Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival: Traditional Beauty & Culture in Columbus

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

If  there’s one thing I know is true regarding Chinese lanterns it’s this: I’ve always been fascinated with the mystery and beauty of them. As a child, I remember watching lantern festivals on the tele and thinking that I’d love to be apart of a festival one day. What started out as practicality (using paper lanterns to keep flames from going out) turned into tradition. That tradition evolved into both paper and silk forms in homes and on the streets for lighting and eventually made its way over to North America for use as chic home decor. Any way, shape, or form, I’m still fascinated and couldn’t wait to check out the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus last weekend for its opening night.

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival flowers

Braving the late November chill, we got all bundled up, drove to the Ohio Expo Center, and walked through its Natural Resources Park with mouths gaped open. While each is more than simply beautiful, it plays a significant role in Chinese culture.

Even if a picture paints a proverbial thousand words, the lanterns are so much more beautiful captured on film.

What’s at the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival?

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

Let’s get right down to it. for starters, hundreds of Chinese lanterns in themed groupings. To be exact, there’s 39 separate groupings, but out of those there’s some super stars including the 200-foot long illuminated dragon.

ohio-chinese-lantern-festival-flowers

We spied archways filled with flower lanterns and walkways with giant tulips that reminded us of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While touching the lanterns is not permitted, we were allowed to mosey around and get up close to check out the pretty details.

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

As you’d expect on opening night, the festival was filled with folks wanting to see the Chinese lanterns. Happily the park is large enough to accommodate tons of people so it never felt overcrowded or stuffy. In fact, there was plenty of space to move about.

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

If the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival had hot spots it would be these: the animal lanterns. There’s pandas and safari animals, fish and birds – many of which are animated.

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

This display gave me a very strong urge to tweet to Ellen DeGeneres and ask her to make a visit!

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

The beautiful attention to detail is so prevalent. Check out these giant pearls inside a clam shell!

Handicrafts and Performances

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival performers

With the lanterns, the festival brings with it a team of artisans hailing from Zigong, Sichuan – China’s cultural capital for the ancient art of lantern-making. Palm leaves weaving, sugar painting, and Shu embroidery artists were on site and, not only did they demonstrate their fantastic crafts, the end products were available for sale.

Each night of the festival, performers with decades of experience in traditional Chinese stage culture have the pleasure of performing for the attendees. We saw incredible feats including jar balancing, kicking bowls on a rolling board, martial arts, and umbrella juggling. What impressed me the most was the face-changing artist. Coming out on stage in traditional Chinese opera clothing, he twirled and turned and without touching his face his masks magically changed. I’d love to know how it’s really done but am happy to keep the magic a secret. Performance Times are Sunday-Thursday: 6:30 PM & 8:00PM, Friday & Saturday: 6:30PM, 8:00 PM, & 9:00 PM.

Tip: Performances are included in festival admission so there’s no need to budget extra!

Admission Cost and Details

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival red arch

Once you find a parking space (there was plenty on the night we visited. Parking is $5.), head toward the giant red arch entrance. You can purchase tickets in advance online or at the gate.

Dates and Times:

November 25th – January 2nd from 5pm-10pm nightly

Is the festival open on holidays? You betcha!

Admission Cost: 

  • Adults: $15
  • Children 3-17: $10
  • Military: $12
  • Family Four Pack (Two Adults and Two Children): $40
  • Senior discounts (65+) are available on Mondays – $12 admission.
  • College discounts (ID required) are available on Thursday – $12 admission.

What’s Included?

Admission includes viewing the lanterns, nightly performances, and handicrafts. Food and beverages are also available onsite and are an additional charge. The menu includes both traditional fair food as well as Chinese-style food.

Are you looking for a bit of culture this holiday season? Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus is not only filled with gorgeous, silk lanterns, it's affordable and filled with rich history!

Are you planning (or have you already visited!) the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival? Please let me know in the comment section below!

Disclosure: My family and I were graciously hosted by the folks at Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes the festival so amazing for both kids and adults. All opinions are my own!

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10 Thoughts to “Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival: Traditional Beauty & Culture in Columbus”

  1. Wow, this looks like great fun, and perfect for a cold winter evening! My kids would love this. The dragon is amazing and you’ve taken great photos to show the lanterns off.

  2. OMG! Such a vibrant and colorful festival. It has got me excited. And the night shots are brilliant! Definitely something I would like to experience.

  3. Wow! This looks so amazing! I’ve never experienced anything like this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pat Jones

    Our family thoroughly enjoyed the festival-it is a must see. We lived in Singapore many years ago and never saw a Lantern Festival as beautiful as this. Appealing to all ages. BEAUTIFUL!!

  5. Georgia

    Thanks for the helpful info! We are planning to visit during the holidays. Can you provide some specific info about food choices?

  6. We celebrate diwali in India, which is festival of lights. Use of similar lanterns is slowly becoming popular here, mostly in the cities. I like the colorful lanterns

  7. Memory howell

    Could some one please clarify the time though, in this article , one paragraph says 6:30 and after scrolling down, another paragraph says 5:00. Would really like to attend but need correct time. Thank you.

    1. Karyn Locke

      Hi Memory! The festival opens its gates at 5:00pm, but the live performers begin taking the stage at 6:30pm each night. Hope this helps – and thanks for stopping by the blog!

      1. Sap

        Is this all outside? Or some inside expo center?

        1. Karyn Locke

          Hi! Thank you so much for stopping by the site!

          The Festival is all outdoors and in the park adjacent to the EXPO Center where you can park.

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