonder Lights are available through meadowbrookholidays.com.