Bright, colorful light displays are extra cheerful during the short, dark days of winter. Joining an array of local seasonal light shows, there's a new and different player on the scene this year. The Seattle Lantern Light Festival is a new, temporary installation at the fairgrounds in Puyallup that offers glowing lights and a slice of Chinese culture.
Bottom line: The Lantern Light Festival definitely provides a dose of sparkle in the dark of winter, but be warned: It doesn’t come cheap. We went for a recent visit and rounded up these tips on taking the kids if you decide to check out the display.
This display is a touring show of custom-built, three dimensional lanterns in a variety of shapes and themes. The lanterns are hand crafted and represent a Chinese tradition that started over 2,000 years ago. Expect traditional themes as well as over-sized Santas. The showstopper is the dragon.
In addition to the lights, the festival includes a variety of typical carnival-style activities for children such as mini-golf, inflatables, face painting and ride-on “dragons.” Note that all of these activities cost extra on top of your entry tickets. There is also a short acrobatic show included with admission, and many gift items available for purchase.
I visited with my family during last weekend's Seahawks game, which undoubtedly contributed to a smaller crowd. We found it very easy to walk around and it would have been no problem to navigate the grounds with a stroller or wheelchair.
The acrobat show, while just 20 minutes long, was entertaining. My son’s favorite part was watching the unicyclist who, improbably, caught and balanced a series of teacups on her head.
The lanterns were truly lovely, and we enjoyed the festive atmosphere of the event.
We saw everything, including the acrobat show, in an hour, and, in my opinion, the tickets were very expensive for the size of the event and what's included. Exhibit-only regular admission tickets for my husband, our son and me were $74 with online fees. Activities, if we'd done any, would have added cost on top of that.
Those who love the look of lanterns and don't want to miss this chance to see them should go. The lanterns also photograph beautifully so the displays will appeal to those with an interest in photography. My recommendation is to consider going on a Thursday when children's tickets are somewhat discounted (but are only good on a Thursday). Otherwise, there are not many ways to save on the admission fees aside from organizing a group of 20 or more people and qualifying for the group rate.
If you go, I suggest looking over the various activities offered in advance, with your children, and deciding on which you'll do. You may be better off buying individual tickets for attractions at the event vs. buying the the activity package in advance. More on that below.
Finally, do check the weather forecast as this is an outdoor event. Rain will close the inflatables and may cancel the acrobat show. It should be noted that there are no refunds for tickets, although tickets purchased online are good for any night so you could change your mind about when you go. (Note: Discounted kids' tickets purchased for a Thursday are good only on Thursdays).
If you go...
When: The festival is open Thursday–Sunday through Dec. 13, and again Jan. 4–7, 2018. For the period Dec. 14–Jan. 1, the festival is open daily (corresponding with many schools' winter break dates). The festival begins at 5 p.m. and closing times vary, though generally it's 10 or 11 p.m. Check online for holiday hours.
Where: Washington State Fair Events Center, 110 9th Ave. S.W., Puyallup. Enter through the purple gate.
Tickets: Adults, $23; children ages 3–12, $18 (Thursday children's tickets are $14); seniors ages 65 and older and active military (ID required at entry for both seniors and military), $20; ages 2 and under are free. Note that a maximum of two senior and two military tickets can be purchased online.
Extras: The kids' activity package can be purchased in advance, online or at the event for a few dollars more. You can also purchase individual activity tickets at the event. Note that not all activities are included in the Children’s Activity Package. Individual activity tickets are $2 each and most activities cost 3–5 tickets.
Dining: American-style Chinese food is available for purchase at the event. If you don’t want to eat there, Puyallup has the usual assortment of chain and fast food franchises. Two good chain alternatives downtown are Crockett’s Public House and Trackside Pizza.
Parking: There is ample, free parking in the fair lot by the purple gate.
Other fun at the fairgrounds: If you have younger children, consider a visit to North Pole at the Fair, another seasonal attraction at the fairgrounds. Santa can be found at the North Pole at through Dec. 23. This Santa experience lets you make a reservation for a time with Santa, and the kids can play at the “North Pole” before or after their photograph with relatively minimal time in line. The North Pole is delightful for little ones; imagine a Christmas-themed children’s museum!
You can also just go to the North Pole to play without getting pictures. Just don’t expect to sneak in a visit with the big guy if you don't reserve a time. Santa time is only for folks with reservations, and you will get on the naughty list if you ask his helpers to bend the rules!
Entry to the North Pole can be purchased online or at the gate for $5 for adults and children ages 2 and older. Tots under 2 are free. Most things are included with admission, though there is an extra charge for making a craft and/or getting a treat from Mrs. Claus’ kitchen. You do not need a reservation just to visit the North Pole but you do need a reservation for a visit and photo sitting with Santa. Reservation fees are $35–$40, which includes admission and a sizeable credit towards portrait packages. Reserve soon; spots are filling fast.