Arika Gregory and Cameron Davis entered the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory on Sunday afternoon without a camera in hand or a hired photographer at their side.
As others posed in front of picturesque poinsettias and pines decked in red and gold, the dating couple wandered the gardens appreciative of the holiday scenes.
The Botanical Conservatory's “Christmas Connections” exhibit runs through Jan. 5.
Davis, who has lived in Fort Wayne a few years, had wanted to bring Gregory to the downtown attraction for a while. Their schedules – Gregory lives in Chicago – finally aligned.
“It's date day,” Davis said. His girlfriend is a Christmas fanatic, he said, and the conservatory offered something different than standard holiday activities.
The indoor setting was also a plus, Gregory said.
“It's warm in here,” she said.
The gardens were especially crowded Sunday given the annual Suzuki Strings Holiday Concert, said Amanda Amstutz, supervisor of public programs and volunteers.
“It's a busy time of year,” she said.
She called the conservatory a hot spot for holiday family photos.
This year, the conservatory is tapping into tradition and nostalgia by decking the gardens in red, green and gold and by including exhibits meant to invoke memories. A kitchen scene, for example, features an open oven containing a cookie sheet of gingerbread men and sugar cookies covered in red and green sprinkles. The exhibit is even rigged to emit baking scents.
“I don't know how long it's lasting,” Amstutz said with a laugh.
Children may also write to Santa inside Santa's Post Office, a structure equipped with tables, a mailbox and blank postcards addressed to Santa Claus, 8 Reindeer Lane, The North Pole, HO HO.
For attendees wanting to avoid the crowds on weekends, Amstutz recommends Sundays because Santa and his reindeer visit on the Saturdays before Christmas – a popular feature.
Amstutz recommends visitors plan for 45 minutes to an hour to fully enjoy the holiday exhibit.
“There's lots to see,” she said.