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Behind the Scenes of Olbrich's Holiday Express

Setting up Olbrich's Holiday Express takes weeks of work and the coordination of many people. A group of horticulturists and garden staff start with an empty room and transform it into a holiday wonderland. This web page will show the daily behind-the-scenes changes as Olbrich's Holiday Express evolves. Check back often to see the progress!

Olbrich's Holiday Express is open December 6 though 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.


Poinsettias galore!

Poinsettias and gingerbread houses from above

A sea of red, white, and pink poinsettias compliment creative gingerbread houses and model trains. Olbrich's Holiday Express is almost ready to open!

Poinsettias are added

Finishing touches are almost done! Poinsettias grown in Olbrich's greenhouses add holiday cheer.

Poinsettias are added

gingerbread houses

Gingerbread houses added to Olbrich's Holiday Express

Gingerbread houses from Madison area bakers are added to Olbrich's Holiday Express. Each gingerbread house is unique with creative touches such as candy cane fences, ice cream cone evergreen trees, and tiny people made of frosting.

Gingerbread houses added to Olbrich's Holiday Express


wreath is hung

Wreath is hung in Olbrich's lobby

A large holiday wreath is hung by horticulture staff in the lobby of Olbrich's Botanical Center.


poinsettias in olbrich's greenhouse

Poinsettias in Olbrich's Greenhouse

Poinsettias are grown from cuttings in Olbrich's greenhouse. The cuttings are planted in August, and are now waiting to decorate Olbrich's Holiday Express! A variety of these poinsettias are available for purchase in Olbrich's Growing Gifts shop.

Poinsettias in Olbrich's Greenhouse


Wooden fence

Wooden fence protects the trains

A wooden fence protects the model trains from accidental derailments!

Wooden fence protects the trains


olbrich's lobby is decorated

Garland is hung throughout Olbrich's lobby

Olbrich's lobby is decorated from floor to ceiling!

Holiday trees and poinsettias in Olbrich's lobby

The lobby in Olbrich's Botanical Center begins to look festive with holiday trees and poinsettias.


train tracks

Train track as seen from above

The train track laid. Small amounts of gravel especially for model train tracks is added. These details make the track look like the real thing!

Train track is laid for Olbrich's Holiday Express

Cement blocks are covered with burlap before the track is laid.

Train track is laid for Olbrich's Holiday Express


undecorated Gingerbread train

A gingerbread train is being made for Olbrich's Holiday Express

As Olbrich's staff prepares for Olbrich's Holiday Express, Madison area bakers are creating gingerbread houses and a gingerbread train for the show. The gingerbread creations, decorated with colored frosting and an array of candy, will add to the festive atmosphere of Olbrich's Holiday Express!


cement blocks are the foundation of the train track

Cement blocks and pine trees as seen from above

The shape of the train track can be seen from above.

Cement blocks are laid for train track foundation

Cement blocks are used as the foundation for the train tracks.

Cement blocks are laid for the train track foundation


pine trees

Progress on Day 1 from Above

Pine trees are brought in on the first day of set up. L.E.D. lights, which use less energy than traditional holiday lights, are strung on all the trees.

Trees are Brought in on Day 1

The smell of freshly cut pine trees fills the entire building!

Trees are Brought in on Day 1


before setup begins

Atrium Before Holiday Show Set Up

Olbrich's Atrium, the setting for Olbrich's Holiday Express, starts as an empty room.


Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719