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Destination: North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

For the first time, Cary's Booth Amphitheatre hosts the festival, which opens Saturday and runs through the holiday season, closing Jan. 3. I got a preview Monday night. It's beautiful.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
In this day of gadgets and gizmos and synchronized lights dancing to music, the new North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is a gorgeous break from the bustling, busy season.

For the first time, Cary's Booth Amphitheatre hosts the festival, which opens Saturday, Nov. 28, and runs through the holiday season, closing Jan. 3. (UPDATE: It now will run through Jan. 17). I got a preview Monday night. It's beautiful.

Lantern festivals are traditional Chinese festivals celebrated at the end of the Lunar New Year, usually in February or March. This is the second show for the China-based company presenting the Cary event. The first in Spokane closed earlier this month.

Don't expect a frenetic experience. Instead, prepare for a peaceful evening, taking in the more than 20 displays, each one comprised of hundreds of parts and lit up with thousands of LED lights. For weeks, artisans have worked to put together the colorful displays, which are made of steel frames and silk-like fabric.

At Booth Amphitheatre, the displays are spread out across the property. Some actually sit in Symphony Lake, including a 300-foot-long dragon that spurts a mist of water from its mouth. Visitors can see the reflections of the pieces - from lotus pads and blooms to birds - reflected in the water. (Just watch that your kids don't run into the water as they get excited seeing the displays!).

"It looks like they go on forever," my six-year-old marveled.

On land, you'll find everything from blue Christmas trees, Santas and snowmen to large, red pagodas and displays of all kinds of creatures, such as fish, giraffes, penguins, insects and zebras. One area, dotted with illuminated blue flowers, inspired one little boy of about three to sing "Let It Go" at the top of his lungs, particularly the line about "frozen fractals." It was adorable.

Some of the displays dance and move. My girls were particularly charmed by the display of panda bears, who swing and ride a teeter totter, for instance. In another display, a small train with presents rides around a track with Santas and snowmen nearby.

They all are works of art, featuring brilliant colors and some amazing artistry. Everybody in my group - my kids, mom and I - really enjoyed taking in all of the pieces.

In addition to the colorful displays, there will be multiple weekend performances from Chinese artisans. This is a great activity for this long holiday weekend and during the coming holiday season.

Tickets are $12 for ages 3 to 17; $20 for ages 18 and up; and $50 for a four pack (which is the best deal if you're bringing a couple of kids and a couple of adults). Holiday food and drinks will be available for purchase. (Strollers and bottled water are allowed). It's open daily through Jan. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.


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