There’s nothing Christmassy nor even wintry about this hour-long Palos Verdes trail, yet its nine stellar installations are the most cosmically mesmerizing of the budding after-dark botanical garden shows that’ve come to blanket L.A. toward the end of the year.
While some other year-end light shows seem less focused on moment-to-moment encounters and more on the photogenic snaps you’ll walk away with, Astra Lumina feels truly experiential. You’ll venture through scenes that interpret the arrival and departure of stars in an earthly garden: archways pulsate with light and mist, perforated lanterns spell out a stargazing journey, shooting stars chase up and down a cylindrical frame, shimmery bulbs blanket a forest floor and tranquil lanterns float among the trees. There’s plenty of wonderfully atmospheric fog along much of the trail, including in a shower of lasers so thick that you’ll swear you can touch them. (It’s also worth mentioning how lovely it is to experience a celebration of the night sky from one of the few locations in L.A. where it’s actually dark enough to see plenty of stars.)
Astra Lumina comes from Canadian entertainment company Moment Factory and replaces GLOW, which ran at South Coast the past two years. There are sixteen other “Lumina Enchanted Night Walk” events that Moment Factory has produced around the globe, and that pedigree brings a clear level of polish: the lighting and sound design are absolutely beautiful, the loose celestial story is uplifting and the installations are well paced (the duration markers at each are much appreciated). It’s rarely flashy and often understated—maybe just slightly too inert in a few installations, if we’re splitting hairs—which makes it stand out among other light shows. If you want an overwhelming barrage of lights and kitsch holiday tunes, know that you won’t find those here; but you will be able to soak up a truly special experience.
The show runs nearly every night through January 15, 2023, and you’ll need a timed ticket to visit (you’re welcome to spend as much time as you’d like once inside, though). Ticket prices ($29 to $33 depending on the night) actually fall toward the cheaper end of these quite-expensive sorts of shows, but the parking fees are a bit disappointing: It’s $20 to park on-site and $8 to be shuttled from an off-site lot about two miles away—otherwise there’s essentially zero street parking within a reasonable walk of the garden.
UPDATE: Since we first wrote about Astra Lumina, it’s been extended into March—though along with it, peak admission and on-site parking prices have increased by $5 each.