China Lights Will Return With an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Theme

See the Boerner Botanical Gardens light up again this fall.

After two years of cancellations, the China Lights lantern festival is returning to Boerner Botanical Gardens this year from Sept. 16-Oct. 30. This year’s theme is “Adventure in Lantern Wonderland,” and the event will bring over 40 Chinese lantern displays to the gardens, including Alice in Wonderland-themed offerings like the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter.

The displays are spread around a three-quarter-mile path through the gardens. Visitors can stroll during the evening and night, when the large lanterns are lit up in bright, eye-catching color. There will also be 11 interactive light displays, such as illuminated swings and a light kaleidoscope.  

Through the six-week event, the Gardens will also host live performances celebrating Asian culture, along with food and drink vendors.

“China Lights is one of those Milwaukee are events that is a ‘must-visit’ and a ‘must-selfie,’” said Guy Smith, the executive director at Milwaukee County Parks in a press release. “We know people are going to be especially excited to visit after a two-year break.”

China Lights first started in 2016 and continued every year until 2020, when it was canceled due to the pandemic. Last year’s event was canceled due to staffing shortages. Nearly 400,000 people have attended China Lights since its first year, according to the organizers.  

Hours for the event are Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30-10 p.m, with lantern shows at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets are on sale now at chinalights.org, with adult tickets selling for $25 on weekends, $22 on weekdays, and children for $16 on weekends, $14 on weekdays.  Unlike previous years, tickets must be purchased for specific times and dates.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.