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December 21, 2023




A Magical Experience


About a month back, I was sitting at my desk working and a text chimed in on my phone from my daughter Ashley. I took a quick peek, and it was on our “Mitchell Family Text” group. Ashley was asking if there was any interest in going to the IllumiNature exhibit at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Ashley thought Alaia (our two-year-old granddaughter) would enjoy seeing the lights. I sent a quick reply stating that Linda and I were definitely in. However, truth be told, I thought it would be a “meh” type of experience at best and wasn’t particularly excited about it.


I Thought "Meh"


Fast forward about a week later, towards the end of November, we were scheduled to watch Alaia overnight as her parents were headed to the coast to celebrate their 4th wedding anniversary. Linda and I had already planned to take Alaia to the zoo and this is what ultimately shifted my “meh” attitude of the IllumiNature exhibit to that of an attitude of excitement and anticipation.


Check out this Short Video I shot of our Evening:


Even during the daytime, I could tell it would be spectacular at night! And, I don’t believe they were even fully set up at that point. The various light displays looked amazing, even unlit during the day. It wasn’t a small meager setup either, the lights were everywhere, throughout the park in epic sizes and proportions.


We Met at Me-n-Eds for Pizza


Time sure does fly by these days and this was no exception, I blinked and another several weeks had quickly passed by and it was now Monday, December 18th, and we were scheduled to meet our family that evening for IllumiNature. We met at the Me-n-Eds Pizza in the Tower District at 5 pm for a quick dinner before we headed to the zoo. The evening's participants: our granddaughter Alaia, Ashley and her husband Sam, our son Luke, his wife Dasha and my mom joined in as well.



Linda and I were the last to arrive and as we walked into Me-n-Eds and saw our family sitting in the back, chatting away, and laughing as they waited for us, it really was a surreal feeling in that moment for me as a parent. Feeling totally at home with people you can completely be yourself around. Knowing they have your back, and you have theirs. There is a peace to that which is so warming, and I embraced it and thoroughly enjoyed dinner.  


Once we finished eating, we headed over to the zoo and I can now in retrospect say for certain, my anticipation was well-founded. It was the best holiday light display I have ever seen. Each display is a handmade Chinese Lantern that is 3 dimensional and either life-sized or considerably bigger.


A Magical Evening


As you walk in, there is a huge peacock whose feathers retract and then expand all the while, changing combinations of different vibrant colors. It was exceptionally beautiful. Two of my favorite displays were a huge snow globe with a carousel that was spinning on the inside. The other was a long tunnel corridor that had been erected which was truly magical.



We watched Alaia as she ran from display to display. She was running around the entire evening and her energy never waned. She absolutely had the time of her life and it was so fun to watch.


Linda and I are already discussing that we would like to go back and experience it again.


If you haven’t had an opportunity to experience this for yourself, or, you were like me and thought it was going to be a dud, make some plans as soon as you can and you can thank me later. Your family will LOVE IT.


Merry Christmas!

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