Step into a Fairy Tale at the Chicago Lantern Festival

The Chicago Lantern Festival is a yearly magical celebration of light and culture in the Windy City. The festival is inspired by the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Hundreds of handcrafted lanterns are displayed during the festival in Chicago’s famous Garfield Park Conservatory. The lanterns come in various shapes, sizes, and colours, and they are illuminated with LED lights that create a mesmerizing visual display. Visitors can walk through the conservatory and marvel at the lanterns, taking in the intricate designs and the stunning beauty of the light.

The Lantern Festival is more than just a visual spectacle, however. It also features a range of cultural performances and activities, including traditional Chinese music and dance, calligraphy demonstrations, and various arts and crafts. Visitors can try making lanterns or participating in other hands-on activities showcasing Chinese culture.

One of the festival’s highlights is the nightly light show, where the lanterns are illuminated in sync with the music and sound effects. The show is a stunning display of creativity and technology, and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting the festival.

The Chicago Lantern Festival is an unforgettable and magical event that combines art, culture, and technology to create an unforgettable experience. The event is a celebration of light and beauty.

History of the Chicago Lantern Festival

The Chicago Lantern Festival is a relatively new event that started in 2019, although the tradition of lantern festivals dates back centuries in many parts of the world. The festival takes place in the evenings from mid-November to mid-January at the Chicago Botanic Garden, located in the suburb of Glencoe, Illinois.

The lantern festival features a stunning display of illuminated lanterns, including more than 50 larger-than-life displays and more miniature lanterns scattered throughout the garden’s 385-acre grounds. The lanterns are designed and handcrafted by artisans from Zigong, China, a city known for its traditional lantern-making techniques.

The festival offers visitors the opportunity to experience Chinese culture, including traditional Chinese music and dance performances, as well as demonstrations of Chinese calligraphy and paper-cutting. The festival also features food and drink vendors offering traditional Chinese cuisine and hot drinks to keep visitors warm on chilly winter evenings.

The Chicago Lantern Festival was inspired by similar events that have become popular in cities around the world. These events include the Lantern Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Garden of Lights at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. The festival has quickly become a beloved winter tradition in the Chicago area, attracting visitors from around the region and beyond.

Lantern Displays

The Chicago Lantern Festival is an annual event held at the end of summer that celebrates Asian culture through the art of lantern-making. Here are some possible lantern displays you might see at the festival:

  • Dragon Lantern: One of the most iconic lanterns you might see at the festival is a giant dragon lantern. The dragon symbolises power, strength, and good luck in many Asian cultures. This lantern is usually brightly coloured and adorned with glitter and sequins.
  • Lotus Lantern: Another famous lantern at the festival is the Lotus Lantern. The lotus flower symbolises purity and enlightenment in many Asian cultures, and this lantern is often shaped like a lotus blossom. It might be made of silk or paper and have intricate cutouts that let the light shine through.
  • Panda Lantern: You might also see a lantern shaped like a panda, a beloved animal in Chinese culture. The Panda lantern might be made of fabric or paper and could be designed to look cute and cuddly or fierce and powerful.
  • Pagoda Lantern: A pagoda is a high standard in Asian architecture. A pagoda lantern might be tall and slender with multiple levels and decorated with traditional patterns or images.
  • Calligraphy Lantern: Calligraphy is a popular art form in many Asian cultures, and a calligraphy lantern might feature elegant brushstrokes or characters that convey a meaningful message or quote.

These are just a few examples of the many lantern displays you might see at the Chicago Lantern Festival. Each year, the festival organizers choose a different theme that inspires the lantern makers, so the displays are always creative and exciting.

Cultural Performances

The Chicago Lantern Festival also features cultural performances that showcase different communities’ music, dance, and traditions. Visitors can enjoy performances by:

  • Chinese lion dancers
  • Korean drummers
  • Mexican folk dancers
  • Indian classical dancers

Lion Dance: The Lion Dance is a traditional Chinese dance performed during festive occasions. It is believed to bring good luck and prosperity. Two dancers wearing lion costumes and mimicking lion movements serve the dance.

Dragon Dance: Dragon Dance is another traditional Chinese dance performed on festive occasions. It is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The dance is performed by a team of dancers who wear a long dragon costume and move it serpentinely.

Traditional Music: The Lantern Festival could feature traditional Chinese performances such as guzheng, erhu, and pipa. These instruments produce beautiful melodies that enhance the festive atmosphere.

Acrobatic Performances: Chinese acrobatic performances can be a thrilling addition to the Lantern Festival. These performances showcase feats of strength, balance, and agility and can include stunts such as plate-spinning, contortionism, and handstands.

Shadow Puppetry: Shadow puppetry is an ancient Chinese art form that involves manipulating cut-out figures behind a screen to tell a story. It could be an outstanding addition to the festival and provide entertainment for all ages.

Traditional Dance: There are many types of traditional Chinese dance, each with its unique style and meaning. Incorporating Chinese dance performances into the festival could help to educate attendees about Chinese culture and customs.


Food and Activities

The Chicago Lantern Festival celebrates Asian culture that typically takes place in the fall, featuring colourful lanterns, music, dance, and food. Here are some food and activity ideas related to the Chicago Lantern Festival:


  • Chinese cuisine: The festival typically features food vendors selling traditional Chinese dishes such as dumplings, noodles, and stir-fries.
  • Japanese cuisine: Look out for sushi, tempura, and bento boxes at the festival.
  • Korean cuisine: Korean barbecue, kimchi, and bibimbap are popular Korean dishes that you may find at the festival.
  • Bubble tea: This Taiwanese drink has become increasingly popular in the US and is often available at Asian festivals.


  • Lantern making: Some festivals may offer workshops to make lanterns.
  • Dragon and lion dances:These traditional dances are often performed at Asian festivals and involve performers dressed in elaborate dragon or lion costumes dancing to the beat of drums and cymbals.
  • Martial arts demonstrations:Watch as skilled martial artists showcase their moves in performances or workshops.
  • Calligraphy and origami workshops:Learn to write your name in Chinese characters or create origami animals in these workshops.
  • Cultural performances:Enjoy music, dance, and other arrangements that showcase the traditions and cultures of Asia.
  • Chinese knot-tying classes:Chinese knot-tying is a traditional art form practised for thousands of years in China. It involves using cords or strings to create intricate knots, which can be used for decoration or as symbols of good luck and prosperity.

Remember that the specific food and activities at the Chicago Lantern Festival may vary yearly, so it’s always a good idea to check the festival’s website for the most up-to-date information.

How to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival in Chicago?

The Chinese Lantern Festival is a traditional festival celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. If you’re in Chicago, there are several ways to celebrate the Lantern Festival:

Attend a lantern festival event: In Chicago, various events and activities celebrate the Lantern Festival. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lantern Festival features over 50 larger-than-life lantern displays, live performances, and cultural activities.

Visit Chinatown: Chicago’s Chinatown is a vibrant community that celebrates the Lantern Festival in various ways. You can stroll around Chinatown, try some traditional Chinese foods, and check out the decorations and lantern displays in the area.

Make your lanterns: If you want to celebrate the Lantern Festival at home, you can make your lanterns. You can find tutorials and templates online and use materials like paper, glue, and string to create your lanterns. You can also decorate your home with red and gold decorations, traditional colours for the festival.

Watch a lantern parade: Some communities in Chicago organize lantern parades to celebrate the Lantern Festival. You can check local events calendars to see if any parades are happening near you.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, the Lantern Festival is a time to come together with family and friends. You can enjoy traditional foods, and appreciate the beauty of lanterns and the culture they represent.

What is the Chicago Lantern Festival?

The Chicago Lantern Festival is an outdoor event featuring a collection of intricate and colourful lanterns designed to represent different aspects of Chinese culture. Skilled artisans make these lanterns in China, using materials such as silk, paper, and wire to create these stunning masterpieces.

When and Where is the Chicago Lantern Festival?

The Chicago Lantern Festival usually takes place in the fall, from late September to early November. The festival is held at Maggie Daley Park, located in downtown Chicago’s heart. This park is a popular destination for locals and tourists, offering stunning views of the city skyline.

What Can You Expect to See at the Chicago Lantern Festival?

You can expect a stunning display of illuminated lanterns in various shapes and sizes at the Chicago Lantern Festival. These lanterns are designed to represent different themes, such as animals, flowers, and mythical creatures. Some of the popular lanterns you can expect to see include the following:

  • A giant dragon that stretches over 100 feet long
  • A colorful peacock with a vibrant display of feathers
  • A massive lotus flower that lights up the sky
  • A group of pandas that play and interact with each other
  • A towering pagoda that stands over 60 feet tall

You can also enjoy cultural performances, such as traditional Chinese dances, music, and martial arts. There are also food vendors offering a variety of delicious Chinese cuisine and drinks.


Why Should You Visit the Chicago Lantern Festival?

These are just some of the reasons you should visit the Chicago Lantern Festival!

Experience the beauty of Asian culture: The lantern displays at the festival are intricate and colourful, showcasing the beauty of Asian culture. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about the culture and appreciate its artistry.

Enjoy a festive atmosphere: The festival has a fun and festive atmosphere with cultural performances, food and drink vendors, and interactive exhibits. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family during the holiday season.

Try delicious food and drinks: The festival offers a variety of Asian-inspired food and beverages, such as hot pots, dumplings, bao buns, and bubble tea. Visitors can also enjoy traditional Chinese snacks such as sweet rice balls and sesame balls.

Learn something new: The festival offers guided tours and cultural activities that allow visitors to learn more about the lantern displays and the culture behind them. It’s an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge and understanding of different cultures.

Create lasting memories: The Chicago Lantern Festival is a unique and memorable experience you’ll remember for years. The lantern displays are perfect for photo opportunities, and the festive atmosphere will put you in the holiday spirit.

A quick look at the Chicago Lantern Festival’s highlights

Many lantern displays will be at the Chicago Lantern Festival, ranging from animal and plant themes to cultural symbols and icons. Some of the most popular shows will be as follows:

  • Interactive exhibits:Visitors can also learn how to make traditional Chinese paper lanterns or participate in a calligraphy workshop as part of the festival’s interactive exhibits.
  • Food and drink vendors: It offers a range of Asian-inspired food and drinks, from savoury to sweet. The festival also offers beer, wine, speciality cocktails, hot pots, dumplings, bao buns, and Chinese snacks like sweet rice and sesame balls.
  • Guided tours:An excellent way to learn more about the festival and appreciate its beauty through guided tours that provide a deeper understanding of the lantern displays and their cultural significance.
  • The Dragon Lantern: One of the largest lanterns at the festival, this spectacular lantern is over 100 feet long and features a colourful dragon with glowing eyes, scales, and claws.
  • The Flower Garden: There are a variety of flowers and plants, including lotus flowers, peonies, and cherry blossoms, in this lantern display. The lanterns are lit from within, creating a whimsical and serene setting.
  • The Panda Lantern: An adorable lantern featuring a giant panda, a beloved symbol of China. It stands over 20 feet tall and is suitable for visitors of all ages.
  • The Butterfly Lantern: Among nature lovers and photographers, this lantern features a variety of butterflies with intricate details and patterns.

Is there a cost to attend Chicago Lantern Festival?

Several factors affect the cost of attending the Chicago Lantern Festival. These factors include the day of the week, the time, and whether tickets are purchased in advance or on the spot. The average price of a ticket for adults ranges from $20 to $30 per person, and for children, $15 to $20 per person.

It’s a good idea to check the event website or contact the organizers for more information regarding special group pricing or other discounts. Children under the age of three usually get in for free. Additional charges for activities like food and drink vendors or souvenir purchases may exist.

Is the Chicago Lantern Festival suitable for children?

Chicago Lantern Festival features colourful lanterns, live performances, and interactive activities suitable for people of all ages. It is a family-friendly event. Parents should consider their child’s age, interests, and needs when making decisions about whether an event is appropriate. If some children are sensitive to noise or crowds, it is a great idea to plan accordingly based on the event schedule.

What should I wear to the Chicago Lantern Festival?

Chinese culture is celebrated through lanterns and various performances at the Chicago Lantern Festival. When planning what to wear, keep the weather in mind and the mood while selecting what to wear.

Layers are ideal for staying warm during the festival, such as a sweater or jacket over t-shirts or blouses, a scarf or hat for warmth, and comfortable shoes for walking around.

It is OK to wear a dress, skirt, tights and boots, pants, and a cute blouse for the festival if you want to dress up. In Chinese culture, you can wear red or gold. It would help if you were comfortable and dressed appropriately for the weather to respect the event’s cultural significance.

Tips for Visiting the Chicago Lantern Festival

Plan your visit: It is recommended that you plan your visit ahead of time, as the festival’s schedule and a map of the grounds can be found on its official website.

Buy tickets in advance: If you want to avoid long lines at the Chicago Lantern Festival entrance during peak times, you should buy your tickets in advance.

Wear comfortable shoes: The festival involves a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the season.

Dress warmly: Wear a coat, gloves, and a hat for cold evenings. The festival takes place outdoors, so dress appropriately.

Bring a camera: Photograph the lantern displays using a steady hand and high ISO settings since tripods and flashes are not allowed.

Bring cash:You may need to bring cash from home if some vendors do not accept credit cards. You will be able to use ATMs on-site.

Be mindful of the lantern displays: Keeping a respectful distance from the lanterns and other festival attendees is respectful. Please do not climb on or touch them.

Take advantage of the cultural activities: As part of the festival, you can participate in cultural activities and exhibitions to learn more about Asian culture and lantern displays.


You will want to attend the Chicago Lantern Festival if you love art, culture, and nature. There are some of the world’s most beautiful and intricate lantern displays at the festival, and you can explore different cultures and traditions at the same time. At the Chicago Lantern Festival, you won’t be able to resist the beauty and magic of lantern displays. Mark your calendars and come ready to be dazzled!


Q No 1: How much does attending the Chicago Lantern Festival cost?

Admission to the Chicago Lantern Festival is usually free, but some activities and food vendors may have a fee. It’s an excellent idea to bring some cash with you.

Q No 2: Is the Chicago Lantern Festival family-friendly?

Yes, the Chicago Lantern Festival is a family-friendly event that offers something for everyone. Kids will love the colorful lanterns and the cultural performances, and parents can enjoy the festive atmosphere and delicious food.

Q No 3: Can I take photos at the Chicago Lantern Festival?

Yes, photography is allowed at the Chicago Lantern Festival. The festival is an excellent opportunity to take stunning photos of the illuminated lanterns and the beautiful park setting.

Q No 4: What is an ideal time to visit the Chicago Lantern Festival?

The Chicago Lantern Festival is best visited at night when the lanterns are illuminated, and the park is aglow with color. However, visiting on a weekday is also an excellent idea to avoid crowds and long lines.