Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
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Experience the Magic of the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo This Spring

Grand Rapids is making itself known as a top Michigan destination for hosting unique festivals throughout the year. For the spring season, the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo is a must-experience event.

Located just outside of downtown Grand Rapids, the John Ball Zoo is a treat to visit any time of year – especially during its special events. Brand new in 2023 and back again in 2024, the Lantern Festival shines as one of the zoo’s best events.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

What to Expect at the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Featuring hundreds of authentic hand-crafted Chinese lanterns, the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is an enchanting experience for all ages. 

The 2024 Grand Rapids Lantern Festival will take place from April 10 – June 16, 2024. Tickets are sold with entry times ranging from 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm. Once you enter, you can stay and enjoy the evening at your own pace.

Hundreds of Unique Hand-Crafted Asian Lanterns

The Lantern Festival combines elements of Asian culture and the natural world. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of lanterns including Chinese symbols, detailed plants and animals, and interactive displays.

Using innovative designs, the lanterns are crafted from metal frames and fabric covers. Lights placed inside the lanterns create a gorgeous glowing effect. 

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

A One-Mile Light Path 

The lanterns decorate a one-mile accessible path through the zoo. While the entire path is either paved or on a wooded boardwalk, some sections are on a steep incline winding up and down a hill. 

During this event, zoo buildings and animal exhibits will not be open for guests.

A Community Favorite Event

The Lantern Festival is a popular event attracting visitors from across the state and beyond. Expect lively crowds, especially when visiting on the weekend. 

From my own experience, the festival was most busy from 7:30-9:30 pm. After 9:30 pm, the crowds started to lessen as many families with young children headed home.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

Tips for Visiting the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

1. Consider a membership to John Ball Zoo.

If you plan on visiting John Ball Zoo more than once throughout the year, a membership may be worth your while. Members receive free regular admission and reduced ticket prices for special events, like the Lantern Festival.

2. Buy your tickets early.

As a popular event, the Lantern Festival frequently sells out, especially by the end of the festival. Purchase your tickets early so you don’t miss out on this unforgettable event.

3. Check the sunset time on the night of your visit.

Do a quick search to check the sunset time in Grand Rapids to help determine what ticket entry time you want. The lanterns are still beautiful during twilight, but they really come alive in full darkness.

4. Start your evening with dinner in Grand Rapids. 

Grab dinner or dessert before the festival for a full, fun evening. In Grand Rapids, you’ll have plenty of amazing restaurants to choose from. 

Here are a few of my favorite recommendations:

If you forgo dining out ahead of time, the zoo will also have some food and drink options.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

A Magical Experience at the Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival has easily become one of my new favorite Grand Rapids experiences.

While this is definitely a family-friendly event, my husband and I decided to visit on a date night last year in 2023. Strolling through the hundreds of hand-crafted lanterns, holding hands, made for a magical evening.

With the Lantern Festival, everywhere you look there’s something fascinating to see. The Chinese Zodiac signs. The tunnel of wisteria with glowing rainbow lights. The giant crab blowing bubbles.

Of course, as all parents do on a date night, our kids were never far from our minds. We kept saying, “Oh the kids would love this!” Still, we savored that special night with just the two of us.

Whether you visit solo, with a companion, or with the whole family, the Lantern Festival will be a win for all ages. 

Leah Tennant
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

FAQs About the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Where is the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival located?

The Lantern Festival is hosted at the John Ball Zoo, located at 1300 Fulton St W in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

When is the 2024 Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

The Lantern Festival takes place from April 10 – June 16, 2024.

Do you need tickets for the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

Yes, tickets are required for the Lantern Festival, even for zoo members. Purchase tickets online in advance as the event frequently sells out. 

Where do you park for the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

Parking for the festival is free of charge. The John Ball Zoo has a main paved parking lot, which will fill up early for this event. Once the main parking lot is full, there is a large, grassy overflow parking area where attendants will guide you to an available space.

Will there be food and drinks available at the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

Yes, food and drinks will be available to purchase throughout the zoo.

Can you see the zoo animals at the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

No, animal exhibits are not open during the Lantern Festival. Most of the zoo animals spend nights in their indoor habitats. 

Will Grand Rapids Lantern Festival dates be canceled if it rains?

No, the festival will occur on each scheduled date rain or shine. 

Is the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival family-friendly?

Yes, the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is very family-friendly! Kids will love the lights, bubbles, and interactive displays.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024
Grand Rapids Lantern Festival 2024 | photo by thalifeofrin

Plan Your Visit to the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Whether you visit for just the evening, a full day, or an entire weekend, the Lantern Festival is worth a trip to Grand Rapids!

While you are in town, make the most of your visit by exploring a Grand Rapids museum or trying a unique food or drink flight

Need some recommendations for overnight accommodations? Check out the Awesome Mitten guide to lodging + hotels in Grand Rapids