LightUp Fest Lantern Festival 2018 in Northern Virginia

Updated on December 19, 2022 by Julie McCool

Please see our latest Chinese lantern event review, new in 2022:

DC Winter Lantern Festival Lights Up Northern Virginia

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LightUp Fest 2018 brings new holiday fun to Northern Virginia with dramatic and beautiful Chinese lanterns and modern light displays. The festival features 77 installations and over one million lights in the largest light display in the Eastern U.S. Entertainment, interactive exhibits, and unique craft booths round out the holiday fun.

Lucky Northern Virginians experienced the beauty of Chinese Lantern displays at the 2016 holiday show at Roer's Zoofari. In 2018, Chinese artisans return to the DC area with the larger and more dramatic LightUp Fest, at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Virginia.

LightUp Fest Northern Virginia Displays and Activities

The outdoor, walk-through LightUp Fest fills 20 acres with themed light displays. The scale of many structures is impressive. From the castle-like entryway to the replica of the U.S. Capitol Building, many structures feel almost full size.

Capitol Building display at LightUp Fest NoVA
Capitol Building display at LightUp Fest NoVA

Brightly lit and themed walkways lead between major areas of the exhibit. We especially like the traditional lanterns hanging above “bamboo” trees over one walkway.

LightUp Fest lanterns in 2018
LightUp Fest Lanterns

Many displays include a mix of traditional Chinese lantern art and more modern components. For example, the dinosaur display includes a giant, roaring, animatronic T Rex next to beautifully lit lantern volcanos and palm trees.

A tall pagoda stands in the midst of the festival grounds, and several colorful displays depict Chinese cultural traditions. Themed areas include animal displays, the Statue of Liberty, and more. Don't miss the giant T Rex made of recycled plastic bottles.

Music plays at many displays with mixed effect. Oddly scary music plays near the Capitol Building and some speakers were just static. The displays, however, are lovely and definitely picture-worthy.

More LightUp Fest Activities

Lantern displays are the main draw, but there are more activities and fun on hand. Entertainers perform on a large stage at one corner of the festival. We heard two bands and watched acrobats perform during our visit.

Near the stage, Chinese artisans create traditional artworks in a row of booths. Hand-cut greeting cards, featuring gorgeous fold-out vignettes, were especially impressive. Sugar puppet making, calligraphy, portrait sketching, and rice carving are also offered. You could buy some truly unique holiday gifts from the Chinese artisans.

A row of food trucks next to the artisan booths sell food and treats. At the back of the festival is a small midway with carnival rides (extra ticket purchase required).

There are also free, interactive play areas inside the festival. A set of swings, light-up stepping stones, climb-on panda bears, a giant Lite Brite, and a (muddy) maze all offer fun for kids young and old.

LightUp Fest swings
LightUp Fest swings

Tips for Your Visit to LightUp Fest Northern VA

LightUp Fest Northern Virginia is open 5:30 to 10:30 PM daily, November 10 to January 2, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

Admission to LightUp Fest is $29.99 13 and up; $19.99 3 to 12; $24.99 for students with college ID and seniors 65+; free under 3. Active military personnel can enter free on Tuesdays (family members require tickets). Tickets are not timed, and can be used for entry on any day or time.

  • Dress warm and wear shoes that can get muddy. This is an outdoor display and there are no indoor areas to escape the cold.
  • LightUp Fest is located in an unpaved section of One Loudoun. The ground is uneven and can get quite muddy. While gravel and rubber pathways wind through the displays, you may still encounter wet or muddy areas.
  • Check the LightUp Fest Facebook page for inclement weather closures. The festival is likely to close during snow, heavy rain, and extreme cold/wind.
  • LightUp Fest is located in One Loudoun, at the intersection of Loudoun County Parkway and Route 7. There is plenty of room for visitors and parking is free.
  • Turn your visit into a mini-getaway with a stay at Lansdowne Resort. The resort makes a great base for visiting the festival and other fun Leesburg destinations.
  • Find additional information at the LightUp Fest website.

LightUp Fest 2018 is a welcome addition to Northern Virginia holiday fun. This is one of the most spectacular light displays in the Washington DC area, perfect for a holiday family outing or date night.

LightUp Fest Northern Virginia
LightUp Fest Northern Virginia

You’ll find more holiday light displays and fun in these related articles:

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We attended LightUp Fest as media guests. As always, all text, photos, and opinions are our own.

LightUp Fest Northern Virginia holiday fun near Washington DC