Earlier this month I stumbled upon pictures from the Magical Lantern Festival, celebrating the Chinese New Year right on my doorstep here in London. I hadn't heard of the event before then but the array of beautifully lit-up displays in the dark reminded me of the Electrical Light Parade at Disneyland and I was instantly sold. My first free night after seeing the photos was last Friday, so I made it my mission to venture over to Chiswick House and Gardens after work to check it out for myself – and it truly was a magical experience.
Before entering the walking route inside of Chiswick Gardens, there were already a few lanterns on display near the entrance, which looked absolutely stunning and got me really excited to get inside. And once I had entered the gardens, walking along hedges covered in fairylights and underneath flower-shaped lanterns, the first stunning display was revealed: an incredible lake filled with the most beautiful lotus flowers you can imagine; the soft pink and yellow design was simply sensational in the dark and I heard some gasps around me when other attendees first laid their eyes on the hugely impressive lanterns.
Celebrating the Year of the Monkey, the next display was a ginormous water feature with monkeys scattered all over it and a monkey king at the helm. It was absolutely huge and it weren't just the children around me that were staring in awe at the lanterns, adults too were delighted by the beautiful sight, pointing at the cheeky monkeys running amok and snapping lots and lots of photos.
I won't go into minuscule detail about each of the over 50 lanterns that are part of the festival, but I can say they were an impressive mixture of themes in which East met West. From a Terracotta Army and an eight-metre high Imperial Palace, through to a zoo filled with koalas, deer, giraffes and zebras, and Cinderella with her Prince and a pumpkin carriage. I was also particularly fond of an enchanted forest element with adorable squirrels and colourful over-sized mushrooms, as well as the 66-meter long dragon, which dazzled spectators from across the water, its scales reflecting beautifully on the smooth surface.
I expected the festival to be interesting and perhaps even impressive for one or two displays, what I did not expect was quite what a feast for the eyes it would be, or quite how big. Every time I thought I had reached the end, turning another corner even more wonderful displays were revealed for us to be amazed by. In the end I spent two hours inside Chiswick Gardens marveling at the lanterns and I can only imagine how much careful thought and many hours of labour have gone into creating something so unique and magnificent.
I have already convinced a few of my friends to check out the festival based purely on phone pictures I shared with them and I hope each and every one of you will do the same. You won't be disappointed, trust me. This is awe-inspiring event for children and adults alike; something truly unique and wondrous that you cannot miss out on.
When you go wear warm clothes and comfortable shoes as even if you rush through the festival you'll still be walking for 90 minutes or so (because the nearest tube and train stations are also about a 15-minute walk away) and the ground can be a little bit uneven and muddy depending on the weather conditions on the day you visit. Top tip: towards the end of the walking route inside of the gardens there is a cafe where you can buy hot drinks and soup, making it a great place to give your feet a little break while warming up, so you're nice and cosy just before enjoying the grand finale.
The Magical Lanterns Festival closes on 6 March 2016, so be sure you don't miss out and buy your tickets now! The event is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 5pm until 10.30pm (last entry 8.45pm) and ticket prices start from £14, with special packages available for families.