The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is back at Franklin Square, with a new display showcasing thousands of illuminated sculptures.
It took more than a month for artisans from China-based Tianyu Arts & Culture to build the 2,000 lanterns, which are hand-crafted using traditional methods from a silk-like material, then strung through with LED lights — more than 200,000 of them this year.
The festival, which is produced in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, has become a major attraction, drawing more than a hundred thousand people annually. Admission fees — it costs between $12 and $20 to get in — benefit Historic Philadelphia, the NGO that oversees the Old City park and was largely responsible for its revitalization.
When the lantern fest first landed in Franklin Square in 2016, some decried it as an unfair privatization of a public park. A compromise the following year saw the fence around the display lowered to half height.
Now, anyone can walk through the installation during the day, when there’s also a scavenger hunt you can play to win a carousel ticket. The playground area of the park remains open and accessible even after 6 p.m., when ticketing for the festival begins.
Highlights of this year’s seven-acre display, which surrounds the central fountain, are a 200-foot-long, 3-ton phoenix with flowing tails, a walk-through dragon tunnel, swings that light up, a fortune-telling wheel and animal creatures made of water-filled glass bottles.
Nightly programming inside the fest includes Chinese stage performances, Chinese folk artists selling their crafts, and Chinese-inspired food (plus other food and drink) at the Dragon Beer Garden.
The mini golf course is also open, as is the carousel (though additional tickets are required to ride).
The Chinese Lantern Festival is open 6 to 11 p.m., May 1 through June 30. Advance tickets are recommended.