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Walking in a Wilshire Wonderland: Gainesville Parks & Rec turns on the lights to this inaugural display
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The inaugural Wilshire Wonderland of Lights is on display at Wilshire Trails, part of the Rock Creek Greenway in Gainesville. Featuring 22,000 lights, the decorations will shine nightly through January 2022. Photo courtesy Gainesville Parks and Recreation
Wilshire Wonderland of Lights

When: 3-11 p.m. nightly

Where: 849 Wilshire Trails Road

How much: Free

More info: www.gainesville.org/wilshirewonderland

Snow may not be glistening at Wilshire Trails, but a stream of 22,000 lights lines the quarter-mile trailway as Gainesville Parks and Recreation ties the bow on the inaugural Wilshire Wonderland of Lights.

Illuminated nightly through early January, the wonderland paves the way for families to visit the North Pole and drop a note in Santa’s mailbox sans the postage or extensive travel time.

According to Gainesville Parks and Recreation Director Kate Mattison, the idea of bringing a walkable light display to Wilshire Trails has been more than 15 years in the making.

“We felt that it would be an incredible opportunity to take a chance and try to make it come to fruition (this year), because we could all use a little boost from the last 18 months-2 years,” Mattison said. “Something to bring back a sense of community and joy to all of our lives.”

With COVID-19 concerns still hanging in the air, Mattison said the city wanted to shy away from welcoming guests in droves. Instead, the wonderland has been designed for folks to leisurely “ooh” and “aah” and create their next collection of Kodak moments throughout the holiday season.

Displays are still joining the Christmas village and tree farm, Radio Flyer runway and the herd of reindeer grazing the hillside inside the park, according to Julie Butler Colombini, Gainesville Parks and Recreation’s marketing and communications manager. Many of the displays are visible from Wilshire Road, enabling those who might struggle with covering a roundtrip half-mile to still glimpse the magic from the comfort of their vehicle.

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The inaugural Wilshire Wonderland of Lights is on display at Wilshire Trails, part of the Rock Creek Greenway in Gainesville. Featuring 22,000 lights, the decorations will shine nightly through January 2022. Photo courtesy Gainesville Parks and Recreation

A series of pop-up events will take place throughout December, including holiday tunes crooned by the Gainesville High School Choir, photo-ops with Santa and a dual “pup parade” and food truck night. 

There’s no cost to stroll the wonderland; donations, however, will be accepted online by the Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways.

While Wilshire’s is the first wonderland to grace the city’s trail system, Mattison said it’s only the beginning; as the new tradition builds momentum year after year, the ultimate goal is to expand the Christmas cheer to the entire Rock Creek Greenway, from Veteran’s Park all the way to Longwood Park by the lake.

The Wilshire Wonderland of Lights is sponsored by Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways, Northeast Georgia Health System and Metro by T-Mobile.

“We could not have done this without our sponsors and their willingness to take a chance on Parks and Recreation, with nothing more to go on than an idea we presented in a meeting,” Mattison said. “We are so appreciative of their support.”

For more information, visit www.gainesville.org/wilshirewonderland.

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