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 an eighth time!

The festival—which only visits a handful of spots around the country each year is presented in Cary in partnership with Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc.—opens Nov. 17, 2023, and runs through Jan. 14, 2024. Hundreds of larger-than-life lanterns will be on display, making for an incredible, colorful adventure you can walk through this holiday season.

Chinese Dragon Boat

More than 200,000 visitors are expected to come from across the state to see the glowing pieces of art.

Accessibility note: This event is a self-guided walking tour. Booth Amphitheatre has paved walkways and is wheelchair accessible, including the parking area and entrance. A sensory-friendly night will take place on Wed., Dec. 6.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

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.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

In all, 2,500 lanterns and more than 15,000 LED lights make up 50 distinct displays, including the return of the spectacular Chinese Dragon, this year incorporated into the head of a racing dragon boat.. The boat—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 requires 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 Lantern Festival 2023

Other displays include a dazzling starry sky illusion that you can step inside, a phoenix corridor that leads to the residence of the Jade Emperor, a herd of 1,000-year-old white deer, a mischievous Monkey King, the beloved moonlight swings and many more (we won't spoil them all!). Most of the displays have movement or interactive features, some will make you laugh and all of them are visually impressive. 

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

Beyond beautiful lanterns, the festival also welcomes a showcase of Chinese culture—nightly stage performances (5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30pm) featuring martial arts, traditional dance, acrobatics, drum performances and more. 

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

A typical guest may take approximately one hour to walk through the entire festival. Food will be available—crispy spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken bites, wonton soup and more—along with coffee, beer, wine and hot chocolate (adults can get this spiked with Bailey's).

Bring your cameras! Photography is encouraged—tag your photos on social media with #visitRaleigh and #NCChineseLanternFestival so we can check them out!

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

 

How to purchase tickets for the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival

The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is open seven days a week—with the exception of Christmas—into the new year. Tickets are required (except for those ages two and under).

There are several ticket options, generally ranging from $11 to $30. 

Date-specific tickets: If you know the date you would like to attend the festival in advance, purchasing a date-specific ticket is a way to save a few dollars. Ticket prices are $11 for youth and $16 for adults Sunday through Thursday, and $15 for youth and $20 for adults on Friday and Saturday.

Any-night tickets: For maximum flexibility, any-night tickets can be purchased for youth and adults for $30 (price increases to $35 beginning Nov. 17) and can be used one time on any date during the festival.

Twilight tickets: For entry as early as 4:30pm (gates normally open at 6pm), twilight tickets generally allow for viewing of the festival during less crowded times. Twilight ticket holders can stay for as long needed (festival closes at 10pm). Tickets are $15 for youth and $25 for adults. Note that twilight tickets are also purchased for a specific date.

Tickets are available online or at the box office at Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

Parking is free at venue-owned parking lots. Koka Booth Amphitheatre is located at 8003 Regency Pkwy., Cary, N.C., 27518.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2023

 

More upcoming holiday events in Raleigh, N.C.

  • Skate the Square at Fenton, Nov. 5 through Feb. 5
  • Downtown Raleigh Tree Lighting, Nov. 17
  • THE DESSERTERY, Nov. 17-Dec. 23
  • 79th Annual ABC11 Raleigh Christmas Parade, Nov. 18
  • THE RINK presented by UNC Health at Red Hat Amphitheater, Nov. 18 through Jan. 15, 2024
  • Raleigh Little Theatre presents CinderellaDec. 1-17
  • Wendell Wonderland, Dec. 1
  • Holiday Pops with the North Carolina Symphony, Dec. 8-9
  • Theatre In The Park presents A Christmas CarolDec. 8-10
  • North Carolina Theatre presents Elf: The Musical, Dec. 9-17
  • The Justice Theater Projects presents Black Nativity in ConcertDec. 9-10
  • Happy Holly Days Christmas Parade, Dec. 9
  • 52nd Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour, Dec. 9-10
  • North Carolina Master Chorale presents Joy of the SeasonDec. 12
  • Raleigh Ringers Holiday Concerts, Dec. 16-17
  • Carolina Ballet presents The NutcrackerDec. 14-24

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