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PNE Chinese Lantern Festival

PNE Chinese Lantern Gate

A new attraction around Christmas last year was the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival which featured performances and over 30 light displays at the PNE.

The event was scheduled to return to Vancouver from February 1 to March 31, 2019. Unfortunately, however, it has been CANCELLED due to challenges associated with obtaining work visas. It is likely NOT returning in 2020 either.

This article includes the following information about the festival:

Festival Video | Location & Times | AdmissionWhat to Expect | Live Entertainment | General Information | Tips & Advice

Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival

The 2017/18 Chinese Lantern Festival was a family-friendly event that showcased Chinese culture, art, lanterns and various kinds of live entertainment and illuminations.

The Chinese Lantern Festival wasn’t a Christmas-themed event, per se, but it did happen around the winter holiday season and it did involve festive lights.

Chinese Lantern Festival Video

Check out the following video which showcases some of the festival’s most beautiful lanterns. And further below you’ll find information about the event including its location, times, admission prices and other details.

Location & Times

The Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival took place at the PNE Fairgrounds at 2901 East Hastings Street from December 15th until January 21st in 2018. It was open every day except for Christmas Day.

The main entrance to the festival was at Gate 1 at the PNE which is at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew.

The attraction was open Sundays to Thursdays between 5:00 and 10:00 pm, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 to 11:00 pm.

The festival was going to return in February and March of 2019, but those plans have been cancelled. The festival organizers hope to return in 2020 instead.

Lantern Festival Admission

If purchased online, admission to the Chinese Lantern Festival cost between $13.50 and $19.00 depending on your age.

Below is the list of online prices for 2017. Tickets at the gate cost a couple of dollars or so extra (or $10 more for the Family rate).

  • Adults (ages 13 to 64): $19.00
  • Seniors (ages 65+): $14.50
  • Children (ages 4 to 12): $13.50
  • Infants & Toddlers (ages 0 to 3): Free
  • Families (2 adults & 2 children): $55.00

Note: The above prices include all taxes and most online fees. An additional $1.50 “order charge,” however, is applied to each online group of purchases. Also, Family Passes are good for two adults (ages 13+) and two children (ages 4 to 12). If you are two adults with older teenaged children, you won’t technically qualify  as a “family.”

Admission to the Chinese Lantern Festival can be purchased either online anytime or on onsite during the festival at the main Gate 1 entrance at the corner of Renfrew Street and East Hastings. Ticket office hours at the venue are between 4:30 pm and half an hour before closing each day, or until either 9:30 or 10:30 pm depending on the day.

Chinese Lantern Gate at the PNE
Festival Entrance Gate at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew

About the Lantern Festival

Premiering for the first time in Canada in 2017, and hopefully returning in future years, the Chinese Lantern Festival takes place during the Christmas and winter holiday season over a 14-acre area at Hastings Park at night. At the event there are three dozen illuminated lantern displays featuring various animals and scenes. Each evening there are also live performances to watch, Oriental music to enjoy and multiple food vendors to buy dinner and other tasty treats from.

What to Expect

At the festival you’ll see everything from lantern displays featuring Santa Claus to a giant Chinese dragon to a massive palace-like pagoda built out of plates, cups and spoons. Some of the lantern exhibits are small, some are huge, many are cute and all are impressive.

At the festival there are a few typical PNE-style food trucks and a tiny market with around half a dozen or so vendors in a tent selling things like honey, Pokémon paraphernalia, panda teddy bears and sugar paintings. There is also a display of dinosaurs similar to the ones featured at the Pacific National Exhibition in the summer a couple of years ago, and the PNE’s Ferris wheel is also open nightly.

The venue is large – covering around 14 acres – so it’s spacious, shouldn’t get too overly crowded, and involves a fair bit of walking.

Three things struck us when we visited. First, the lanterns weren’t primarily just red, white and gold or yellow as we had expected. They were absolutely every colour! Second, there was a little bit of background music, in some areas, but not a lot. Third, the lanterns weren’t just of a traditional style. Some were, like the gate outside the venue at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew, but most were actually quite modern-looking and multi-coloured.

At the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival there are lanterns depicting traditional Chinese scenes and characters, like the giant golden dragon, but also displays featuring western and popular modern culture, like Santa Claus on his sleigh or a giant Disney-like display with fish resembling Nemo and Dori. All the lanterns are amazing and beautiful in different ways.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is a family-friendly event that’s suitable for audiences of all ages. In addition to all the live entertainment and lantern displays, additional kid-friendly things to do include craft-making, storytelling and other fun activities.

Vancouver got a preview of the new lantern-themed attraction during the Pacific National Exhibition in the summer, if you remember, with a display of elephant lanterns at the PNE not far from the Festival Park Stage. If you saw that earlier in 2017 you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the event over the Christmas holidays.

PNE Elephant Lights Display
Chinese Elephant Lanterns at the PNE

Live Entertainment

In addition to the 3 dozen or so lantern exhibits, at the festival there is also live entertainment. Shows take place outside on a stage in the PNE Amphitheatre area every evening from Sundays to Thursdays at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, and on Fridays and Saturday nights at 6:30, 8:30 and 9:30 pm.

At the event, each evening features two or three live shows involving some form of Chinese entertainment. The 2017 lineup included face-changing performances, acrobatic displays, Chinese violin and other musical mini concerts, plate spinning shows, folk dancing and other examples of Chinese performing arts. The entertainment showcases Chinese culture and is highly recommended.

General Information

Below are some important things to know to help you make the most out of your experience at the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival.

  • Re-entry is not permitted! Once you go in, you’re not allowed to leave and return on the same night with the same ticket. Re-entry hand stamps are not issued.
  • Outside food and (non-alcoholic) beverages are permitted, so feel free to pack a picnic if you want to save money. That being said, folding chairs and coolers are not allowed (so don’t plan to make yourself too comfortable!).
  • Pets are not permitted, except for guide dogs assisting people with disabilities.
  • Photos and video-taking are permitted, although professional equipment and cameras with detachable lenses are not allowed.
  • It’s suitable for all ages. Young and old will appreciate the displays. People with mobility issues, however, will find there’s a lot of walking.
  • Numerous items are not permitted at the attraction including virtually anything with wheels. Examples of prohibited items are children’s wagons, skateboards, scooters, shoes with wheels, bicycles and strollers larger than 52 inches by 36 inches in dimension. Also on the “not allowed list” are folding chairs (except for seat-walker mobility aids), picnic coolers, pogo sticks, most (but not all) glass containers, musical instruments and tripods that can’t fit inside a standard-sized knapsack.
  • Note: Except for the Ferris wheel which costs $5 per person, Playland‘s amusement rides are not running or part of the Chinese Lantern Festival event.

Tips & Advice

Below is a list of suggestions to help you make the most out of your experience at the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival.

TIP #1: Dress warmly and wear good walking shoes.

TIP #2: Be sure to stay for some of the live entertainment. The lanterns are amazing, but you’ll get even more of your money’s worth if you see some of the cultural performances as well.

TIP #3: Time your visit with the program schedule. Performances take place daily at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, and there are extra 9:30 shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Try to arrive between 30 minutes and an hour before a scheduled show as that will give you time to wander around and admire the lanterns, enjoy the entertainment, and then see the lanterns once again as you make your way back through the park. Depending on the day, if you arrive after 8:15 or 9:15 you’ll miss all or most of the performances.

TIP #4: The lantern festival is least busy at the beginning of each night. Don’t arrive too early though. If you get there right at the 5 o’clock start you might find you have to kill a bit of time while waiting for the 6:30 show.

TIP #5: Be sure to go up close to the Porcelain Tower Pagoda and admire the intricacies of its design. The giant structure is made of porcelain cups, plates and spoons and is arguably the star of the attraction. When you first see the structure the area is roped off so you can’t get close, but further around it’s open and you can walk right up to it.

TIP #6: Buy your tickets in advance online and save money!

TIP #7: Don’t forget your camera (but remember that professional photography isn’t technically permitted).

TIP #8: Go to the event! It’s beautiful and highly recommended. Don’t miss it!

Other Information

For more information about Vancouver’s newest holiday season event, click Chinese Lantern Festival.

For a list of other holiday season activities and places of interest, check out Vancouver’s Best Christmas Activities or click Top Things to Do at Christmas.

For a list of other major events in the Lower Mainland at various times of the year, check out any of the following: