December at Garvan Woodland Gardens


Through Dec. 31 more than 2 million holiday lights illuminate Garvan Woodland Gardens each evening during Holiday Lights in Hot Springs. The event transforms the Gardens into a charming and whimsical winter landscape.

New this year is the centerpiece display: the Schueck Steel Holiday Tree. According to information provided by Sherre Freeman of Garvan, “the animated, 50-foot tall tree was built using 28,000 feet (over five miles!) of linear steel. There are 100,000 lights on the 18 ft. diameter tree, decorated with over 600 feet of red and white garland and topped with a custom designed and built 12 ft. wide “rose” topper. The tree has 320 animated channels and will stand in the center of the Rose Garden amphitheater, encircled by more lighted trees and an animated display of Santa, reindeer and sleigh, elves and elf houses. The display features several programs of animation all choreographed and set to a variety of traditional, Celtic, and holiday tunes. The Holiday Tree will have its own viewing platform within the Gardens and will also be viewable from Lake Hamilton.”

The Gardens are located on the shores of Lake Hamilton and are part of the department of the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture. It is the only botanical garden in the nation that occupies all of a peninsula in a major water body. Popular garden attractions include The Anthony Chapel, a work of art that features a 57-foot, open-rafter ceiling supported by pine columns and crossbeams and the Joy Manning Scott Full Moon Bridge.

Admission to Holiday Lights is $10 for adults,  $5 for children (6-12 years) and free for those 5 and younger. Dogs (on a leash) can enter for $5 too.  If you might want to use the Garden golf cart to get around, it is $10 per person.  There is no admission cost for members. Also of note, there is a special “Santa in the Gardens” event that coincides with Holiday Lights Dec. 6 and 13.  During this from 6- 7:30 p.m, Santa, along with Mrs. Santa, will greet children in the Gingerbread House near Garvan Pavillion. Of note, the Garden is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

December also hosts other events at the Gardens.  For instance, The Hot Springs Music Festival’s “Tuba Christmas” takes place in the Anthony Chapel Dec. 6.

Todd Cranson from the Hot Springs Music Festival will direct this concert with Tuba players from around the region. According to the Hot Springs Music Festival folks, the event was created by Harvey Phillips. The concerts will be presented in over 250 cities throughout the U.S.  and in several foreign countries. Phillips was inspired to create the event as an annual event honoring his teacher, the late great tubist William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in1902.

Every Christmas season, tuba and euphonium players of all ages and geographic areas gather to pay respect, through Bell and to the artists and teachers who represent their heritage. Of note, a tuba is bigger and has a lower pitch than the euphonium but both are considered to be in the low brass family.  Every performance features traditional Christmas carols especially arranged by American composer Alec Wilder, who died Christmas Eve 1980. Through Wilder, these concerts pay tribute to composers who have embraced these instruments with solo and ensemble compositions.

Admission to the concert is free and open to the public. Registration for tuba, baritone, and euphonium players is $5, and sheet music and other merchandise are available at registration. For more information, contact Todd Cranson at 501-623-4763 or [email protected] .

If you are a runner by chance, the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk is also taking place at Garvan on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. A fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation, the tradition is to tie jingle bells on your shoelaces as you run/walk a 5K route.

Bob Byers, Associate Executive Director of the Gardens, will accompany several featured soloists Dec. 9 at 6:30 at the Anthony Chapel for the Bob Byers and Friends Holiday Concert. Tickets are $5 and it is a members only concert.

For more music options, the Ringers of Hope Bell Choir Concert is December 10 at 6:30 at the Anthony Chapel. Three student groups from Ouachita Hills Academy in Amity – The Ringers of Hope Bell Choir, Ouachita Hills Chamber Ensemble, and Ouachita Hills Chorale – will present a musical arrangement of Christmas songs featuring English handbells, a string ensemble, and a vocal choir. The event is free and open to the public.

If you can’t make that, the Sharon Turrentine Holiday Concert is Dec. 12 also 6:30 at the Anthony Chapel. Sharon Turrentine is from Hot Springs and will be accompanied by a pianist to perform Holiday favorites. The concert is free and open to the public.

The Muses Creative Artistry Project” Concert – “Voices of Angels”  is 3 p.m. – on Dec. 16. The 7th annual holiday concert will be held in the Anthony Chapel. Cost is $25. Advance tickets are encouraged, as several of last year’s concerts were sold out in advance. For more information  contact the Muses at 501-463-4514 or

If you are looking for more music, the Hot Springs Flute Ensemble Holiday Concert is the next day ( Dec. 17) at the same time and same location. The event is free and open to the public too.

Rounding out the holiday season is the Hallelujah Handbells Holiday Concert on Dec.20, which is 7 p.m. at Anthony Chapel.

For more information about what’s happening at the gardens call 501-262-9300 or visit their website at They also have a neat blog at