The Lights Lantern Festival – An Honest Event Guide with Insider Tips

| |

When my friends invited me to attend the Lights Lantern Festival that was coming to Sacramento, I really had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, it’s truly an enchanting and visually stunning event that feels like real-life magic.

This festival is very distinctive and unique, and it can be tricky to know how to plan for your upcoming event. My goal is to make this an essential resource for any first time attendees, designed to help you navigate the event like a pro. I will tell you details like what to pack, what to expect during the event and how to maximize your experience.

A Brief History on Releasing Lantern Lights

The tradition of releasing lantern lights dates back over two millennia, originating in ancient China. Initially used for military signaling during the Han Dynasty, the practice evolved into a cultural and spiritual event. Lantern releases were believed to bring good luck, symbolize the release of worries, and serve as a means to honor deceased loved ones. Over time, this captivating tradition spread across Asia and beyond, becoming a popular feature of various festivals and celebrations.

Sky Lanterns vs. Floating Lanterns Festivals

Because of the popularity of these lantern festivals, there have been all kinds of new and duplicated styles of festivals popping up everywhere. The specific one that I attended was the Lights Lantern Festival, but there’s also Lights Over America and Night Lights that offer similar tours.

Not to be confused with sky lanterns, there’s also water lantern festivals too. It’s a similar concept, except you launch the lanterns onto a contained water surface instead of into the sky. The effect is very similar, and probably a little safer.

Where Does the Lights Lantern Festival Take Place?

The Lights Lantern Festival is a national tour that travels to many states in the US. From East Coast, Midwest to West Coast, your local or nearby city will likely be on the tour list at some point. We went to the Sacramento event, which actually took place in Willows (and more recently was hosted in Stonyford, CA). The events don’t actually happen inside major city limits (because of fire hazards), and you should plan on driving at least an hour into rural territory to the event.

Getting Your Tickets to the Lights Lantern Festival

The early bird tickets to the Lights Lantern Festival are way cheaper than the regular tickets, so you really want to try and grab those if you can. Make sure to be signed up for their newsletter and be paying special attention to your city’s dates. When you see your city announced on the tour, make sure to register for it so you receive the alerts. The early bird tickets will sell out quickly on their website, so don’t sleep on it! Otherwise you’ll be paying the full price for the event.

What Does Your Ticket Include?

When you arrive at the event, your adult ticket will include a packet for you to claim. Inside there’s a lantern and a marker (for decorating your lantern).

Anyone under the age of 13 (4-years-old – 12-years-old) needs to buy a kids ticket and their packet will include a kid’s entertainment kit. They will not receive their own lantern.

Kids 3-years-old and under are free and will not receive a packet.

The ticket price does not include the parking fee. At the Sacramento event, parking cost $30! (way too expensive!).

What to Pack for the Lights Lantern Festival

This event will always take place in large remote fields, several miles outside of a major city. You’ll often find them booked in empty racetrack arenas. It is a picnic-style experience, where you find a spot on the field and set up camp. You’ll need to bring things like picnic blankets, fold-up lawn chairs, coolers, small and compact shade tents and some food and drinks.

Be Prepared for Sun Exposure

Make sure to pack some kind of protection from the sun, especially on hot days. You will be out in a field without any kind of shade. Plan on bringing a shade tent, sun screen, sun hats, sunglasses, etc. This is especially important if you have young children with you.

Bring Food, Snacks and Water

While you can opt to pay big bucks for food and drinks at the festival, I highly suggest bringing at least the bare minimum of snacks and water for your crew. Keep them cold in a cooler on wheels and stay hydrated. No alcohol is permitted so leave the booze at home.

Bring Your Own Entertainment

Everyone arrives at the venue in the late afternoon to set up camp, but you have to wait until the sky turns dark to release the lanterns. So that means you’ve got several hours of sitting around waiting for the main event. They will have a main stage with music and entertainment going on, but we decided to locate ourselves far from the noisy part of the event. I suggest you bring self-entertainment that doesn’t require wifi, like card games, coloring books, books for reading, etc.

Bring Clothing Layers

As the sun goes down, the weather can change quickly with dropping temperatures. Come prepared with blankets, jackets and warm hats just in case.

A Wagon Would Be Very Helpful

The parking lot tends to be very far from the field where the event takes place, which means you are manually lugging a lot of things for up to a mile on foot. Having a sturdy wagon to load up and pull to the field would be really helpful, and could possibly save you from having to make multiple trips.

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes

At the event I attended, the bathroom situation was very gross. It was a long row of Porta Potties baking in the hot sun. They had no toilet paper or handwashing options. I was very pregnant at the time of the event, so that was less than ideal.

Plan On Arriving Early to the Event

Despite the fact that everyone pays for their own ticket, it didn’t seem like there was enough parking for everyone. Some people had to park really far away and walk even further to the event field. If you care about getting prime parking, and a good viewing spot on the field, then plan on arriving early. FYI – This will also mean that you’ll be spending more time self-entertaining on the field waiting for sundown.

Do They Sell Food at the Event?

Yes, they had food trucks selling food. I didn’t end up buying any food because we brought our own picnic food with us. I remember that the options were a bit limited and very expensive. I highly suggest at the very least you bring your own snacks and drinks, because you may not be very excited about the options available at the event.

How Does Parking Work at the Event?

The Lights Lantern Festivals usually take place at racetrack venues. The parking lots tend to be very far away from the fields where you set up your picnic and eventually release the lanterns. Plan on walking about a mile to

The venue often charges big fees for parking (like $30), which are unavoidable because you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you can’t park on someone’s private property. It’s a racket for sure!

What To Expect with the Security Check

At the event that I attended, the security was not very robust or thorough. They had hundreds of people coming through the gates with tons of stuff to set up their spot on the lawn. Because they allow outside food and drinks, they are not taking a lot of time to look into bags and coolers for alcohol. Obviously no weapons are allowed, or animals.

Are There Restrooms at the Event?

The bathrooms were just a row of really gross Porta Potties, and they quickly ran out of toilet paper. I mentioned above that I highly recommend bringing your own toilet paper, baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Other venues may have actual real bathrooms available for visitors, but this one in Northern California did not.

Is the Lights Lantern Festival Child-Friendly?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Most of the event is just hanging out in the field and listening to music from the stage. But when it comes time for lighting the lanterns, you are dealing with real-life fire flames and paper lanterns. It’s not uncommon for the wind to blow the flames and catch the lantern on fire. A young child should never hold a lantern with a burning flame, or even be within a few feet of it. Vigilant adult supervision is crucial for a safe experience for the whole family.

What Kind of Entertainment Do They Have at the Event?

There’s a main stage with bands playing music, DJ playlists, MCs and we even saw a magician. The stage was really loud and didn’t have the best sound quality. After sitting in the field for hours, you could get a bad headache if you’re too close to the speakers. My friends and I opted to be as far away from the stage as we could for a more chill vibe. If you have young kids, I would suggest doing the same thing.

When Do They Release the Lanterns Into the Sky?

The lanterns are only allowed to be released under certain conditions. The sky must be dark, and winds must be calm, and the fire marshal must give the green light. It’s a lot of waiting around for the signal from the person on the main stage. Once they give the go ahead, everyone is frantically trying to light their lantern at the same time. It’s a bit of a chaotic scene. A gust of wind can blow through the field and lit lanterns can get away from you and catch fire. Getting the lantern up into the air is not as easy as it may seem.

What Time Does the Festival End?

In the summer, the sunset is not until around 9pm. So the event ended around 10pm. But in different times of year, I’m sure it ends much earlier than that.

How Do I Decorate My Lantern?

If you’re following Asian culture traditions, you can write a wish on your lantern, dedicate your lantern to a loved one, or write about something that you want to let go of. You can also just use it as a canvas for art doodling, and incorporate several things into your theme. At check-in, they will provide you with one black marker to decorate your lantern. You can bring a pack of colorful markers if you want to go the extra mile.

Instagram and TikTok Videos and Photos

Many social media buffs like to both take photos and record videos of the lantern release. Keep in mind that you are working in very dark conditions, which makes photos and videos challenging. Also, the lantern release goes by really quickly and before you know it, all the lights in the sky are very far away and too tiny to be seen on your camera. I highly suggest having a dedicated person in your crew to film and photograph the action parts while the rest of you focus on lighting the lanterns.

Does the Lights Lantern Festival Really Look Like the Scene from Tangled?

Yes it does! Except I would say that it’s a bit more hectic and doesn’t always go as smoothly as it looks in the movie.

Planning a Lights Lantern Festival Engagement

I’ve seen videos on social media where couples propose during the lantern release. It really is a romantic gesture and would be a very sweet surprise. I suggest having some people there to help you with the lantern lighting, so you can focus on the proposal. How about writing “Will you marry me?” on your lantern as a surprise?! Too cute!

Are the Lanterns Safe?

The event promoters for the Lights Lantern Festival have a blurb on their website about how safe these lanterns are and not to be concerned. After witnessing multiple lanterns catch fire and go up in flames, I personally have my doubts. Nobody on the field is trained to be dealing with open flames next to highly flammable rice paper, and that is clear when you watch amateurs trying to get their lantern into the air. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, and maybe avoid any kind of intoxication or being under the influence.

Are Dogs Allowed at the Lights Lantern Festival?

Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at the Lights Lantern Festival, so Fido needs to stay at home.

Will They Cancel the Event Due to Weather?

The safety and success of this event is highly influenced by the weather. It clearly can’t be raining, or very windy. The fire marshal has to give their blessing to move forward with the event, even on the day. It has happened in the past that the event has been postponed or cancelled because of weather. In this scenario, you should expect a refund from the event promoters.

Are My Tickets Transferrable?

According the website, the tickets are transferrable. So if the event gets postponed to a later date because of bad weather, you can gift them to someone else.

Is the Lights Lantern Festival Eco-Friendly?

I have seen news articles stating that these sky lantern festivals can leave a lot of debris in their wake. What goes up must come down, which means that all these lanterns will have to land somewhere eventually. Several miles away from the event venue there could be a big environmental mess to clean up.

The eco-friendliness of Lights Lantern Festivals varies, but many organizers are making significant efforts to ensure their events are environmentally responsible. Most festivals use lanterns made from biodegradable materials like rice paper, bamboo rings, natural fiber string, and a wax cake fuel cell. These materials break down naturally without causing harm to the environment.

A key aspect of these festivals’ eco-friendliness is their strict cleanup policies. For example, events deploy cleanup teams to collect lanterns once they land. These teams use drones to track the lanterns’ flights, ensuring that no lantern is left behind, which helps prevent environmental contamination​.

These festivals also emphasize safety by avoiding the use of metals, flammable liquids, and gases in their lanterns. This not only makes the lanterns safer to use but also ensures they are less likely to cause fires or other hazards to wildlife and the environment​.

Overall, while individual festivals may vary, many Lights Lantern Festivals are designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, focusing on biodegradable materials, rigorous cleanup efforts, and safety protocols to minimize their environmental impact.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *