The spectacular Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square.. it’s been on my Philadelphia bucket list ever since I learned about it a few years ago. Every year, I meant to get there, but life always got in the way. Then, by the time I would remember the festival would be over. This year, I received an invitation to attend the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival media preview. It was a special night for reporters, VIPs, and lantern designers to get a look at the Chinese lanterns before the festival opened to the public. The event was on a school night but I was determined to go.
I am so glad I went to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival. Even before the sun went down and the lights went on I walked around in awe. I’m sure I looked foolish. My mouth wide open, I was absolutely giddy. The lanterns, the different designs, all the details it was such a sight to behold. I could not take enough pictures. Each lantern was created by hand using traditional Chinese methods, some even by students the same ages as our own kids.
Then, the sun went down and the magnificent steel-framed and silk-wrapped giant lighted sculptures lit up and everything became so much more magical. You just have to attend with your kids. The 2019 Festival is currently illuminating Franklin Square at 6th & Race Streets in Historic Philadelphia from May 1 – June 30. With more than 25 larger- than-life illuminated displays made of 2,000 individual lanterns and 20,000 LED lights in brilliant colors we know you and your kids will be wowed as much as we were. I’m already planning my return visit.
Take a look at our shorter teaser video about the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival. Then, head over to our YouTube channel for a video tour of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival to see it in all of its glory.
For the longer full length video that gives you a tour of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival please visit our YouTube channel by clicking on this link.
About the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival
For centuries, the Lantern Festival has been a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar to pray for a good harvest, and gain favor of Taiyi, god of heaven. A legend tells of a god who wanted to punish the human race by setting fire to the earth. An old, wise man hit upon an ingenious solution: he got people to light torches, lanterns, and fireworks to fool the god into thinking the world was already burning, and leave mankind in peace. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs such as the ones on view at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival. Today, lantern festivals are still held each year around the country. Each major Chinese city has its own light festival which attract millions of visitors and tourists. – From Historic Philadelphia
Like at other Chinese Lantern Festivals, at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival each light sculpture tells a legend or symbolizes an old Chinese story.
How are the Chinese lanterns made?
The lanterns are built with steel frames welded into outlined shapes. Hundreds of LED lights are strung inside the lantern. Plain silk is wrapped and glued around each frame. The designs are hand-painted and phenomenal. At this year’s festival, visitors will see lantern animals, flowers, patterns, and other designs. When the lights are turned on, the silk glows in the dark. It’s breathtaking! Based in Franklin Square in Historic Philadelphia, a group of Chinese artists and craftsmen build the sculptures. Guests can actually watch the creations being built in the weeks leading up to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia.
When is the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival open?
Franklin Square is open during regular daytime hours. Between May 1 – June 30, 2019, you can see the lanterns for free and unlit until 5 pm at night. At 6 pm, the lights go on and guests with tickets can view the lanterns from 6 – 11 pm.
Where is the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival?
The main entrance to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is at 6th and Race Street in Philadelphia. You can’t miss it just look for the dragon gate.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, guests, who have purchased tickets in advance, can also enter through a second gate at 7th & Race (Lion Gate Entrance).
How much does it cost to go to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival?
Sunday through Thursday admission prices
•$18 for adults
•$12 for children (ages 3-12, 2 and under are free)
•$16 for student (13-17), senior (65+), and active military (with I.D.)
Friday and Saturday tickets admission prices (Timed tickets required)
•$20 for adults
•$12 for children (ages 3-12, 2 and under are free)
•$18 for student (13-17), senior (65+), and active military (with I.D.)
The proceeds that Historic Philadelphia, Inc. receives from the Festival go into the operation and management of Franklin Square and its over 80 free events all year long.
Where can I park?
The recommended parking location is the PPA AutoPark at Independence Mall, located between 5th and 6th Streets and Market and Arch Streets at 41 North 6th Street, Philadelphia (directly underneath the Independence Visitor Center).
- Sunday through Thursday, parking is a flat rate of $8 (discounted rate) if guests show their Lantern Festival ticket at the garage office (located on le vel P1, at the exit plaza). Guests must enter the parking lot after 5 pm and exit before 3 am to receive the discount. If entry and exit time is outside of those parameters, guest s must pay normal lot rates.
- Fridays and Saturdays, parking is a flat rate of $7.
How can I save money going to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival?
The lanterns are able to be viewed for free during daytime, while a ticket is required for nighttime entrance after 6 pm (no re-entry).
A new way to experience the Festival in the daytime for free is by exploring Franklin Square with a Lantern Scavenger Hunt. Complete the Scavenger Hunt and receive a free ride on the Parx Liberty Carousel. Pick up information at the ticket window in Franklin Square.
If visiting the Festival on the weekend, from New Jersey, use NJ Transit. On weekends and holidays 2 kids can ride NJ Transit for free with each paying adult.
10 local restaurants in Chinatown are providing discounts to Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival guests
Guests MUST show their ticket to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival when dining before or after visiting the Festival. Look for the Panda Promotion poster or lantern in the window of participating restaurants.
- A La Mousse, 145 N. 11th Street: 10% off (dine-in only)
- Bai Wei, 1038 Race Street: Free order of pan-fried beef dumplings ($30 minimum)
- Frozen Ice Cream, 938 Arch Street: 15% off
- Megumi, 915 Race Street: 10% off
- Philly Poké, 1016 Race Street: Complimentary drink with purchase of any signature poke bowl
- QT Vietnamese Sandwich, 48 N. 10th Street: 15% off entire order
- Sang Kee Peking Duck House, 238 N. 9th Street: Free order of scallion pancakes ($25 minimum, dine-in only)
- Vietnam Palace, 222 N. 11 th Street: 10% off (must spend minimum of $20)
- Xi’an Sizzling Woks, 902 Arch Street: 15% off dine- in or takeout (excludes lunch special, cannot be combined with other offers)
- Zio Pizza Palace & Grill, 157 N. 9th Street: Large cheese pizza: $10.99, Large cheese pizza with one topping: $13.75, Large cheese pizza with one 2-liter soda: $13.75, 3 cheesesteaks (chicken or steak, toppings not includ ed): $18.99, 20 Buffalo wings: $11.50, or 3 wraps (exclude fish): $15.75
When is the best time to go to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival with kids?
Advance tickets are strongly recommended to ensure you’ll be able to get in when you want. I’d recommend visiting during the week. You’ll avoid the crowds of the weekend and you’ll save a few dollars on each ticket.
Can we bring food to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival?
We believe you can bring outside food into the festival.
Now that we’ve answered those basic questions let’s get to the WHY you should go to the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival with kids.
Prepare to be delighted at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival!
10 Things to do at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival with kids
Look at over 25 beautifully illuminated displays!
All of the lanterns are new for the 2019 Festival, including ones with new lighting design techniques and light up swings. The lanterns are installed all around the seven-acre Franklin Square. Stroll with your kids under, around, and through the displays.
5 New lanterns that have never been seen before in the United States
- Worship the Door
- Dinosaur New Year, located to the left of the stage
- Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel
- Spirit of the Dancing Birds
- Octopus, flanked by a dolphin on each side
20 More Chinese Lanterns that are new to Philadelphia
- Wheel of Fortune, a fortune-telling wheel
- Glowing Seesaws
- Dancing Fairy, the largest of all the lanterns, stands 50 feet tall. It’s located behind the Dragon Beer Garden. Make sure you walk around the sides to see all the fairies turn.
- Traditional Taste of China, sits back behind the dancing fairs. We almost missed it.
- A 200-foot Phoenix is located between the butterfly path and the beer garden
- Pandas of Sichuan Province
- Panda Plum Garden. If I ever were to step foot into a Kung Fu Panda village, this is what I imagine it would look like. Your kids will LOVE it.
- Candy World between the dragon tunnel and butterfly path, right along the outside of the fountain.
- Whisper Flowers surround the Franklin Square fountain
- Angel Wings
- Mysterious Birds
- Princess of Flowers, at the end of the Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel, on the left.
- Nightingale and Peonies, at the end of the Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel, on the right
- Heart to Heart (Sponsored by Visit Philadelphia)
- The Kylin lantern with mythological creatures is made up of more than 30,000 clear small glass bottles filled with colored water and lights. It is located to the right of the gift shops, behind the large heart lantern. With all the attention to detail, I found this Chinese lantern to be the most impressive.
- Legend of the Mermaid, located at the end of the Umbrella Gallery on the right side. I immediately thought of the Little Mermaid. This Chinese Lantern will have your kids’ imagination going.
- Fairy Cranes, located to the right of the mermaid
- Nine-Color Elk, on the right of the cranes
- Golden Pig (Sponsored by Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation), on your left as you come throug the Dragon Ball Gate entrance
- The “Year of the Pig” Student Designed Lanterns are also displayed throughout the Festival.
Watch artistry in motion in performances and displays
Over 5 performances on the main stage
The performances on the main stage of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival are just one more way for your family to become familiar with the Chinese cultures and traditions. Definitely, make time to watch some or all of them. That may mean you get to the Festival right at opening and stay till almost closing just to get everything in on your visit. Or we recommend multiple visits just so you can see everything. Performances are included with admission and all happen on the main stage.
These performers from China will wow you with incredible and impressive feats of strength, balance, and form. Each night, there will be three 30-minute performance (7:30, 9:00, and 10:30 pm). The performers visiting from China are Chen Meimei, Zhao Xiaoli, Ma Jiaqi, Dai Pengjiao, Qiu Yuchen, and Xiong Xiaoping.
- Face-Changing – An ancient Chinese dramatic art where a performer changes masks quicker than the blink of an eye in this 300- year tradition of the Sichuan opera. I missed this one while recording a Facebook live, but my younger teenager saw it. He was so impressed by it he couldn’t stop talking about it on the way home.
- Martial Arts – Two athletes demonstrate a martial arts routine showing their practice in offensive and defensive training.
- Jar Juggling/Foot Juggling – Juggling is a unique artistic talent that requires lots of expertise, especially when you are propped on your back and juggling with your feet. Performers juggle jars by manipulating the objects using their feet and hands to keep large items floating in the air. The one performer even juggled a table and spun it on one foot. I was stunned and I still can’t figure out how she did it.
- Tai Chi Demonstration – Tai Chi is a form of Chinese martial arts that uses the forces of yin and yang in movement. Performers demonstrate their defense training, often used in competitions of form and longevity.
- Folk Dancer – Different from ballet or classical dance, Chinese folk dances originate from a range of different cultures and customs. A dancer in traditional costume will express themselves through the rich language of body movement.
- Contortion – Contortionists showcase their skills of extreme physical flexibility accompanied by music while balancing glasses on their feet, hands, and face as they twist and turn and stretch toward the sky. At one point the contortionist was balancing lighted candelabras with both feet, on her hands, and with her mouth while laying on her back and flexing her limbs upward.
8 elements have motion or lights that change
- The dinosaurs move their heads in the Dinosaur New Year exhibit.
- Over in the Nightingale and Peonies, the flowers open and close.
- At Candy World, look for the Panda peaking out from the doorway.
- In the Panda Plum Garden, there’s a panda playing with scissors and one sipping a drink.
- In the Pandas of Sichuan Province, the tree changes colors around the pandas.
- At the Traditional Taste of China the water from the tea pot flows in an arc over towards the dumplings.
- In the Dancing Fairy lantern, each of the fairies twist.
- The Angel Wings change color, transitioning to different shades of blue, teal, purple, and red.
Walk through illuminated tunnels and gates
Lighted pathways are all around at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia. Don’t rush through them. Instead take your time and gaze at all the details.
- Dragon Ball Gate, entrance at 6th and Race Street
- Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel
- Umbrella Gallery to the right of the stage
- Lion Gate
- Butterfly Gallery
Observe the turtles, koi, dragons, and more
As you walk through the Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel, make sure to look at the ground beneath you. Right at the entrance there are images of turtles, dragons, koi and other creatures projected onto the ground.
Count the Pandas
Can your kids count up all the pandas without missing one? Here are some clues. We found pandas in the Pandas of Sichuan Province, Panda Plum Garden, and Candy World.
Ride the carousel
The Parx Liberty Carousel will be open during the Festival. Ages 3+ and older can ride for $2 per ride. Children 2 and under ride free. NOTE: This is a discounted ticket price of $1 off regular prices which can be purchased during the Festival and used on site or at a later date through December 31, 2019.
Play mini golf
Play some mini golf at Philly Mini Golf. Putt around the only Philadelphia-themed miniature golf course, featuring the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ben Franklin Bridge, Chinatown Gate, Liberty Bell, and other landmarks. The fee is $8 for adults. Children ages 3-12 pay $6. NOTE: This is a discounted ticket price of $2 off regular prices which can be purchased during the Festival and used on site or at a later date through December 31, 2019.
Pose with the Angel Wings
The Angel Wings are somewhat hidden. If you just walk around the fountain and down a bit on some paths you may completely miss it. To get to the Angel Wings you must walk through the Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel and all the way to the end of the pathway. You’ll find the wings there. Don’t just take pictures. Take some video as well. You’ll want to remember how the color of the wings transitions through shades of blue, purple, teal, and red.
Listen to music
As you walk through Franklin Square, not only will you see lanterns and performances that reflect the Chinese culture, you’ll also be treated to authentic music.
Swing on the moon
Do not miss the Moon Swings. Located to the right of the Dancing Fairies Lantern are at least 6 colorful moon swings. Shaped like rings, with handles to hold onto, these swings change color as you swing.
Why stop at 10? Here are a few more things to do at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival.
Eat Authentic American, Asian, or Chinese foods
- Dragon Beer Garden
- Square Burger serving food including
- Burgers: Big Ben Burger, Betsy Ross Veggie Burger, Burger-of-the-Month
- Grilled jumbo South Street hot dog
- Square cheesesteak
- Crispy chicken tenders
- Desserts & Treats: classic milk shakes and the renowned Cake Shake, Shake-of-the-Month, root beer floats, assorted novelty ice cream, pretzel bites, sweet potato or steak fries, nachos, fried Oreos
- Drinks: homemade lemonade, fresh brewed iced tea, and a variety of other beverages
- Great Lawn Grill will serve Asian cuisine including
- Chicken satay
- Beef bao
- Korean meatballs
- Shrimp tempura
- Veggie spring rolls
- Grilled corn
- Desserts: fried ice cream, mochi ice cream
- Drinks: Thai tea bo ba, Thai iced tea, La Colombe coffee, hot milk tea, and bottled water and soda
- Leaping Fish Noodle House by Sang Kee Noodle House, one of Chinatown’s favorite restaurants, will be serving a variety of Chinese specialties.
- Three meal options are the Dragon Box (Hawaii pineapple shrimp and vegetable lo mein), the Phoenix Box (General Tao’s chicken and vegetable lo mein), and the Panda Box (grilled chicken breast and vegetable lo mein).
- Other options are vegetable lo mein, chicken wings, steamed super big bao, chicken spring roll, steamed char sui bao, steamed peach bao, pan-seared dumplings
- Desserts: ice cream bars
- Drinks: honey lemon green tea with tapioca, matcha soy bean drink, bottled water, and soda
Shop for unique Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival souvenirs from Chinese folk artists
- Aluminum Wire Weaving – One of the exquisite handicrafts in China is aluminum wire weaving, a traditional craft that uses aluminum wire in a variety of colors. Artists weave the materials to create various shapes like animals, plants, and other objects.
- Stone Carving – Stone carving is type of sculpture arts with a long history in China, using a variety of carving techniques to create works of art out of solid stone materials in various styles.
- Flute Making – An artist plays and sells hand-made flutes of different sizes and styles created from bamboo, wood, jade, bone, or iron.
- Chinese Folk Painting – Also known as National or Ancient Painting, this style is a traditional art of China. Created with a brush, soft pen, or finger with paint or ink, beautiful images are drawn on enamel or rice paper originating from ancient Chinese history and philosophy.
- Wheat and Straw Painting – Straw painting is a unique technique that entails cutting and pasting parts of the wheat plant like paper or cloth. The wheat stalk material is lustrous and can be used to create vivid designs of animal and nature scenes
Want to know more? Here are some interesting details about the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia.
5 Fun Facts about the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival
- Most of the lantern materials for the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square were created in China especially for this event and sent in 20 40- foot cube containers on a ship to the United States.
- The lanterns were assembled by a 30-person team of artisans from China over a one-month period in the Square.
- The glowing phoenix lantern is longer than three school buses and weighs 6,000 pounds. Standing 200 feet long and 21 feet high, the wings were installed by a crane with a 15-person crew. There are more than 70 individual pieces that make up this one lantern.
- The Fish Leaping Over Dragon Gate Tunnel is 75 feet long and weighs 1.5 tons.
- To make the lanterns, the artists use 30,000 square feet of silk and 16,000 feet of electric cables.
Last year over 130,000 visitors from all 50 states and 20 countries visited the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square. This year make sure you’re one of them. You can get your tickets at historicphiladelphia.org/chineselanternfestival. I know I’ll be getting another set. How about you?
For more fun things to do in Philly with Kids visit our Things to do in Philadelphia with Kids series.