Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival Lights Up Franklin Square
What’s new, what’s back, and what you’ll be doing at this magnificent installation.
The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival returns to Franklin Square from May 1 through June 30, bringing 29 all-new illuminated installations made up of 1,500 individual works of art, created using traditional Chinese methods.
This family-friendly event showcases the amazing craftsmanship, cultural significance, and artistic beauty of the lanterns, and includes cultural celebration and performances to add to your visit.
The Chinese Lantern Festival features a couple familiar favorites — the dragons and pandas are back — but otherwise debuts many new displays this year, built from the ground up right here in Franklin Square over a month of welding, silk wrapping, and painting. The lanterns contain over 15,000 LED lights wired to their steel frames. The sculptures range from the whimsical– like pandas playing mah-jongg and frolicking among candy–to the breathtaking 200-foot long Phoenix.
This year look for new interactive additions, like a gigantic walk-through dragon tunnel, and light-up swings! Also new this year, you can come to Franklin Square and view the lanterns for free during the day, when there will be a free Scavenger Hunt of the festival– and the prize is a free ride on the carousel!
We were there as night fell, so we got to see the lanterns both with and without the lights, and there’s just something extra special about the spinning elements and the giant “I Love You” heart when it’s twinkling and dynamic.
The Pagoda Gift Shop on site has lots of fun souvenirs, representing both Philly (Sixers gear, anyone?) and Chinese culture. There are plenty of toys, clothes, and other trinkets as well. You can also buy various kinds of crowns and flashy glow wands, because you just know your kid wants one, so embrace the crazy as you stay out way past bedtime!
In addition to the gift shop, you can visit various tents to shop for Chinese folk artists’ crafts created right on site. These include art such as wire weaving, jianzhi (ancient paper cutting), sugar painting, and more.
Visitors can watch various cultural performances, including many types of acrobatics and the unbelievable art of face-changing. In face-changing, a performer quickly changes a series of masks with just a subtle movement of their hand or fan — describing this 300-year-old Sichuan tradition does not do it justice, you really need to see it for yourself.
There will also be unique acts like plate spinning, contortion, martial arts, and juggling.
There will be two performances per evening on the weekdays, at 8 pm and 9:30 pm; and three performances on Fridays-Sundays, at 7:30 pm, 9 pm, and 10:30 pm. Performances will take place on the stage on the Great Lawn, near the Race Street side of Franklin Square.
The Franklin Square fixture SquareBurger will be operating as usual, with familiar favorites like burgers, fries, and shakes. In addition, the Great Lawn Grill has a tent set up with a variety of Asian-inspired cuisine like chicken satay, veggie spring rolls, mochi ice cream, and bubble tea. You can find more Asian cuisine at Sang Kee’s pop-up Flying Fish Noodle House which will serve a variety of Chinese specialties in meal box combos, plus a la carte options including bao buns, chicken wings, lo mein, and more.
The Dragon Beer Garden is also back, located behind the Great Lawn Grill. The beer garden will serve draft beers, canned spirits, and four signature cocktails including the basil-infused Lantern Lemonade and the Ginseng Tonic which includes Asian pear shrub and ginseng iced tea. A couple of notes on the beer garden: last call is 10 pm. This year, you can stroll through the entire festival in the square with your adult beverage in hand!
The Chinese Lantern Festival opens May 1 and runs through June 30. It is located at Franklin Square, at Sixth and Race streets in Philadelphia. The festival opens at 7 pm (6 pm on Friday and Saturday) and closes at 11 pm every night. Timed tickets are required for entry on Fridays and Saturdays during the festival, as it gets very crowded. Once you are inside the festival, there is no time limit for how long you can stay.
Tickets are available online, or you can buy them in person at Franklin Square when you arrive (you just might have to deal with some long lines). Tickets start at $18 for adults, $12 for kids (age 2 and under are free), and $16 for seniors and members of the military. Tickets do not include food, beverages, or admission to the Parx Liberty Carousel and Philly Mini Golf.
It is free to enter Franklin Square and view the lanterns during the day, but the park will close to the public at 6 pm (5 pm on Fridays and Saturdays) for festival preparations. The Franklin Square Playground will continue to be open and free during the evening hours (until 9 pm), accessible from Seventh Street. Attendees of the festival may have their hand stamped to enter the playground through its main entrance from the square, and re-enter the festival after some playtime.
Join us on June 18 for a special discounted night hosted by Philly Family! Buy tickets using this special link and discount code FAMILYFOCUS.
Our Chinese Lantern Festival guests can also receive discounts on Franklin Square Attractions with these codes:
$2 off Philly Mini Golf – PANDA
$1 off Parx Liberty Carousel – DRAGON
Photographs by Laura Swartz.