Monday, June 18, 2018

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time

The newest exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is exciting beyond words...you must see it in real-life! It takes you to a time when you loved playing make-believe, a time of fairy-tales, a time of larger-than-life mysterious and mythical creatures...it takes you to "Imaginary Worlds".


Dragon | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Dragon | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Atlantans and tourists were blown away when Imaginary Worlds came to the Atlanta Botanical Garden in 2013 and again in 2014. The new exhibition, Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time, far surpasses the wonderment we we knew then, as impossible as that sounds. 

The Dragon on the Great Lawn has become an immediate visitor favorite, and be sure to not miss the Sleeping Princess in the flower bed at its feet.

I've already seen the exhibition numerous times, with my 20+ years friend Jeff and fellow friends, my foodie friend Sally, my dear friend Katherine from D.C. who now lives in Florida, and I got to go on the media preview before the exhibition opened to the public...the sculptures have grown in nicely since then. And I'm going back at least a few times in the next couple of months! 

"Imaginary Worlds was just so incredibly popular with our guests that we just had to bring it back—but with an all-new twist," said Mary Pat Matheson, the Garden’s President & CEO, who had assumed leadership of the Garden only a couple of years before she bought Chihuly to to the Atlanta Botanical Garden in 2004 (the first time), the grandest visionary move since the Conservatory opened in 1989.


Pegasus | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Pegasus | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time is a storybook-themed exhibition, featuring magical and mythical creatures in more than a dozen installations displayed outdoors and indoors.

Cocktails in the Garden is back, too! That means you get to see the sculptures dramatically lit as the sun goes down. Some of the creatures have illuminated eyes, including the Pegasus, that are more like catchlight than glowing...they're spectacular! 

The hours for Cocktails in the Garden have changed to half an hour earlier. It's now 5:30pm to 9:30pm, which is great news for those of us who enjoy going straight from the office.


Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

As if the sculptures alone weren't exciting enough, Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time is a two-year exhibition! This year it runs through Sunday, October 28, but don't wait. Once you've seen it the first time, you'll want to go again and again and again.

The sculptures were created by International Mosaiculture of Montreal and were then transported in environmentally-controlled trucks more than 1,200 miles to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It took a period of time to complete the installation once onsite.


Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Being three-dimensional, be sure to take advantage of seeing the whole of the sculptures that you can, particularly the Phoenix. You can't miss the Phoenix as you walk up the Promenade toward Longleaf restaurant. It's perched on the edge of Alston Overlook, the highest point in the Garden.

During one visit, there was a storyteller who dramatically told the story of the Phoenix and its connection to Atlanta...not a boring recant of historical facts (don't get me wrong, I love history), but a fantastical regaling of the rebirth of Atlanta!


Fire Artist| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fire Artist| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Speaking of fiery events, there was also a roving barker and fire artist who put on a spectacular show! There's lots of entertainment, a bit of it roving, so keep your eyes out! 


Camels| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Camels| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Be sure to check out the Skyline Garden, behind the Conservatory and Orchid Center, where you'll see a trio of traveling Camels, and if you're there for Cocktails in the Garden, there's another bar over there, that probably has the shortest line!


Faerie| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Faerie| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The sculptures are not the only magical creatures in the Garden! On one particular evening, there was a violin-playing faerie!

I don't know what other entertainment is planned for Cocktails in the Garden, but it's so far been absolutely fantastical! Do say "Hello!" and ask to make a photo with them...the entertainers have all been wonderfully friendly.


Woolly Mammoth | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Woolly Mammoth | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

While I love the dragon and the phoenix, the Woolly Mammoth is monumentally magnificent! And it's a natural fit in its Atlanta Botanical Garden habitat. 

Some of the creatures are seemingly hidden, but if you miss one going in one direction, you'll see it on your return. My recommendation is that you pick up an exhibition map upon arrival so that you're sure not to miss anything! 


Earth Goddess | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Earth Goddess | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

We here in Atlanta have enjoyed Earth Goddess (Ice Goddess during the holiday lights show) and Shaggy Dog since the 2013 exhibition and they're as delightful as ever. 

If you're visiting Atlanta or going to the Garden for the first time for the first time in many years, Earth Goddess was one of the sculptures that we kept after that exhibition finished, like the three Chihuly glass sculptures we kept after their respective exhibitions.

Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville is in on the action, too! They're hosting the Ogre that we enjoyed a few years back. For a creature known to not have a terribly pleasant disposition, this Ogre is so much fun! Their exhibition is Imaginary Worlds: Ogre and Friends, some of the friends being Pandas!!!


Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a must-see to get a true sense of the wonders that Atlanta offers and Cocktails in the Garden, on Thursday evenings, is perfect for a date night, a get together with friends, and definitely for "something different" to do. See you there!

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