Updated on December 4, 2023 by Julie McCool
The 2023 DC Winter Lantern Festival in Northern Virginia is a beautiful walk-through display of stunning Chinese lantern sculptures and kid-friendly activities. The festival returns for its second year at Tysons Lerner Square with all new displays. The unique Lantern Festival is a wonderful addition to DC area holiday light shows.
After a successful first appearance in 2022, the DC Winter Lantern Festival is back at Lerner Town Center in Tysons. Read on for photos, tips, and essential info to get the most from this winter event.
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The Winter Lantern Festival features over 10,000 handmade lanterns, from tiny starfish to huge sculptures. More than 100 expert Chinese artisans created these beautiful lanterns, continuing a long cultural tradition.
The 2023 DC Lantern Festival opens just in time for Thanksgiving and is open daily during Christmas week, including Christmas and New Year's Day. Then the festival opens on weekends until mid-February adding festive fun to chilly winter weekends.
Looking for more fun holiday light shows? We highly recommend the Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, a beautiful walkthrough display in Vienna VA. In addition, the Bull Run Festival of Lights Holiday Drive-Through in Centreville VA has been a family favorite for many years.
We were guests of the DC Winter Lantern Festival in Tysons VA. All photos, text, and opinions are our own.
What to Expect at the Winter Lantern Festival
Like other Chinese lantern festivals that have visited Northern Virginia (including LightUp Fest and Luminocity) lantern sculptures are an eclectic mix. The Tysons Lantern Festival theme highlights Chinese myths, legends, and zodiacs. In addition, sculptures feature animals and scenes both real and imagined.
Winter Lantern Festival sculptures are installed throughout the spacious, paved space at Lerner Square. The parking lot setting is not the most scenic, but it allows a lot of room to spread out. The number and size of the lantern sculptures displayed is impressive and the lanterns are beautiful.
Colorful lanterns in themed groups stretch the length of the square. Large displays fill the middle and both sides of the lot, so you'll likely need more than one trip from end to end to see them all. Prepare for a lot of walking!
Each lantern display creates a spectacular backdrop for family photos. There are fewer tunnels at the 2023 Winter Lantern Festival compared to last year, but there are still plenty of sculptures to see. A colorful, walk-through alligator is one highlight of this year's Lantern Festival.
Some lanterns are perfect for framing a photo of young children, like this colorful butterfly.
Dragons, mythical beasts, and colorful sea creatures will dazzle children and adults alike. During our visit, kids seemed to love a colorful display of spaceships accompanied by a floating astronaut.
Interactive Family-friendly Lantern Festival Activities
In addition to the sculptures, there are some kid-friendly activities, most with an additional fee. Unlike last year's festival, there are no free swings, see-saws, or other interactive displays.
The 2023 Winter Lantern Festival offers a few optional activities geared to young kids:
- Kids can drive small, wheeled dinosaurs around a fenced area.
- A row of large, animated dinosaurs offers another ride.
- There is a large bounce house in the festival tent.
Each of the rides is $10 for a 5-minute ride. Entry to the bounce house is also $10.
Stop in the tent, located at the opposite end from the entrance, to see two Chinese artisans at work. Sugar art and elaborate 3D cards are available for purchase. Another stand sells light-up wands and toys. The tent also hosts live stage performances, though there were none during our visit.
Outside the tent are food trucks and a stand selling fried rice, with a few tables nearby.
5 Tips for DC Winter Lantern Festival Visitors
Here are 5 tips for a happy lantern festival visit:
- Dress warm. All of the lanterns are outdoors, though you can warm up a bit in the tent. The festival may need to close during rain, snow, and high winds so check for inclement weather closures.
- Prepare to walk. Lantern displays are spread out over the full paved lot, so wear comfortable shoes. There are a few chairs near the back if you need a rest.
- Watch your footing. Covered power cords stretch between displays, so keep an eye out so you don't trip.
- Food is limited. There are only a couple of food trucks at the festival plus a fried rice stand. There are lots of great restaurants in the malls if you want a more substantial meal.
- Take the metro. While parking is available, the metro is an excellent way to reach the festival. Lerner Square is just a .4-mile walk from the Tysons Corner Metro stop.
FAQ: Visiting the Winter Lantern Festival
Here is essential information and answers to frequently asked questions about the Winter Lantern Festival in Tysons Virginia
When is the Winter Lantern Festival open?
How much are tickets to the Winter Lantern Festival? Is there a discount code?
Tickets to the Winter Lantern Festival start at $25.99 for adults, $17.99 for kids 4 – 12 (under 4 free), and $20.99 for seniors and military plus a $2 service fee. Family and group packs are also available. Tickets go on sale on October 25th.
Where is the Tysons Winter Lantern Festival located?
The DC Winter Lantern Festival is located at Lerner Square in Tysons Corner, 8025 Galleria Drive. The festival area is located between the Galleria and Tysons Corner malls, where the annual Cirque du Soleil show is held in summer.
Is parking available at the Lantern Festival in Tysons?
Yes, there is dedicated parking for Lerner Square close to the festival entrance for $15. However, we recommend dining and shopping at either Tysons Galleria or Tysons Corner Center mall so you can take advantage of their free parking before or after you visit the festival.
Can I reach the Lantern Festival by Metro?
Yes, the Dulles Metro Tysons Corner stop, on the Silver Line, is right next to Lerner Square. It is a short walk from the metro station to the festival entrance.
Is the Winter Lantern Festival good for kids? For adults?
Yes, the Winter Lantern Festival is fun for families, adults, and younger kids. Artsy teens will enjoy the lantern art but there are no activities for teens. Adults and couples will enjoy lots of fun photo opps.
How long does the Winter Lantern Festival take?
Allow at least 60 to 90 minutes to see and interact with the DC Lantern Festival displays. You may want to stay longer to see live performances and get a meal from the food truck.
Where can I find more information about the Winter Lantern Festival?
Visit the DC Winter Lantern Festival event website for more information and to check for weather-related closures.
Where can I stay near the Tysons Winter Lantern Festival?
Is the Winter Lantern Festival in Tysons wheelchair accessible?
Yes, the festival is wheelchair accessible and the Lerner Square lot is paved and level. Accessible event parking is across the street from the festival. entrance. The lantern displays are spread out over a large area so could be difficult for folks with limited mobility who do not have a wheelchair.
The 2023 DC Winter Lantern Festival is a beautiful Chinese lantern display in the Northern Virginia/DC area. We miss the hands-on elements from 2022, but the elaborate lanterns are wonderful to see and performances add extra fun to the event. So bundle up and add this new festival to your holiday season and winter fun list.
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