By Mabell, Dave on November 9, 2019.
For millions of travellers who love public gardens, Lethbridge has become a prime destination.
The city’s famous Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden has been named one of the top 10 garden attractions “worth travelling for” across North America.
That distinction was announced this week at the North American Garden Tourism Conference in Victoria. The award, recommended by jurors representing garden-related attractions across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, places the garden in the same league as the Butchart Gardens near Victoria and the University of Alberta Botanic Garden near Devon.
“Our team is small but mighty, so it’s a huge honour to be on the same stage as these other larger gardens and also be recognized as a leader in garden tourism,” says Nikka Yuko executive director Michelle Day.
“It goes to show that our hard work is paying off and gives us more opportunities to attract travellers from around the world to Lethbridge.”
Day also gave a keynote address at the conference earlier this week.
“Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden’s Recipe to Garden Tourism Success” highlighted the work that’s been done to create a garden that uses traditional Japanese elements, but also reflects the community that nurtures it.
As “garden tourism” grows, she said, many gardens operators are investing more in attraction development.
In Lethbridge, she pointed out, Nikka Yuko is looking forward to opening a new building in the spring of 2021.
It’s designed to enhance the visitor experience, Day said, and will give the garden a chance to boost its reputation worldwide.
Part of that reputation is the garden’s Winter Light Festival, now ready for its fourth year. Marketing and events manager Melanie Berdusco announced new features for the event, which drew nearly 15,000 visitors a year ago.
The Little Lethbridge Opera Company, which presented “Madame Butterfly” at the garden’s Golden Maple Reception in September, will return to offer songs from “The Mikado” on Saturday nights, adding to the ambiance of the festival.
Outside the garden an art installation, “Deep Dark” will welcome guests. Co-curated by Jane Edmundson and Tyler Stewart, it was created by internationally-recognized Calgary artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett. The installation, funded in part by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the City of Lethbridge Public Art Small Projects Program, will be free for all guests to walk through.
Also outside the garden’s gate, she said two horse-drawn wagons will be available Saturdays for 20-minute rides in Henderson Park. And taking visitors further afield, a partnership with the California Dream limousine operators will provide a Christmas lights tour of the city along with a visit to the illuminated garden.
Nikka Yuko is also working with VisitLethbridge.com and members of the Lethbridge Lodging Association to offer “package” prices to out-of-town visitors, Berdusco said.
And to allow everyone ready access to the Winter Light Festival, she said this year admission tickets may be purchased from Ticket Centre locations at the Yates and the Enmax, as well as online.
The light festival will open Thursday to Saturday from Nov. 29 to Jan. 31.
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