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Asian Lantern Festival at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: A Summertime Must See

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a major attraction in the Greater Cleveland area, especially for those looking for things to do in Cleveland with kids.

The Zoo in Cleveland dates all the way back to 1882, when it was called Wade Park and located near present-day Wade Oval in University Circle. It moved to its current location in 1907, and has been managed by the Cleveland Metroparks since 1975. Like all good zoos, it spends a lot of resources these days on education, research, and wildlife conservation.

In order to fund a lot of the projects the Zoo supports, it’s always looking for new and innovative ways to get more people excited about visiting. One of the events that’s become super popular at the Cleveland Zoo is the Asian Lantern Festival, hosted by the Zoo each summer.

Asian Lantern Festival
“The Pond”
Asian Lantern Festival
“Panda Island”

Note: All the photos in this post are from the 2021 Asian Lantern Festival.

Asian Lantern Festival in Cleveland

The Asian Lantern Festival is a magical event that transforms the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo into an illuminated wonderland after dark for 6-8 weeks each summer. The festival first debuted back in 2018, and has been a summertime favorite ever since.

In 2021, the festival is running from mid-July through September 26.

Asian Lantern Festival
Wisteria Corridor

The Asian Lantern Festival is an event that seems to just get bigger and better each year. In 2021, 70 large-scale displays made up of thousands of individual lanterns are spread throughout the zoo.

There are twinkling tunnels, animatronic lanterns that move, interactive elements, and so much more.

Asian Lantern Festival
Cobra Tunnel
Asian Lantern Festival
Interactive Flower Garden, where standing on the stars makes the flowers move.
Asian Lantern Festival
Moving crane lanterns

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo works each year with Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc. to design new festival displays – meaning no two Lantern Festivals will ever be the same.

The lantern displays feature lots of animals to reflect the zoo setting, but also incorporate elements of Asian history and culture. Info boards near each display give extra info about whatever is being depicted, whether it’s fun facts about wildlife, or insights into Asian food or traditions.

Asian Lantern Festival
The Chinese Zodiac lanterns are a must-see!

Check out this video of the 2021 Asian Lantern Festival:

What can you do at the Asian Lantern Festival?

On days when the Asian Lantern Festival is running, it starts at 6:30 p.m. after the Zoo closes to regular visitors for the day. The lanterns get illuminated just before dusk, and you can stay to enjoy them until 10:30 p.m.

The Asian Lantern Festival is designed to be a walk-through event, and there are lantern displays spread throughout the whole Zoo. Walking through them all requires you to basically walk through the whole Zoo, so you’ll want to allow at least 2-3 hours, if not longer.

Asian Lantern Festival
Taj Mahal before dark
Asian Lantern Festival
Palace Lantern Corridor after dark

My husband Elliot and I got to Zoo just before 8 p.m. the evening we went, and were there almost until the event ended! If you get there earlier, you’ll have a better chance of seeing some zoo animals up and about before bedtime, but the lanterns are really best appreciated after dark.

Along with walking through all the lantern displays, you can also find food and drink vendors (including at the Asian Food Market), visit an Asian craft market, and see live performances every hour on the Fifth Third Bank Stage (performances feature acrobatics, juggling, martial arts, and more, and take place at 6:45, 7:45, 8:45 and 9:45 p.m. each evening).

Asian Lantern Festival
Boba lemonade from the Asian Food Market

Taking photos of everything is highly encouraged!

How to go to the Asian Lantern Festival

The Asian Lantern Festival is a ticketed event separate from regular Zoo entry – meaning a ticket (or membership) to the Zoo will NOT get you into the Lantern Festival. You need to purchase a separate ticket, which can be done online in advance (highly recommended, as some evenings do sell out!) up until 4 p.m. each day, or in-person after 4 p.m.

The event runs from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through September 26, 2021.

Asian Lantern Festival
Swans on Waterfowl Lake

Tickets cost $20 per person for non-Zoo members and $18 for members if you purchase online in advance. Same-day tickets at the gate are $22 per person. They also sell family packs of tickets; a pack of 4 tickets costs $60 for non-members, $54 for Zoo members, and $66 if you’re buying same-day at the gate. (Note: There are no discounts for kids or seniors.)

And, even though this event is designed to walk through, the Zoo is also offering the chance to drive through the displays on select Wednesday evenings. The cost for the drive-through experience is $60 per car, and you need to book a timed ticket (the drive will take 30-40 minutes). More info here.

Asian Lantern Festival
If you drive through, you can NOT exit your car to take photos like this.
Asian Lantern Festival
Welcome Gate

Is the Asian Lantern Festival worth it?

At around $20 per person, I can understand if you might wonder whether this experience is truly worth it or not.

My honest answer? Yes.

This event is so unique, and the lantern displays really are impressive. Even if you’ve been to the Cleveland Zoo before, you likely haven’t ever seen the Zoo like this.

Asian Lantern Festival
I mean… WHAT. This is so stunning.

Have you been to the Asian Lantern Festival at the Cleveland Zoo?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. george whitbeck

    Thank you for all your updates on things to do in our end of Ohio, though physically handicapped my wife and I enjoy your adventures and try to do what we are able.

    1. Amanda

      I’m glad you enjoy the site, George!

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