NC Chinese Lantern Festival Returns to Cary

NC Chinese Lantern Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheatre

After being cancelled in 2020, the NC Chinese Lantern festival has returned for a 7-week run at the Town of Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

The event features more than 2,500 lanterns arranged into 36 displays, all handcrafted by Chinese artisans who live in the area for the duration of the festival. Each lantern is designed with silk shipped directly from China and lit with hundreds of LED lights. Even before you arrive, the piece de resistance is visible from the road — a 21-foot-high Chinese dragon, approximately the length of three school buses, gracing Symphony Lake like a red, glittery jewel.

“Welcoming more than 125,000 visitors each year, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is Cary’s largest, most popular cultural event. And for many, it’s become part of their family’s annual tradition,” said William Lewis, the Town of Cary’s cultural arts manager.

“Because we had to cancel the festival in 2020, it makes the experience this year a bit sweeter. You tend to linger longer, taking it all in, so as not to take the experience for granted.”

This stunning display of Chinese culture is being hosted by six select communities in the United States — Cary, Seattle, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and suburban Orlando.

In addition to the lanterns, the festival features interactive light displays, a human-sized kaleidoscope, and a showcase of Chinese cultural performances starting at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Recent changes incorporating more of the Symphony Lake greenway and natural areas help to spread out the crowd and create a full loop, accessible to everyone.

“In its sixth year, the NC Chinese Lantern Festival continues to change and evolve to ensure visitors have safe, unique, and memorable experiences. We believe the changes implemented this year will help us achieve that goal,” Lewis said.

There’s a surprise around every corner, so come enjoy this creative, multicultural experience with a boozy hot chocolate (or coffee) in hand. Feeling hungry? Food trucks will be on site on weekends, but food and beverages, including beer and wine, are available every day in the amphitheater’s concession area.

Although the festival has been in full swing since Nov. 19, the enchantment will continue until Jan. 9, 2022. Whether you’re planning a romantic date night or gifting the experience to a loved one for the holidays, tickets are available online or at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre box office. Twilight tickets are $15 per person, and regular tickets are $20-25 for everyone 3 and older. To see all ticket options, or to learn more about the festival, visit Koka Booth Amphitheatre’s website.

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