Chinese Lantern Festival
1121 First Avenue
Fair Park, Dallas
I felt a little sheepish, asking my daughter, son-in-law, and their two elementary school age boys to go to the Chinese Lantern Festival with me last weekend. Could a bunch of pretty lights be worth the ticket price that had discouraged us during its initial State Fair run?
It bowled all of us, including the initially skeptical kids. The map at the festival’s website gives no indication that the twenty-two installation are spread out around the entire perimeter -- and even within -- the Fair Park lagoon. The displays are enormous, beautiful, sometimes gaudy, but always fun.
We’d already seen pictures of the 110-yard long dragon built from 15,000 plates, cups and spoons. But we weren’t prepared for the human-sized ants on a merry vacation; dinosaurs who move, roar, and sometimes spit; or the mermaid’s (and octopus’s) garden, among many others.
The displays are made from silk-like cloth stretched over metal frameworks and lighted from within by LED bulbs. It will take at least an hour just to walk past everything, and you’ll want to spend more time if you don’t have small children with early bedtimes. Most of the exhibits adjoin paved walkways around the lagoon and are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. A few are on unpaved areas, but still visible from the pavement if you don’t feel comfortable negotiating the sometimes uneven ground at the south end of the park.
We attended while the boys were out of school, when ticket prices were at their peak. Costs on Thursdays through Sundays are $19 for adults, $14 for children ages 4-12. Going during the week would have only cost $14 for adults and $9 for children. (If you’re worried about having the kids out on a school night, the festival opens at 5 p.m., which is near dark now.) The festival’s site states that visitors with medical needs for
wheelchairs or scooters receive a 50 percent discount on admission. Bring your own wheelchair -- they’re not available to rent.
In a special discount, adult tickets are 10 percent off the regular weekend price tonight, November 30. Children’s tickets are 50 percent off through Saturday, December 1. For discounts on group sales, see the “buy tickets” link at www.chineselanternfestival.com/.
We drove to Fair Park, which cost us $15 per car for parking, payable only with cash or check. (Enter the parking lot through Gate 5 near the now-closed science building.) If you don’t mind more walking, you might want to calculate whether you can save by taking DART, whose trains stop at Fair Park’s main gate. (Remember, DART fares increase slightly beginning Monday, December 3. For details, see
Light meals are available within the exhibit, serving both Chinese and western food. Restroom facilities on the grounds are limited to portable toilets.