Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

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If you’re in Philadelphia in May or June check out these beautiful outdoor art displays of Chinese lanterns! There beautiful sets consisting of many different sculpture pieces; from the traditional Chinese hanging lanterns, to pandas, leopards, butterflies, and even the famous Terra Cotta army.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Philadelphia. Photo of the Chinese Archway entrance to Franklin Park.
The big Chinese Archway marked the entrance to the park and festival, at the corners of Race and 6th Street.

Festival Dates and Location

The Chinese Lantern Festival is held at Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Located in the historic section of Philly, it’s just a block north from the Independence Visitor’s Center, and not too far of a walk from the bus station or center city. The dates are different every year, but for the 2018 season it’s held between May 1st and June 30th.

*In 2017 when I took these pictures it was from May 9th to June 11th.


Hours & Ticket Cost

It’s open for free during the day time till 5 or 6pm, but in the evenings from 7-11pm(Sunday-Thursday) or 6-11pm(Friday-Saturday) it costs $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and military, and $12 for children to get in. At night the sculptures are all lit up with thousands of LED lights, and there are various live performances going on and authentic food vendors to choose from. More information can be found on the official website.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Photo of the Terra Cotta Army lantern display.
The displays were pretty big, you could tell a lot of work went into making these. This was the Terra Cotta Army.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Year of the Pig.
The pig from the Chinese Zodiac display. They made them all cute cartoonish animals.


When I got there it was day time, so I wandered around and took a bunch of pictures of all the displays. They were all so vibrant and colorful, it was hard to pick a favorite! Each display had a small sign explaining what it was and the meaning behind it.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Panda display.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Phoenix display.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Owl and ladybug lanterns.
Some of these were so cute!


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Leopard display.
The sign said this was the leopard display, but they looked like cheetahs to me!


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Dragon lantern.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Swan lantern.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia.
I loved these hanging lanterns that you walked underneath. Must be beautiful lit up at night!


 A little history on Chinese Lantern Festivals

In Chinese, it’s known as the “Yuan Xiao Festival”, which comes from the food yuanxiao, which are rice balls with various fillings that people eat on that day. The festival is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 1st month in the Chinese Calendar, that falls around February-March, and marks the end of the Chinese New Year. It had its start back in the Han Dynasty(206 B.C.), with the construction of the lanterns being quite simple unless you were very wealthy. The traditional color for the lanterns, red, symbolizes luck and good fortune, and often times the lanterns would have riddles on them for people to solve.


Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia. Umbella display

I probably spent about an hour walking around and taking pictures during the weekday afternoon I was there. There were only a few people here and there doing the same, so luckily it wasn’t crowded at all. I’d love to go to China one day, but till then it’s awesome that there are events and festivals like this to get a little taste of the country. If you’d like to see more photos, check out my gallery album on flickr!


Chinese lantern watercolor painting
Watercolor painting based on a photo I took of a couple strolling through the displays. I loved that her jacket matched the lanterns as they passed by!



The Chinese Lantern Festival 2017, Franklin Square, Philadelphia is in it's 2nd year! It's open from May 9 till June 11th, 2017. Get in for free during the day or see it lit up at night if you purchase tickets.

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19 thoughts on “Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival”

  1. I went to something similar in Auckland, NZ in 2015. It was free in the evening luckily so we got to see them in all their glory! I adore the little piggy- so cute!

  2. I lived in PA and heard about this festival from friends. I wish I could have made it as the lanterns look so delicate/beautiful!

    • Ah well I hope they’ll keep doing this every year, so maybe you’ll get to see it there sometime, you never know!

    • No I’ve never been to Thailand. Floating lanterns sounds so pretty! I’ll have to find out when it’s going on if I ever go, maybe one day 🙂

  3. The pandas are so cute!!! I think they are my fave. Great photos! And I didn’t know why lanterns were red or that they sometimes had riddles on them so thanks for including a bit of background 🙂

  4. I’m SO glad I read your post, I’m actually heading to Philadelphia tomorrow! Definitely checking out this festival since I missed out on it last year. Good to know that it’s free during the daytime and not at night. Thanks for all the information and great pictures! 🙂

  5. I absolutely loved all the pictures in your post particularly the colourful lanterns and the cute pandas. I wish something like this happened in India. I liked the concept of having riddles on the lanterns for people to solve it!

    • Me too, I think that would be really fun to solve puzzles! They didn’t have anything like that there though that I’m aware of, unless at night time perhaps.

  6. Very colorful and lighthearted. If I were in Philly this would be a great date night. This time of year is a great time to travel and could schedule a trip to Philadelphia around it.

  7. This festival looks like great fun. It is so nice to see another culture being celebrated somewhere. I have a friend coming to Philly so I will mention to him to check it out and get some snaps!

  8. I love all the colours of the lanterns. I bet it looks quite magical at night when they are all lit up. Though I don’t know if I would pay the $17 to see it, so it’s nice that it’s free during the day.

    • Yeah same here, it seems expensive to me. Although the lanterns are actually all hand made. So if the money goes back to the artisans who made them, I would feel it’s worth it. And if you’re into cultural dances and shows and are looking for something to do after dinner–or for dinner as they do have food there too- it might be worth it too 🙂


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