The Chinese Lantern Festival popped up in Cary for the first time last year and drew big enough crowds that they brought this beautiful display back to Booth Amphitheatre for another run.
The festival runs through Jan. 15 and makes for a unique activity as you entertain out-of-town guests or look for reasons to get out of the house during the long winter break. And, if you went last year, nearly all of the 23 displays are different.
Visitors can walk through the grounds of the amphitheater at their own pace to enjoy the different displays. This year, you'll see lions, pandas, Snow White and her dwarfs, elephants, Zodiac animals and much more. Plaques next to the lanterns explain what you're looking at or why a particular animal or symbol is important to Chinese culture.
Visitors learn, for instance, that the dragon is a spiritual symbol. In Chinese, the word "elephant" is similar to "auspicious peace" and "good luck." And lanterns represent "reunion."
Cary is one of just a handful of communities to offer the festival this year. You also can find them in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Columbus, Norfolk and Spokane. To assemble the displays and put on the martial arts and acrobatics performances that are part of the festival, more than 25 Chinese artisans and performances have been living in the area since November.
Some fun facts to delight (or annoy) your kids with as you walk through:
- The handcrafted lanterns are made with silk fabric and are stretched over steel frames.
- The lanterns are lit with more than 15,000 LED lights.
- The Chinese Dragon in Symphony Lake is longer than three school buses; stands 200 feet long and 21 feet high; and weighs 18,000 pounds.
- Some lanterns are made exclusively for this event and shipped from China via 14 containers into the North Carolina Ports.
- Lanterns are mainly made in only one city in China: Zigong, Sichuan, which has been the capitol of Chinese lantern-making for thousands of years.
As part of the festival, visitors can take in daily Chinese cultural arts performances, including acrobatics, traditional dance and martial arts. Performances are 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
The festival itself is open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets are $10 for kids ages 3 to 17; $15 for ages 18 and up; and free for kids 2 and under. Parking is free.