Sunday, December 4, the kids and I decided to check out the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair Grounds (it’s in the Natural Resources area of the State Fair Grounds). This special event runs through January 2, 2017.
The kids (12 & 15) and I went to this event. I had to drag them along to get them to go, but once there, they seemed to enjoy it. (When we were getting ready for bed, I thanked my 15-year-old son for going to the festival with me. He replied “It really was pretty cool, other than the rain. — I had fun.” You don’t get much better than that from a 15-year-old young man! )
What It Is
Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival boasts 39 beautiful lantern displays ranging from a 200 feet long illuminated dragon to glowing tulip-lined walk ways. The lanterns are created by hand using silk fabric, steel frames, and tens of thousands of LED lights. (http://www.ohiolanternfestival.com/)
There are tables of various things for sale from cheepy little light up stuff to hand crafted paper cutout cards. Its a little bit of a mix of things.
They have performances on the amphitheater stage. This was a small troupe of performers with some fun acts (juggling, acrobatics, dancing) and lasted about 20 minutes.
They have food and drinks available. They had an “American” station that had burgers, brats, fries, etc. There was a “Chinese” station that had lo mein, fried wontons, rice, etc. A “Sweets” station with fortune cookies, fried oreos, fried snickers. And then a variety of drinks from Hot Cocoa to cider to beer to cocktails.
I’ve had several people ask me “Was it worth it? It seemed expensive”. To which I have replied a very non-committal “eeeee…..yeah?!?”. Depends on how you value this kind of thing. I absolutely love lights and lighted exhibits. This was also something new to Columbus and was quite different than other light exhibits at this time of year. So, for me, yeah.. it was worth it. Had the weather been a bit better it would have been better.
What I spent:
- Parking – $5
- Admission – $15 for me, $10 for each kid under 17 = $35 for us (They have a family 4 pack that is $40 for 2 adults &2 kids, which brings the cost per person down a bit. I’ve yet to find places that give single-parent families much of a break on these things. )
- Hot Cocoa – $3 each – $9 for us each to have one. (They were a good size cup, so $3 seemed pretty reasonable.)
- Total: $49
If you have a bunch of “I want.. i want… i want” people in your group, food could get expensive here as could the lure of the little toys and what not.
What we did:
We walked around the lights and really enjoyed them, it was nice variety of shapes and scenes. It probably took us just about 30 minutes to walk thru and take pictures. We then had to wait about 30 minutes to see the 6:30 performance. All told, we were there just under 2 hours but a lot of that was spent standing around the food area just waiting. If the weather was nice, we may have walked back through the lights, but it was a chilly rainy night.
We watched the performances and all really enjoyed that. We had a lot of “wow.. how’d he do that!?!?” moments. It’s no Cirque du Soleil, but it was enjoyable.
Everything is outdoors. Only the food area had a covering, but it is very open. Dress for the weather!!! We were wet and cold when we left. The amphitheater seating is all completely open to the elements. If it’s been raining or snowing, you may want to throw a poncho or plastic bag in your pocket before you go so that you have something dry to sit on.
We spent a lot of time waiting around for the performance. If you can get there shortly before the 6:30 or 8:00 performance, then walk through the lights after you could better manage the time. My kids just started to get on each other’s nerves before the show. I noticed families with little kids having the same issue as they were waiting.
For me, this was a fun evening out without too much time commitment or pressure. It would make a good week night outing if there isn’t much homework. The fair grounds are relatively close and easy to get to. I really love lights, so it was very enjoyable for me. Both kids seemed to enjoy everything other than the weather. We call it a win.