Atlanta Chinese Lantern Festival: All You Need To Know About the Amazing IllumiNights at the Zoo (2023)

Atlanta’s cherished holiday tradition is back again in 2023 — the Atlanta Chinese Lantern Festival at Zoo Atlanta, known as IllumiNights. IllumiNights is a fun holiday lights experience that’s unlike any other. After dark, you’ll see more than 100 glowing lanterns throughout the park representing wildlife and flora and fauna — both real and imagined.

In 2023, there will be even more new lanterns and experiences. This Atlanta, Georgia, experience cannot be missed. Here’s everything you need to know about IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta.

Atlanta Chinese Lantern Festival: All You Need To Know About the Amazing IllumiNights at the Zoo (2023)
Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

ILLUMINIGHTS AT ZOO ATLANTA

IllumiNights is a holiday lights experience where you’ll walk a 1-mile path through the Zoo, stopping to admire the beautiful glowing lanterns along the way. This year, there will be more than 100 lanterns!

The lanterns will represent animals and flora and fauna…both real and imagined.  You’ll see everything from luminous leopards to a towering fiery phoenix. Each of the lanterns was painstakingly crafted and hand-painted by Chinese artisans.

NEW in 2023: IllumiNights guests will have a chance to soar snow-capped mountains with Elf Power Inc., a holiday virtual reality experience. Elf Power Inc. is presented in partnership with Immotion and will be offered at the Zoo’s new Gorilla Trek VR Theater.

Also new in 2023 is an option to purchase a refillable souvenir hot beverage cup to keep the IllumiNights stroll cozy and warm. Both are available as add-ons when purchasing tickets online for the event. 

This year, IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta will take place November 16, 2023 through January 14, 2024.

The experience will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. nightly except on select dates, including Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Capacity is limited, and advance timed reservations are highly recommended.

Tickets for IllumiNights in 2023 are on sale now.

DISCOUNT TICKETS: Before the main event, visit Zoo Atlanta during the day! Get your discount tickets HERE!

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THIS ATLANTA CHINESE LANTERN FESTIVAL

  • The route for IllumiNights is wheelchair- and stroller-friendly and should take about an hour to walk through.
  • These are not lanterns that you touch…they’re meant to be seen but not handled.
  • While most animals go indoors for the night, a select few species who typically spend time in their habitats after dark may be visible. These may include giant pandas (indoor dayroom habitats), Chilean flamingos, and Huacaya alpacas.
  • IllumiNights is a separate ticketed event, and advanced reservations are highly recommended.
  • IllumiNights is a family-friendly event, but it’s also perfect for a date night. It’s meant for everyone to enjoy!
  • Children under 3 are FREE at this event. Everyone 3 and up must have a ticket. There are Value Night tickets and Standard Tickets available.
  • Adding to the festive spirit will be warm beverages such as cocoa and cider (hot adult beverages available for ages 21 and up), and marshmallow toasting. Festival-inspired snacks and meal options will be available for purchase at select concession locations.
  • The Carousel will be running during IllumiNights.
  • IllumiNights is a rain or shine event, so make sure to come prepared for the weather.
  • Paid public parking is available in the Cherokee Avenue lot (flat rate of $6 during IllumiNights) and in the Grant Park Gateway parking facility on Boulevard.
  • Zoo Atlanta Members will receive an exclusive discount on tickets, and will have access to the Member-only Preview Days from November 16-November 19, 2023. The event opens to the General Public on November 20.

HISTORY OF THE CHINESE LANTERN FESTIVAL

Visiting IllumiNights is your chance to experience a taste of traditional Chinese culture. Travel through the art of lantern making, dating back to 2,000 years ago, with a modern twist. 

The Lantern Festival may originate as far back as the Han dynasty, when Buddhist monks would light lanterns on the 15th day of the lunar year, and the festival celebrated Buddha. The rite was later adopted by the general population and spread throughout China and other parts of Asia. The lantern festival is a Chinese holiday that traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

The holiday is celebrated by enjoying colored lantern displays and eating sweet glutinous rice in the shape of balls called tangyuan.

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Atlanta Chinese Lantern Festival: All You Need To Know About the Amazing IllumiNights at the Zoo (2023)