Debut of ‘Winter Lights' Illuminates Vermont Landmark This Holiday Season

Shelburne Museum is opening its grounds for a new holiday experience, which is expected to become an annual tradition

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Instagram feeds across Vermont are about to get much brighter with the launch this week of a new holiday tradition from one of the state's best-known landmarks.

"I think it'll be wonderful," Chip Stulen predicted of Shelburne Museum, referring to "Winter Lights."

The offering debuts on Black Friday and is then open Thursdays through Saturdays through New Year's Day.

Tickets are required for an outdoor walk to see 12 museum buildings and gardens decorated in bright, colorful ways -- all set to recorded music.

The steamboat Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum in lit up for "Winter Lights.'
The steamboat Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum in lit up for "Winter Lights.'

The star may just be the 1905 steamboat Ticonderoga, a National Historic Landmark now docked on the museum grounds. Blue lights around the ship's hull were arranged to mimic a return to Lake Champlain.

"This is a perfect site for something like this," Stulen said of the nonprofit's campus. "You've got the grounds, you've got the buildings, you've got the topography and you can just kind of lay it out into different venues and different experiences throughout the grounds."


Museum Director Tom Denenberg said he took inspiration from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which has seen its winter offering grow into a big draw for the community.

"Moving outdoors in the museum world is a trend," Denenberg noted.

The Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts, has a popular version, too, and even Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, hosts a drive-through lights experience.

It's not Thanksgiving yet, but Gillette Stadium is putting on a holiday lights show.

Denenberg said the new Shelburne Museum program is part of a goal to showcase the landmark as more than just a summertime destination.

"It lets us really use the facility year-round," he added. "The vast majority of the campus was closed. So this was a way of really bringing something new to the community, to our campus, to Vermont."

Expansions of the debuting "Winter Lights" concept are already in the work for future years, Denenberg said.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids 3-17, the museum said. Admission is free for children under 3.

For more information, visit the Shelburne Museum website.

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