Time is running out to get rare glimpse at massive Chinese lantern display

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival’s dragon is longer than four school buses. CONTRIBUTED
The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival’s dragon is longer than four school buses. CONTRIBUTED

Good news if you haven’t had a chance to make it to Columbus yet to get a rare glimpse at gorgeous Chinese lantern art.

The exhibition will now run through Jan. 8, originally slated to end on Jan. 2.

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is lighting up the holiday season with 39 colorful Chinese lantern installations at the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio State Expo Center and Fairgrounds nightly through Jan. 8. Columbus is just the seventh city in the United States to host the event.

A brightly lit iconic dragon looms large in the night sky, at 200-feet from head to tail — longer than four school buses — and 21 feet tall. This is not what most people likely think of at the mention of a Chinese lantern.

“I would describe it as light sculptures,” said Huiyuan Lui, events manager for the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival. “They can be very large and very creative.”

The lanterns are created by hand, using silk fabric, steel frames, and thousands of LED lights. Twenty Chinese artisans spent six weeks assembling and decorating the lanterns throughout the park in preparation for the festival.

While the colorful illuminated displays are striking — the pagoda is four stories tall and has spinning upper floors — they are only part of the festival experience.

“One of the reasons this festival began was as a way to share the Chinese culture with other cultures around the world,” Lui said. “We wanted it to be like a carnival.”

To that end, there is live entertainment on tap every night including fearless acrobats and jugglers as well as those practicing martial arts, jar balancing and traditional Chinese face-changing. All performances are included with the festival admission price.

Chinese artisans will also share their craft with demonstrations including palm leaf weaving, sugar painting and Shu embroidery. A variety of traditional Chinese merchandise is also available.

And what festival would be complete without an array of delicacies to tempt your taste buds? Won ton soup, crab rangoon and egg rolls are on the menu along with French fries, cotton candy and hot chocolate.

So whether you’re strolling along a sea of brightly-lit flower lanterns or enjoying the grace and balance of the performers, the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival offers a glimpse of Chinese culture and a night of fun for the whole family.


When: Through Jan. 8, nightly 5-10 p.m.

Where: Natural Resources Park at the Ohio State Expo Center and Fairgrounds in Columbus; 717 E. 17th St., Columbus

What: 39 larger-than-life illuminated displays created using traditional Chinese methods and more than 15,000 LED lights; live entertainment, handicraft demonstrations, food and beverages

Admission: $15 - adults, $10 - children under 18, free – children under 2; $40 – family four-pack (two adults and two children)

More: www.ohiolanternfestival.com or visit OhioChineseLantern Festival on Facebook

By the numbers

7: Columbus is only the seventh city in the country to host the Lantern Festival

39: The 39 lantern installations include a four-story pagoda and other traditional Chinese images as well as holiday scenes complete with snowmen and penguins.

200: The glowing yellow Chinese Dragon lantern is 200 feet long and 21 feet high

15,000: The lanterns are lit with more than 15,000 LED lights