According to philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”
And it’s that boundless world that Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove is inviting guests to enter with its current season, the World of Aurora.
As the sun sets slowly behind the mountains, leaving the valley shadowed in darkness, the lights of Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove begin to twinkle on, offering a warm welcome to passersby — a glistening oasis of sorts for the world-worn and weary.
Not that festive lights are a strange sight during the Christmas season, quite the contrary. But it’s rare that those shimmering displays are accompanied by quite the same spirit.
“We’ve added a lot this year,” said Evermore CEO and founder Ken Bretschneider during a walk-through of the park on a recent weekday evening. “We’ve added probably a couple hundred thousand lights.”
But the lights are just the beginning.
Evermore opened to the public in the fall of 2018, offering visitors with the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a story — to interact with characters, explore a new world of possibility, use their imaginations and experience a new level of entertainment.
According to the park’s website, “Evermore is a world of play for all ages, immersed in a fantasy European hamlet of imagination.”
This year marks the second incarnation of Aurora, and a full year of growth for the venue, with new features consistently popping up to enhance the guest experience.
“It’s just a good place to come and hang out for the season,” Bretschneider said. “There’s just a lot to do here and a lot more to see in general than most places in the valley, as far as the whole overall light experience, and then being in this old village. … People really love the experience.”
Entering Evermore is like taking a step back in time, as new and old mesh together in a seamless experience that will carry guests through the jovial chatter and laughter of the tavern to the imposing aura of the graveyard with its original tombstones before moving on to the warmth and light of the festively decorated Burrows — a cave-like structure so bright and welcoming you might find yourself wanting to move in.
Around each corner is a new surprise, with incredible attention to detail and plenty of intricate nods to the past. For example, the Murtlock Mausoleum looms over the graveyard, featuring arches from the 1600s, statues from the 1700s, finials from the 12th century and columns from the 11th century, literally 1,000 years old, all meshed into a breathtaking view where it’s nearly impossible to decipher the old from the new.
Though the mausoleum has been around from the start of the park, new construction includes a train track that loops around the majority of Evermore, offering some pretty impressive views, as well as a sweets shop dubbed The Copper Confection featuring hand-crafted donuts, European chocolates, bulk candy displays and some incredible European-based ice cream, both soft and hard.
Both the train and confectionery are anticipated to open during Aurora, with work well under way on a themed restaurant that will come to life in the already functioning event space near the entrance of the park within the next year.
As to Aurora itself, the park is offering guests two very distinct experiences. Guests can dive into the story surrounding Evermore with the World of Aurora each Monday, Friday and Saturday, where the park will be bustling with “World Walkers” (the unique name for visitors to the venue) as well as citizens of Evermore, talented actors who delve into their roles and create a realm of magic and mystery where the story can evolve every night.
The “Christmas Walk of Lights,” on the other hand, offers a quieter experience, with just a handful of actors and the opportunity to explore Evermore’s unique village, architectural mastery and dazzling light displays.
Though nestled just off the freeway in Pleasant Grove, Evermore has drawn national and international attention, from a feature in the Los Angeles Times to a designation as one of the 2019 World’s Coolest Places by TIME for Kids.
“They need to come and experience it,” Bretscneider said of those who haven’t yet visited Evermore. “It’s festive — it’s like stepping back into old Europe for a moment during the Christmas season and there’s not too many places anywhere in the country really to go that’s like that, so it’s unique that way.”