Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Time to See the Christmas Lights at Temple Square

The LDS Church's Temple Square in Salt Lake City is always an interesting place to visit. But around Christmastime each year it becomes a major holiday destination as its trees are lit up with hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of lights. The effect is magical.

In addition to the lights, there is always a special Christmas display in the North Visitor Center and a life size presentation of the Nativity story on the lawn between that building and the historic tabernacle. The Nativity story plays over and over with lights shining on staged scenes and speakers conveying professional narration along with music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A beautiful Nativity scene graces the center of the reflecting pond. Small clear balls with lights that appear to be lit candles float on the surface of the pond. A walkway is lined with Christmas lanterns. Nativity sets reflecting various cultures grace a number of spots.

Temple Square at night during Christmastime is indeed magical. There are only a couple of drawbacks: parking and crowds. The lights and displays make the place such a popular holiday destination that the press of people on any night of the holiday season can make the experience difficult. This is particularly so for families with young children and strollers, as well as for anyone with mobility challenges.

My wife and I visited Temple Square one evening about a week and a half ago only because we were attending an event at the Salt Lake Temple that concluded in the early evening. As we walked around sans kids, I was reminded of the times we had navigated the crowds with our kids and recalled the difficulty of maneuvering a stroller while also managing young children on foot that could easily get lost in the crowd.

We have found that the best time to visit Temple Square to see the Christmas lights and displays is AFTER Christmas. The lights stay lit each night until just after New Year. (The website says that they will only be lit through December 31 this year.) But once Christmas is over the crowds diminish, as do the panhandlers and anti-Mormons that line the sidewalks around Temple Square.

I would say that the experience of strolling around Temple Square after Christmas beats being pushed along in a stream of people before Christmas. It would seem that most people that want to see the lights feel as if it absolutely must happen before Christmas, perhaps to help them get into the spirit of the season. But in my mind, the relaxed pace and easier parking after Christmas more than make up for anything lost by missing the lights before Christmas.

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