Each spring, the annual Chinese Lantern Festival takes over Philadelphia’s picturesque Franklin Square. Located in Center City (near the city’s Chinatown), this lively and unique festival celebrates Chinese culture, music, and art—and is known for its incredible array of massive, colorful illuminated displays and brilliant lights throughout the park. This exclusive and highly-anticipated event features a variety of exceptional Chinese artwork, such as traditional sculpture, stone carving, weaving, and folk painting. There’s also plenty of great entertainment at the festival as well, including dancing, acrobatics, and martial arts demonstrations.
A Brief History
A recent addition to the city’s cultural celebrations, this festival was first launched in 2016, and drew over 100,000 visitors from across the United States, and the world, in 2019.
Since the festival’s launch, it quickly became a favorite event in the city, growing in attendance and attracting more attention each year. It’s the only one of its kind in the city, so if you are lucky enough to be visiting during this time, it’s an excellent and worthwhile experience.
Things to Do
The entire festival is a memorable highlight, and there’s much to see and do at the event. From live shows with world-class entertainment to an abundance of talented artisans showcasing their hand-crafted items, the Chinese Lantern Festival provides an enthralling night (or afternoon) out. A few of the many top activities at the festival include:
- Stroll through this enchanting park and be inspired by the many gorgeous, glowing displays. The entire square shines brightly in the evening and transforms the entire area into a summer wonderland.
- A not-to-be-missed performance is the mesmerizing “face changer,” an entertainer who transforms his face instantly before your eyes.
- Watch the delightful shows featuring an array of entertaining professional jugglers and acrobats.
- View some fascinating live demos of wire-weaving and other traditional Chinese arts.
- Check out the fantastic hoop divers who are proficient in this ancient Chinese discipline.
- You can also take a ride on the beautiful Parx Liberty carousel in Franklin Square. Tickets for are required for everyone riding and they must be purchased separately.
- Play an exciting round at the festival’s fun miniature golf course that showcases mini versions of the major Philadelphia landmarks such as the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Chinatown Friendship Gate, and other important locations around the city. (Tickets for adults and kids are required and must be purchased separately on-site).
- Go shopping for some cool souvenirs. The Pagoda Gift shop is not to be missed if you’re interested in checking out some fascinating mementos from the event. This unique festival offers a selection of vendors who create beautiful and awe-inspiring artwork, clothing, jewelry, and other specialties that can only be purchased at this event.
If you’re hungry for a snack or a tasty beverage while at the festival, good news! There’s an abundance of tasty culinary options offered at the festival—from Asian specialties to American festival foods as well. Square Burger, which is situated in the square year-round, is open throughout the festival with their standard menu of juicy, oversized burgers and other delectable items.
Surrounded by glowing lights and lanterns, the Dragon Beer Garden is a spacious outdoor area with an ethereal vibe that serves up craft beer, inventive cocktails, and delicious Asian-inspired fare for everyone.
How to Visit
This incredibly popular event always draws a massive crowd. Ideally, the best way to enjoy the festival is to be strategic about timing. One way to avoid the larger masses is to visit the festival during the day, when it’s free to the public. Each day, the park allows a number of guests to enjoy activities in the daylight. At 5 p.m. , all guests must leave and the festival is then prepared for evening entrances that start at 6 p.m. and require paid tickets.
The festival has a few strict rules, too. The last entry is 10:30 p.m, timed tickets are required on Friday and Saturday, and there is no re-entry after leaving the park.
Keep in mind that Franklin Square itself is wheelchair accessible, although the ground may be uneven and there is brick and grass throughout the park. Aside from the dining areas, seating is very limited, so be aware if you have a limited walking capability.
Some avid fans enjoy attending twice. So, if you have the time, go once during the day and another time in the evening to get the full experience.
You can purchase tickets at the festival’s entrance area, but it’s strongly suggested to buy your tickets in advance online. Please note that the tickets are purchased for a specific time, but once inside you can stay for as long as you wish.
If you'd like to visit other attractions in Liberty Square, like the carousel or 18-hole miniature golf course, you'll have to pay separate admission fees for each one.
NOTE: Keep in mind that this is an outdoor event and is held rain or shine. Be sure to check the weather in advance before purchasing tickets (if possible) and wear property clothing depending on the weather. (It can rain a lot in Philadelphia this time of year).