In Boothbay Harbor, Maine (December 3-4, 2016)

In the summer, this lovely harbor town is filled with tourists “from away”; but, in December, it’s a Mecca for tourists from Maine. They come here for the holiday lights, good food, and good cheer. Mostly, for the lights. Extraordinary numbers of private houses, town buildings, business structures, and even boats in the water are festooned with lights, including some of the most beautiful bulbous street lights you’ll ever see.

Even so, the best lights are not in the heart of town. The self-proclaimed Largest Light Show in Maine is in the upper gardens of the beautiful Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens here. Over 360,000 LED lights on about 31 miles of wire are strung among plants, trees, streams, and ponds. The show continues through December.

It’s best to arrive at the Gardens at or before twilight to see the transformation of the landscape as it disappears in phases from sparkling lushness to glowing shadows to light-studded blackness. Reflections and silhouettes come first:

As it gets darker, the vegetation starts disappearing amid the glow of thousands of lights.

As night descends, the transformation of the Gardens is complete.

If you’re in the know, you scheduled your visit to include the Annual Harbor Lights parade of vessels, after visiting the Gardens. This is a decades-old tradition in which lighted local boats parade in the harbor, some filled with tourists. It was on December 3 this year.

By now you’re chilly and hungry and eager to visit one of several good restaurants in town that stay open through December.  We recommend Cucina Italiana (Ports of Italy), if you like the best of Italian food – but get reservations.

To complete the process, stay overnight in a place with a harbor view; get up early in the morning; don warm clothing; visit the harbor and take big gulps of chilly, pure air; have a hearty breakfast, and drive home whistling your favorite holiday tune.

For larger versions of the above images, as well as additional images of the lights and harbor, click on the link below. (We recommend that your initial viewing be in full-screen mode, which can be achieved by clicking on the Slideshow [>] icon above the featured image in the gallery to which the link will take you.) Here’s the link to the full Glowing Harbor Town virtual tour:


Barbara and Dick