A stand of trees all lit up at night for Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens [2022]

The Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, Maine is a fantastic destination any time of the year. You’ll find sweeping ocean views from various points throughout the gardens since you are right on the Maine coast.

So when is the best time to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens?

A faraway view of all the Christmas lights at Gardens Aglow in Boothbay Maine.

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The Best Months To Visit The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Are . . .

Personally, I think the best months to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are during the winter months of November and December. These are the best times to visit because the gardens are literally aglow with magical lights, making it a true winter wonderland.

The botanical gardens are beautiful any time of year, but they are especially stunning during this festive season.

Of course, if you are there for Gardens Aglow, it will be dark (except for the amazing light displays!) and there will be no plants, but I still think it’s the best time of year to visit!

Visiting Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens during their annual Gardens Aglow event is a must-see for anyone looking for a breathtaking winter wonderland.

What Is Gardens Aglow?

Gardens Aglow is an annual event that turns The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens into an incredible holiday setting. Each year there is a different theme, and the light displays change, so you can come back year after year (which I do!).

With over 750,000 twinkling lights adorning the walking paths, it’s also the perfect place to snap some stunning holiday photos. There are some places that are just made for pictures, like the pergola with its roof strung with lights and a decorated bench for posing the whole group.

No worries. People in Maine are nice and will give you the space to take your pictures while patiently waiting for their turn.

There’s a cafe on site, and although it can get pretty busy, you can buy a hot chocolate from the Snack Shack. You will definitely need a warm treat to keep you cozy while strolling the grounds.

A picture of a moose eating in a pond but it is all made out of lights at Gardens Aglow, which is the best time to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Is Gardens Aglow Worth Visiting?

Walking through the incredible grounds in the crisp, clear night air, with the snow-covered ground, your surroundings illuminated with nearly a million stunning lights while you’re drinking hot chocolate held between your gloved hands . . . well, winter just doesn’t get any more magical than that!

Obviously, my answer is yes. In fact, I think it should be a priority on your to-do list if you are visiting Maine in November or December.

When Is The Best Time To Beat The Crowds?

Gardens Aglow is also open after the Christmas holidays, so the end of December is a great time if you want fewer crowds. It’s still the same amazing place, and it could be a great way to start your New Year’s Eve celebration.

At the other end, if you go in November when it first opens, it will also be less crowded. I think it’s one of the best places to kick off your holiday season. If anything is going to get you geared up for the holidays (and winter in general), it’s Gardens Aglow.

Where Is Gardens Aglow/Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens?

It is located in Boothbay, which is on Maine’s beautiful coast. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth a visit. You could easily visit Augusta, Brunswick, or Belfast and take a quick trip out to Gardens Aglow.

You could also stay in Boothbay Harbor, just up the road. Here are some places to stay in Boothbay Harbor that are pet friendly (although you can’t bring your pet to Gardens Aglow).

How Much Does Gardens Aglow Cost?

The admission fee is pretty reasonable, with tickets under $20 each. There are a variety of options, ranging from family tickets to member prices. You get advance tickets with timed arrival times as they are trying to avoid having it be too crowded at any one time.

The times are suggested, and if you can’t make your time, they will still honor your ticket when you get there.

Where Is Parking

They have parking for Gardens Aglow down to a science. There can be a very long line of traffic waiting to get in. In fact, I’ve never gone when I haven’t sat in traffic for a good 10-15 minutes. It’s worth the wait, though!

There are parking attendants guiding you the entire way, so you don’t have to worry about driving up and down rows to find a spot. There are plenty of parking lots, and the walk to the main gate has always been just a few minutes.

You’ll be tempted to take a bunch of pictures of the light display even from the parking lot, as it’s just gorgeous here as soon as you finally get to the parking lots. Believe me, once you get into the actual Gardens Aglow, your parking lot pictures will look boring.

A picture of one of the paths at Gardens Aglow lit up and leading to a bunch of trees all decorated with Christmas lights.

Where To Stay In Boothbay

Boothbay gets pretty busy during the Gardens Aglow season, and it gets harder to find someplace to stay the closer it gets to opening night. Your best bet is to book well ahead of time so you can get your first or second choice.

Who wants to face a long drive home after such a magical night? Staying right in Boothbay will allow you to linger at Gardens Aglow for as long as you want (maybe you can take the tine to eat in the cafe!) without worrying about a long, late night drive home.

The town of Boothbay goes all out to create a festive winter feeling during the holiday season, and the entire town is lit up. It can be a pretty romantic place to stay.

You are close enough to make it a long weekend and take some day trips in the area. You might want to look at the day trips from Bangor, Belfast, and, of course Boothbay Harbor to get some ideas.

The Home Base for Visiting the Boothbay Region

Cost: ~ $100/night, depending on the dates

Different views of the Home Base lodging in Boothbay Harbor.

I know. This is an odd name, but you’ll love the location. You can walk to Gardens Aglow in about 15 minutes, which might be less time than you sit in the long line of traffic waiting to get in.

This spot also offers a kitchen so you don’t have to constantly eat out if you are staying for a few days.

👉 Click here to see if your dates are available.

Smuggler’s Cove Inn

Cost: ~ $150/night, depending on the dates

If you want to upscale a little, these are great cottages. Again, they are close to Gardens Aglow but these are also located on a lake. While the lake will obviously be frozen (!), that still means that the setting will be peaceful with

If you want to upscale a little, these are great cottages. Again, they are close to Gardens Aglow but these are also located on a lake. While the lake will obviously be frozen (!), that still means that the setting will be peaceful with beautiful views.

👉 Click here to see if your dates are available.

Looking for something a little different? Here are some other options for places to stay in the area.

Directions To Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens/Gardens Aglow

The address for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is 105 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay, ME 04537. Since it’s not on a main road, it can take some time to get there. Use the map above to find your specific directions, but here are some general driving times from nearby destinations:

✔️ New York City: ~ 6 hours

✔️ Boston, Massachusetts: ~ 3 hours

✔️ Nashua, New Hampshire: ~ 3 hours

✔️Maine Ski Resorts: ~ 2.5 – 3.5
(Sugarloaf Mountain/Saddleback Mountain/Shawnee Peak/etc.)

✔️ Acadia National Park: ~ 2.5 hours

✔️ Bangor, Maine: ~ 2 hours

✔️ Belfast, Maine: ~ 1.5 hours

✔️ Portland, Maine: ~ 1.25 hours

✔️ Augusta, Maine: ~ 50 minutes

✔️ Brunswick, Maine: ~ 45 minutes

From Boston, you could also take the Amtrak Downeaster to Portland or Brunswick and rent a car for the rest of the journey.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Grounds & Amenities

Full of native plants of Maine and over 300 acres of gardens, woodlands, and shorefront, each season brings something new to discover here. The grounds are full of scenic walking paths which allow you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

Many of the paths through the gardens lead to benches tucked away in quiet little spots where you can just rest and take in the beautiful views.

This is also New England’s largest botanical garden. Yep. Right here in Maine.

In addition to its gardens, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens also offers educational programs and events year-round. From garden tours to workshops on sustainable gardening practices, there is always something interesting happening.

Because the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden is open year-round, it offers a great visitor center as well. There is a nice cafe called The Market that offers food made on the premises. They try to focus on local ingredients, so you won’t find a bunch of processed junk food there.

Each time I’ve been to Gardens Aglow, the cafe has been packed, so I’ve never eaten there. I really wanted to spend my time walking around the grounds, but maybe you are making a romantic night** of it, then the cafe would be great.

There is also the Snack Shack, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s just a little food stand. This is where you can get hot chocolate and popcorn (among other things) during Gardens Aglow.

The gift shop is incredible. It is full of unique items, many from local artists. It sounds like such a cliche, but I could spend almost as much time in the gift shop as in the acres of gardens! There is just gorgeous stuff in here.

**Side note: Since it is really romantic, it would be the perfect location for an amazing small winter wedding. They do weddings there during the other seasons, so I bet they would allow a wedding during the Gardens Aglow event. That would be such a fairy tale!!!

A picture of all the lights at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' Gardens Aglow event, with lights across the ground and in the background on all the trees.

How To Make The Most Of Your Visit

To properly prepare for being out in the cold for the several hours you’ll want to spend here, here are some tips for your visit.

➡️ Make sure to dress in layers. Wear a base layer followed by a warm sweater or jacket and a waterproof outer layer.

➡️ Wear gloves and a hat to keep your hands and head warm! Honestly, wearing a hat will make your pictures even better because they will look so cozy and winter-y!

➡️ Bringing hand warmers or pocket warmers to tuck into your gloves or coat pockets for a boost of heat can be helpful. You can even bring foot warmers.

➡️ Take breaks inside the indoor spaces to warm up and rest if needed. That might be the thing that allows you to spend a couple of amazing hours there instead of leaving early and regretting it.

➡️ Eat before you go. As mentioned, the cafe can be pretty busy, and you don’t want to walk around hungry. Don’t let anything interfere with the short amount of time you’ll have here.

The biggest mistake you can make is not being prepared for the cold weather. Even if it doesn’t seem very cold, dress warmer than you think you need to. Once you are out in the cold for an extended period of time, you’ll be happy you did!

Me standing next to one of the moose made out of tiny lights at Gardens Aglow in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Conclusion: Best Time To Visit The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

If you are going to visit Maine during November or December, Gardens Aglow should be on the top of your list. I know it’s a long list, because Maine is full of:

☑️ winter festivals

☑️ cool outdoor activities like snowmobiling and dog sledding

☑️ awesome winter sports like cross country skiing and ice climbing (for you hardcore winter athletes!).

Gardens Aglow is really a unique experience that you won’t get anywhere else in Maine. I’ve lived in Maine for more winters than I care to acknowledge here, and Gardens Aglow is always on my list because it’s incredibly amazing.

You will find Christmas lights all over Maine this time of year, but the display at Gardens Agow is just breathtaking because you are absolutely surrounded by the lights. You aren’t just driving by or seeing them from the road.

Gardens Aglow is such a beautiful place; you don’t want to miss it. Of all the things you can do during a winter visit to Maine, this is the one you will talk about–and bore your friends with pictures of–for years. It’s that amazing.