China Lights Lantern Festival Illuminates Milwaukee Once Again

Sep. 5, 2017
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China Lights, the month-long Chinese Lantern Festival that attracted over 100,000 people last year is back. Named "China Lights: The Magic Returns," the event that swept Milwaukee audiences off their feet will illuminate 10 acres of the famous Boerner Botanical Gardens from Sept. 22 through Oct. 22 with nearly 50 lanterns ranging from three feet to three stories high.

Far from resting on their laurels, China Lights organizers are renewing 95 percent of their displays this year, keeping only last year's show-stoppers: the 200-foot-long dragon and the mythical quilin.

"I think China Lights is going to be spectacular again, it's looking great!" Director of Boerner Botanical Gardens Shirley Walczak claims. "You have to really see it, it is hard to explain. The lights and the colors, and the music that surrounds you as you're walking through the garden transports you to China!" 

"China Lights is an event that celebrates the art, skill, and beauty of traditional Chinese lantern festivals that have been celebrated for the last 400 years," reads their website. Indeed, authenticity seems to be the motto of China Lights. Lantern artisans from Zigong City are coming specifically from China to America to give life to the festival. They weld the metal frames of the lanterns, lighting them with variegated lights from the inside before covering them with brightly colored silk then hand painted.

Some exhibits are made up of over 1,000 components, such as the monumental Phoenix lantern or the Pagoda Palace, a colossal assortment of 60,000 plates, cups and spoons. The Pagoda Palace is located in front of the Education and Visitor Center, so that people can admire artists at work while they build it. 

Every night, an Illumination Parade will walk through the displays, ending its course at one of the two stages of the festival, where entertainment will be available for visitors. Martial arts, acrobatics, juggling, music and cultural displays are to be expected, highlighting the rich culture of China. Schedule will be posted on-site every night. Adventurous visitors will be able to try Kowloon Chicken and other traditional Chinese foods while enjoying the shows, but Western food options will be available.

For the venue at 9400 W. Boerner Drive, Hales Corners, China Lights is also a one-of-a-kind chance to show off the beauty of Milwaukee's parks, deemed worthy to host a festival honoring China's millennia-old tradition. "The displays are beautiful even by day," Director Walczak says. "Thanks to the campaign on social media, I believe it will be a repeat of last year's success." 

Tickets can be bought online or on-site and cost $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and children and $45 for one adult repeat visits ticket. For $30, patrons may get a one-visit VIP ticket, which includes an early admission, a guide, a traditional hand fan and the chance to participate to the Illumination Parade.

China Lights: The Magic Returns will be open Sept. 22–Oct. 22., Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30p.m.–10p.m., with an early admission at 5p.m. for VIP visitors. For more information, visit


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