A 200-foot long, 21-foot tall dragon has invaded Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, N.C. 

Yes, the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival has returned to the Raleigh area for a second straight year! The festival, which only visits a handful of spots around the country each year, opens Nov. 25, 2016, and runs through Jan. 15, 2017. Hundreds of larger-than-life lanterns will be on display, creating an incredible, colorful adventure you can walk through this holiday season. In the first year of the event in Cary, more than 50,000 people came from across the state to see the glowing art pieces.

Chinese Lanterns

The lanterns are on hand to showcase the beauty and artistry of the Chinese culture—the art of Chinese lantern making dates back more than 2,000 years, with lantern-crafting skills being passed down from one generation to the next. Today, they're popularly used to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Each lantern at this year's festival was handcrafted and assembled by more than 25 visiting Chinese artisans and performers to our area.

In all, the hundreds of lanterns and more than 15,000 LED lights make up 20 distinct displays—all of them are new to this year's festival aside from the Chinese Dragon and an adorable group of pandas taking over a playground. The Dragon—the star of the show and an important cultural symbol in China—weighs more than 18,000 pounds, is longer than three school buses and needed a crane with a 15-person crew to install the head. The jaw-dropping piece floats on Symphony Lake, just a stones throw from the amphitheater stage. 

Chinese Dragon

Other lanterns include a Christmas castle, a pair of swans, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and more (we won't spoil them all!). Some of the displays have movement, some will make you laugh and all of them are visually impressive. Also new to the festival this year is a host of performances showcasing Chinese culture. Daily performances (6:30pm and 7:30pm, Sun.-Thurs.; 7pm and 9pm, Fri. and Sat.) will feature martial arts, traditional dance and acrobatics. 

Chinese Lantern Festival Walkway

A typical guest may take approximately one hour to walk through the entire festival (note this is a self-guided walking tour). Food and beverages will be sold on-site, including coffee, hot chocolate, beer and wine. Bring your cameras! Photography is encouraged—tag your photos on social media with #visitRaleigh and #NCChineseLanternFestival so we can check them out! 

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival will be open Tues.-Sun., from 6pm to 10pm. Tickets are required (except for those ages two and under). Tickets are available online or at the box office at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. The cost is $10 for ages three-17, and $15 for ages 18 and up. Parking is free at venue-owned parking lots.