See thousands of illuminated lanterns and LEDs at the the China Lights festival this fall.

Last year, the China Lights festival doubled its projected attendance. Around 100,000 people came out to see elaborate lanterns, hand-crafted by artisans and outfitted with multi-colored LEDs, displayed around the gardens. The event returns this year, from September 22 to October 22, with an even larger display of Chinese lanterns every night except Monday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Whitnall Park.

According to John Dargle Jr., the Director of Milwaukee County Parks, the event is growing “bigger and brighter.”

Two of the most popular lanterns from last year’s event are returning this year, the 200-foot long dragon and the mythical qilin. All the other displays are new to the China Lights festival, which has 45 brand new lanterns and over 1,000 LED lighting components. This year, some of the most notable new additions are a large Phoenix and a Pagoda Palace made of 60,000 plates, cups and spoons. There will also be an interactive element to this year’s lanterns. An Elephant lantern lights up when visitors pedal a bicycle, growing brighter with faster pedaling.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County Parks

The festival will also offer various cultural performances and demonstrations, such as acrobatics, and will have two stages of live entertainment set up in the garden. Food and beverages (with wide-ranging selections from Kowloon Chicken to Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds) will be also be available.

Each of the five weekends will have an individual theme, such as “Moon Festival Weekend” and “Asian Cuisine.” A preview night will be held on September 20 from 6 to 9 p.m., with all proceeds supporting Milwaukee County Parks through the Park People, who have partnered to put on the event. Further support for the event comes from Travel Wisconsin, Tri City National Bank and We Energies.

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Tickets for the festival are on sale now at $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and children; admission is free for children under 5.