STOCKBRIDGE — Looking for the spirit of the holidays?
You just might find it at Naumkeag, where Winterlights has returned for its second year.
There, you can follow a candy cane-lined path up the estate's iconic Blue Steps, find a "gingerbread" village as you wind your way on a trail ablaze in colorful lights and stroll along a Rainbow Road.
"We are trying to re-create our spaces, look at them differently, be imaginative and get new people here — people who may not go to a historic home or garden otherwise. We think that it's working," said Brian Cruey, general manager at Naumkeag and director of The Trustees of Reservations' properties in the Southern Berkshires during a press preview event. "We've had really big turnouts for The Pumpkin Show, Winterlights [in 2018], and the Daffodil Show in the spring. As long as you guys keep coming, we'll keep doing fun things."
And this year, Winterlights at Naumkeag doubled down on the number of lights it has on display. There are over 200,000 LED lights shimmering and twinkling over its 8 acres of terraced gardens — nearly double the 120,000 that Winterlights debuted with last November.
And this year, the Chinese Temple Garden is part of the fun. Seated at the top of the historic 46-acre estate, delicate paper lanterns float above the garden's courtyard — hidden by massive stone walls — as visitors make their way past authentic statuary into a stone temple decked out in silver and gold. Here, children and adults alike are encouraged to reach out and touch the color-changing sequin-covered walls.
The Chinese Temple Garden is just one of several smaller garden "rooms," including the Peony Terrace, the Linden Walk and Ronde Pointe, as well as the Afternoon, Rose and Evergreen gardens that make up the landscape surrounding the 44-room Gilded Age mansion that once served as the summer home of Joseph Choate and his family. The house was built by the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1885 for Choate, a prominent New York lawyer and ambassador. The gardens were developed over three decades by renowned landscape architect Fletcher Steele and Mabel Choate, who inherited the house and estate from her parents. She bequeathed the estate to The Trustees in 1958.
Similar to last year, Naumkeag's gardens are bathed in color — reds, greens, yellows, blues and purples; while fountains, dormant in cold weather, shoot frozen blue spouts of colored lights into the air. Cruey said visitors can expect that and more this season.
"It will feel like a totally new experience, even if you came last year," he said.
Naumkeag is one of three Trustees' properties to host Winterlights this holiday season.
The holiday light show also returns to Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover, for a second season as well. A third garden property, the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton, debuted its own version of Winterlights this month.
Naumkeag's rendition, Cruey said, brought about 22,000 people to the property last winter.
"Last year was great. We were so thrilled [with the turnout]," he said. "When you go into these things, you don't know what it's going to be like in your first year. It's hard to gauge. It was great that people responded the way they did, and I hope they feel the same way about it and some of the other new things we're doing this year."
The goal, he said, is not only to bring new faces to the estate, but to keep them coming back.
"This is becoming a yearly tradition for us as a statewide organization," Cruey said. "We hope it's becoming a tradition for you and your families, as well."