In recent years, Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens have become the place to be for autumn events and are the host of one of the most talked about events in the West End. GlasGLOW is a much-advertised light show extravaganza that jointed the Glasgow eventscape in 2018 and is back again this year! So here’s everything you need to know about GlasGLOW from tickets and additional safety measures to parking options and, of course, our past experience of the itison event!
So, what is GlasGLOW?
The brainchild of the local voucher company itison, GlasGLOW is a light and sound experience based in the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow’s West End. For 2020, the shows are still going ahead and are running nightly from the 29th October until the 15th of November and are loosely based around Halloween.
Similar to many illumination trails such as the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry or the winter trails taking place in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, GlasGLOW is very family orientated but aims to please both children and adults with its animated light shows. The evening has always been mostly open air with a short section in the Kibble Palace glasshouse but this year to comply with restrictions the event will be completely outdoors and involves following a route around the Botanic Gardens at your own pace.
To make the best use of the light show, the fun kicks off after dark so the Botanic Gardens are still open to the public as usual during the day but shut at 4.00pm to allow the start of the GlasGLOW evenings from 5.00pm.
Our previous experience at GlasGLOW
We’ve now visited the GlasGLOW event twice. We typically opt to explore GlasGLOW the night before Halloween to get in the spooky mood and to check out how much of a Halloween celebration the night would be!
Arrival and GlasGLOW tickets
So far we’ve always managed to get Early Bird tickets at a reduced price – which we’d highly recommend. When booking you need to pick a time slot. Slots go from 5.00pm until 9.15pm.
The entrance times have been quite relaxed in the past but the event does advise to ensure you are there 10 minutes before your start time. We suspect that due to the ongoing social distancing requirements timeslots will be much more regulated this year. On both our previous visits we have ended up in a long (but moving) queue at the gate so do prepare to wait a little while to get in. Ticker holder are allowed to enter the Botanic Gardens in batches which I assume matches how many people are leaving to ensure a safe capacity inside the park.
For 2020, people are being asked to follow all the latest government and local guidelines so you will need to wear your mask and socially-distance in the entry queue outside GlasGLOW (excluding those who are exempt and under 5s). As an outdoor attraction mask wearing inside the Botanic Gardens is optional but personally we would recommend.
What to expect from the GlasGLOW experience
Itison describes the night a world of light, sound and magic. This year the theme is The Power Within but not too many more specifics. The event will also have a range of superhero type zones including The Origin Story, Power Up Time and Meet Your Nemisis. In light of this years difficult circumstances, the team behind the event what you to be the hero of your own story ending the trail with a section also called The Power Within.
Once through the ticket check the first section of the route is the illuminated glasshouses which look amazing lit up after dark but won’t be accessible this year. Remember that this year the entire night is open air so dress in warm clothes and prepare for rain. As you begin the outdoor route, the paths are all well signposted so you know which way to go next and can follow the one way system.
To help with social distancing there will be a reduced capacity this year to help give everyone a bit more space. They have also widened paths throughout the route and implementing social distanced queues at catering spots and the toilets.
In the past classic Halloween elements included illuminated scarecrows, fog-filled cemeteries and pumpkin patches but each year beings a new theme and new attractions. In 2018, there were Aztec-themed areas and large totem pole sections and in 2019 and alien space ship crash and a gamers section. This year expect ultraviolent paint displays, smoke machines, endless selfie worthy insta-spots and of course, plenty of superhero scenes! A, small spoiler, a giant illuminated rainbow for all the heroes of this difficult year will also play a part in the night. There has also be mention of a raise platform where you’ll be up in the tree canopy as part of the Power Up Time zone.
The final section and the absolute showstopper of the GlasGLOW event is the ever-present field of lights at the end of the trail. Covering the vast lawns of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens and encompassing the surrounding trees, the finale piece is a fantastic light and music show which really does dazzle. There are spooky faces created from lights on the trees but, other than this, the set is more magical Christmas than haunted Halloween but it doesn’t really matter as it is visually stunning. There are plenty of benches throughout the park but other than at the food stalls, this certainly seemed to be where more people were stopping to just sit and enjoy the light show.
How long do you need to go round GlasGLOW?
Itison give visitors a 90 minute slot when they purchase their ticket. On the night we went along there didn’t seem to be any way that this was being enforced so once you have your ticket check at the entrance you are good to go. The night seemed to be more working on a staggered arrival time and flexible finish. The only time the 90 minutes would likely come into play is the final time slot of the night when the event is closing. Personally, we took approximately 60 minutes to go round but this is based on having eaten before arrival and therefore not stopping to eat in GlasGLOW. We also went as a couple and did not have small children with us. There is certainly no rush to get round quick so do take your time and enjoy the night.
Is GlasGLOW scary?
Definitely not. Not even for the tiny kiddies including toddlers that were present when we visited. But do remember that all children are different and the event hosts do say that while it isn’t itended to be scary, but some parts might be a bit overwhelming for some small children. From our previous experience there are no loud noises, nothing jumps out at you and certainly no scary faces or ghostly things that go bump in the night. Mostly the event is lovely light festival and doesn’t really need the Halloween theme at all.
Food and drink at GlasGLOW
If you’re heading to the GlasGLOW night, the organisers ask that you do not take food or drink into the park and there is a strict no alcohol policy but we didn’t spot any bag searches on our visit. There are several food vans which are pretty central within the route selling pizza and burgers, churros and various other hot meals and drinks. There is also a stop further on in the park that you can buy and toast marshmallows on an open fire which is a nice addition. Prices didn’t seem too high especially for the surrounding Glasgow West End with burgers between £4 and £7.
If you want to head out before or after there are many options along nearby Byres Road, Ashton Lane or Great Western Road and the various spots around the West End. Many of the restaurants and cafes in the local vicinity are also offering discounts and special offers for GlasGLOW ticket holders so have a look to see what options are available if you want to make a night of it. Remember that, due to the event, the West End is busier than normal and possible ongoing lockdown restriction may impact booking so you may want to plan ahead and factor in extra waiting times for your night.
Getting there and parking at GlasGLOW
Public transport is the best option for getting to the Botanic Gardens. There are a large number of buses from the city centre and elsewhere into the West End with most stopping along Great Western Road. If you are heading by train the nearest stops are Hyndland, approx 20 minutes away, or Partick train station which is around 25 to 30 minutes walk to the entrance. The subway is also a good option and Hillhead underground station in only a five minute wander along Byres Road.
Due to very limited parking in the West End, driving isn’t really recommended and there is certainly no parking options on the streets surrounding the Botanic Gardens. If you do opt to take the car you may find free parking near Kelvingrove Park and further afield if you don’t mind a walk or paid parking at Gibson Street Car Park behind Ashton Lane.
Are there any tickets left for GlasGLOW 2020?
Yes! But they are limited. GlasGLOW will be running until the 15th of November so there are still dates left to head along and enjoy the colourful festivities. Tickets are currently priced at £14 -£18 per adult and £9 – £11.50 per child and are available only from the official itison GlasGLOW site.
GlasGLOW is expected to returning in 2021 so if you’ve missed out this year then there will certainly be a chance to experience the illuminations again next year. Remember to keep an eye out for announcements as early bird tickets are a great discount too!
Are you attending GlasGLOW this year? Have you been to a similar event somewhere that you would recommend? Drop your suggestions in the comments!
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