Dallas Arboretum is the perfect escape from the holiday hubbub

Melissa Holmes|@LissaCHolmes mholmes@theglenrosereporter.com Staff Writer

DALLAS - Hosting family for the holidays can be a fairly stressful event. The holiday hustle and bustle can quickly leave one searching for an escape, and a day trip to Dallas to explore “Holiday at the Arboretum” at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden makes for a great one.

The Arboretum, as it is more commonly referred to, features an exquisite "12 Days of Christmas" outdoor exhibit and "The Artistry of Nativity" at the DeGolyer House the arboretum creates a magical holiday experience. 

Debuting just last year, "12 Days of Christmas" has already been named one of “The South’s Best Holiday Experiences” by Southern Living Magazine. The exhibition consists of 12 ornately decorated 25-foot tall glass encased gazebos displaying scenes, characters and animals from the popular Christmas carol of the same name.

Each gazebo is placed throughout the 66-acre garden giving patrons a chance to not only explore the exhibit, but also take in the beautiful grounds of the arboretum.

To fully enjoy the details and craftsmanship of each gazebo you have to understand the work that has gone into them.

The exhibition took two months to come together. To create the elaborate scenes and costumes, the Dallas Arboretum commissioned The Dallas Opera and Dallas Stage Scenery for the work. Each mannequin dons a custom wig and hand-painted face, and the feathering for the animals was done by the Jim Henson Company.

I recently took a trip to the Dallas Arboretum to take in 12 Days of Christmas and each gazebo was as exquisite as the next.

First up was the “Partridge in a Pear Tree” exhibit. The gold rhinestone encrusted pears, which hung from golden branches of a pear tree, glistened in the sunlight. The partridge, which is hand-painted and embellished in rhinestones, took center stage. This golden gazebo set the stage for the next 11 to follow.

Next was the “Two Turtle Doves” display. This red gazebo featured two turtle doves perched on an arrow that pierced a red crystal-beaded heart-shaped cage suspended from the gazebo roof.

The “Three French Hens” gazebo is when you see the intricate feather work that was done by the Jim Henson Company. The hens are covered in black and white feathers with red accents. The gazebo showcased the French influences with large white and gold French mirrors in the display.

Once again the feathering work is on display at the “Four Calling Birds” gazebo. The calling bird have extravagant multi-colored feather plumes and long tails and sit on jeweled, Victorian bird perches.

“Five Golden Rings” was the stage of a Victorian circus with four seals surrounding  white polar bear as each animal balanced spinning bejeweled gold rings on their noses.

A winter wonderland is how to describe the “Six Geese A-Laying” gazebo. Snow-covered pine trees were surrounded by handcrafted snowflakes that hung from the ceiling. The six geese were nestled in and around the trees.

The “Seven Swans A-Swimming” gazebo was a decadent snowy paradise dripping with crystal icicles, creating the illusion of an icy dreamland as the seven swans floated around a frozen pond with jeweled crowns on their heads.

An English barn was the scene of “Eight Maids A-Milking.” The gazebo featured highly detailed painted cows and eight maid- four milking and four carrying pails - mannequins in finely crafted maiden costumes. A cool fact about the cows is that the arboretum obtained them from Chick-fil- A and refurbished them for this scene.

A Victorian ballroom was the stage of the “Nine Ladies Dancing” gazebo. The ladies were dressed in finely beaded period gowns and moved around the exhibit, with four of them making complete turns.

Ice-skating lords was the focus of “Ten Lords A-Leaping.” The lords skated around the frozen pond with their scarves and coattails “blowing” in the wind.

The “Eleven Pipers Piping” gazebo featured Scottish bagpipe players decked out in red and green tartan plaid. The display was Scottish pride as red and green tartan also draped the ceilings.

“Twelve Drummers Drumming” was a perfect close the exhibit. The gazebo was the epitome of Christmas with its red and white theme, as one set of drummers moved clockwise while another moved counterclockwise in the exhibit.

During the daytime 12 Days of Christmas is a sight to see. However, the true magic of the holiday exhibition happens at night when 500,000 holiday lights illuminate the gazebos and garden grounds. It is well worth the trip at night to see the garden twinkle in the night sky. For those chilly nights the arboretum offers hot beverages to keep you warm as you wander around. 

What would Christmas be without a Nativity scene and at the arboretum you get a chance to view a massive collection. Inside the historic DeGolyer House, 300 Nativity Scenes from the Ray Harrington, which the arboretum owns, and George Dvorsky collections were displayed throughout the elegant house.

The nativity scenes were collected from around the world and illustrates how different countries interpret the birth of Jesus. Some of the nativities were carved out of wood, were crystal and sterling silver. There was even a nativity scene that was made from repurposed car parts.

In addition to the Nativity scenes, the different rooms in the DeGolyer House showcased lavishly decorated Christmas trees adding to the holiday spirit.

To wrap up the tour, be sure you make a reservation at Restaurant DeGolyer for holiday tea. The three-course tea includes a first course of soup, followed by a second course of assorted tea sandwiches and then a third course of sweet treats.

The restaurant is also opened for a reservation only dinner on Wednesday evenings, where patrons can enjoy a three-course dinner and tour of The Artistry of the Nativity after hours.

Make plans to visit the Holiday at the Arboretum as soon as possible, because it will be held only until Jan 3, 2016. The arboretum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For special holiday hours and festivities visit www.dallasarboretum.org.

If you can’t make it to Holiday at the Arboretum, an arboretum visit is still worth the trip. Even in the winter the grounds display all the beauty that nature has to offer. The Dallas Arboretum is an oasis in the middle of the city that provides a peaceful and calming environment.

In a sea of people you are guaranteed to find quiet nooks and crannies to escape from the world. VP of Advertising and Promotions, Terry Lendecker, said that the goal of the arboretum is to “promote the beauty of nature.” And that it does.