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Prepare to be dazzled at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

November 25, 2017 GMT

Of the 40 million trees expected to be put up for the holidays in the United States, there are 42 in Grand Rapids, Mich., that should not be missed.

Part of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s annual “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World” exhibit, the decorated trees and festive displays deck the halls, nooks and crannies of the main buildings on the 158-acre site.

“This year, we pause to reflect on the many unique and beautiful ways that holiday traditions are observed all over the world,” said Steve LaWarre, director of horticulture at Meijer Gardens.

From the polished Hanukkah menorahs to the golden glass ornaments on traditional trees, visitors discover a variety of reflective surfaces designed to reinforce the end of the year theme of reflection.

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Fan favorite mainstays of the annual exhibition include the Germany tree, adorned with handmade glass ornaments and homemade springerle cookies; the England tree — with antique Christmas cards and mistletoe; and the beautiful Eid al-Fitr display, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. My favorites were a little closer to home — the U.S.A. tree tugged at my heart with its vintage elves tucked among the branches. So did the Canadian tree as it embraced the great outdoors in winter. Both trees are flocked, too.

An enchanting Railway Garden winds its way through three lush indoor garden spaces. There’s a to-scale sized trolley and train that chugs by 30 miniaturized landmarks found throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, such as the Fifth Third Ballpark. The ballpark is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. Mental note: Return in the summer, visit the Japanese Garden and take in a game.

The botanic side of the gardens also is present through fresh poinsettias, orchids and amaryllis. There’s the scent of fresh evergreens and, if you are visiting at just the right time, the sounds of carolers fill the halls. Through Dec. 18, the Original Dickens Carolers, dressed in Dickensian costumes, perform between 6 and 8 p.m on Tuesdays.

We were told Santa shows up on Tuesdays, too, for a couple of hours before the carolers; on weekends, reindeer make an appearance; and throughout the season, there are photo ops for holiday cards at every curve of the halls. Check with the desk for daily activities, from wintertime walks to a roster of festive hands-on activities.

P.S. For the engineer that lives within each of us, here are some stats. For the holiday season, there are more than 300,000 lights strung on trees at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Of those, 42 trees are indoors as part of the 23rd annual “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World” exhibit on display from Nov. 21 through Jan. 7. For the holiday season, visiting hours are extended, too.