** ORIGINAL REPORT: WORTH THE DRIVE (July 1, 2019): Asian Lantern Festival lights up zoo with 40 interactive displays
A 50-foot pagoda lights up the night sky, and music wafts through the warm summer air. A 30-foot giant panda — constructed of ping-pong balls — looms large while snow leopards, takin and red panda greet their nighttime visitors.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo comes alive after dark for six weeks for the Asian Lantern Festival, presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s. The festival, which showcases more than 40 stunning lantern displays, is back on select nights through July 28 after breaking attendance records last year.
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“We hosted it last year to celebrate our new Asian Highlands habitat and brought it back by popular demand,” said Kelly Manderfield, Cleveland Metroparks chief marketing officer. “We had 150,000 guests last year, breaking national and international records for the event.”
The Cleveland MetroParks Zoo has taken the phrase, “go big or go home,” to heart for this year’s festival.
“The Asian Lantern Festival is returning bigger than ever with all-new displays, additional live performances and an enhanced offering of culturally-inspired cuisine,” Manderfield said.
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New interactive elements have also been added to enhance the experience for the young and the young at heart as they walk through a 100-foot long, brightly-lit, color-changing shark tunnel or relax in a glowing moon swing.
With so much to see, do and, even, taste, the Asian Lantern Festival has something for everyone.
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Here are 6 reasons to join the festivities at the Asian Lantern Festival:
A crane was required to assist in setting up the largest display – a towering Chinese pagoda that stands 50-feet tall and is made of 19,000 mugs, 7,400 plates, 7,000 spoons and 1,300 bowls.
Visitors can get in on the fun by creating music with an interactive guitar, banging out a beat on a giant drum, jumping across the light-up lily pads or relaxing in one of the glowing, color-changing moon swings.
Acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and martial artists are just a few of the many types of performers who entertain the crowd nightly as guests can enjoy live performances every hour, starting at 6:45 p.m. on the Fifth Third Bank Stage.
While the 30-foot panda is awe-inspiring, the lanterns aren’t the only fascinating sight. Visitors can also take a peek at many of the magnificent animals that call the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo home. From the African Elephant Crossing to the Asian Highlands, there are many animals ready to greet their nighttime guests.
From dinosaurs to dragons and Terra Cotta Warriors to a giant tarantula, there are engaging and awe-inspiring displays all along the brightly-lit festival pathway. Make sure to find your Chinese Zodiac animal.
In addition to enjoying the stunning displays from Tianyu Arts and Culture, guests can shop at the Asian craft market and taste mouth-watering, culturally-inspired cuisine, including local favorites from partner restaurants Li Wah, King Wah and Thai Thai.
WANT TO GO?
What: Forty large-scale illuminated displays featuring hundreds of individual lanterns; interactive displays, live performances, Asian craft market and food.
When: 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through July 28
Tickets: Advance purchase $18.50 for non-members or a 4-pack for $50. Advance ticket sales end at midnight the day before the event. Tickets can be purchased same-day at the box office for $20.50 each or a 4-pack for $60. Children under 2 are admitted free. Single night tickets and a family four-pack are on sale at futureforwildlife.org/lanterns.
Tickets are only good for the designated purchase date.
ASIAN LANTERN FESTIVAL FUN FACTS
· Set up for the festival began six weeks ago and more than 20 semi-trucks helped transport the metal interiors for the hundreds of lanterns
· The Chinese pagoda stands 50-feet tall and is built from 19,000 mugs, 7,400 plates, 7,000 spoons and 1,300 bowls
· The “Jawsome” walk-through shark is 100-feet long
· 30-foot-tall giant panda is made from 20,000 ping pong balls
· The Chinese dragon spans more than 200 feet across Waterfowl Lake