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Garden of Lights @ Emperors Palace review, Kempton Park (JHB East)

This is a bit of a different review, because it pertains only to the Festive Season.
Even so, it is a seriously worthwhile one to check out with the kids these holidays - guaranteed to be a fun evening out for all.

Date last visited

December 2011

Location and Setting

Emperors Palace Hotel and Casino, 64 Jones Road, Kempton Park, Johannesburg.
You can find directions and a map on the Emperors Casino website here.

For the kids...

As Christmas approaches, kids just love all the lights and decorations that go up to celebrate the season.
Driving around at night, it is great to see South Africans getting into the spirit by lighting up their houses and gardens... sometimes in the extreme!

Emperors Palace cottoned onto this idea in a huge way in the past, and thankfully they have done it again this year - we heard a lot about the Garden of Lights from friends, so we had to check it out for ourselves.
Don't be put off if the queue is long - it moves quickly and the wait is well worthwhile.

Once you are inside (entrance is free, donations are welcome and go to charity), you are greeted by a fairytale night garden filled with thousands of coloured lights, reindeers, elves, christmas trees and even a host of interesting folk - the kids can have their photos taken with Santa, Cinderella or Captain Hook, and even sit down for a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter :)

The sound of familiar Christmas songs and carols also fills the air as you walk along the garden path, something which just adds to the atmosphere of the place.

Although Emperors Palace certainly has enough in terms of food and drink when everyone gets hungry, the Garden of Lights itself has stalls where you can pick up eats, drinks, novelties, lights and other goodies that will have the kiddies begging you to buy :)

For the adults...

We enjoyed the lights probably as much as our little one did - even adults can appreciate good old Christmas cheer, especially when it is done as well as Emperors Palace have done it.

Make sure you take the camera along, as photo opportunities are all over the place - it feels a bit like a traditional scene from an American Christmas movie... minus the snow and the American accents :)
Speaking of photos, if you are one of those people who carries a half ton DSLR camera around your neck, then bring your tripod while you are at it - you will get some awesome long exposure night shots in the garden :)

A walk through the Garden of Lights will take at least half an hour if you take your time and enjoy it.
Once you are done exploring, you can always head into Emperors itself - there are a host of restaurants where you can sit down for a good meal, and the kids can head to the games arcade if the Garden of Lights has not depleted all of their energy reserves :)

Also, be sure to check out the amazing bronze statue at the entrance to the D'oreale Grande Hotel, which depicts a victorious Roman Emperor.
The statue, which weighs in at 8640kg, was sculpted in Arizona and is believed to be the largest, one piece horse sculpture ever created in bronze.

Anything else?

Entry is free, with donations welcome (to go to charity).
The Garden is open from 03 December 2011 - 03 January 2012, daily from 19:00 - 22:00 (weather permitting).

Final words

This is one of the must-do activities for the Festive Season, if you get the chance.
I would imagine that Emperors Palace will continue to run the Garden of Lights in years to come, because of how hugely popular it has become, but even so, get there while it is on now, just in case!

Getting in touch

(+27) 11 928 1000

(+27) 11 928 1001


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Plebs with Kids visits mainly JHB-based venues, coffee shops, restaurants, play areas and other such establishments.

We rate their kid-friendliness (among other things :) for your convenience, and for the next time you need a place to go, while knowing that your little ones are well catered for.

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