Back at the time of the Thanksgiving Holiday, I was back in one of my old hometowns of Greenville, North Carolina to see my NC parents, and one of the nights that I was in town, we made a trek over to the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, North Carolina to visit the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival. This was very similar to a holiday lights festival that I saw just outside of Houston the previous weekend, and thus I looked forward to the opportunity to see some really neat pieces of art.
Upon arrival to the festival grounds, you are greeted at the entrance by the Mythical Dragon Gate. This is based on a Han Chinese folktale that carp from the Yellow River could jump through the gate to become dragons. This gate offers a preview of what you're about to see inside.
After redeeming your admission ticket, you make your way into the main area of the festival through a large tunnel of Chinese Lanterns.
Towards the end of the lantern tunnel, you find yourself near the deck space in the back of the amphitheater where the facility's concession stands and restrooms are located. This covered deck is also decorated for the event, and is open to provide food, drinks and holiday inspired treats for festival goers.
As you walk around the amphitheater grounds, you have the opportunity to view different lantern displays that feature different themes. In the heart of the seating area in front of the stage was a large structure which I forgot to read the sign about, but it resembles what I would think of as a palace of sorts with Chinese design and artistic style.
As you walk around the festival, you find lanterns that depict sea life...
...woodland creatures and insects...
...and creatures of fantasy and mythology, including a display for Caishen, the Chinese god of prosperity.
If I had to pick a favorite display, I would choose "Panda Paradise". One of the most popular animals to come from China, there they are given their own display to give them an adorable appearance.
Since the festival takes place around the time that many of us will begin celebrating the Christmas season,they even have some Christmas themed lanterns on display.
There is also a stand back on the deck where you can add to your cultural items collection with traditional Chinese style clothing, or you could also take home your very own little panda.
In total, we spent around a half-hour to 45 minutes as we were going to a movie that evening as well, but I would say that was enough time to at least see all of the displays, of course you could always add a bit more time if you wanted to see them more leisurely, or perhaps enjoy a snack from one of the food stands. There are also Chinese cultural performances on the stage of the amphitheater as well that we did not get a chance to see, however that could certainly add to your visit. I will say that it is a benefit to get there early as by the time we departed, the line was about half-way down the parking lot beyond the switchbacks of line that had fencing for.
Overall, it was a really neat event to visit. Some may not find it large enough to make a specific trip to if you live outside of the greater Raleigh area, but if you are a local resident or your travels bring you to the region, I would recommend a stop to enjoy this great cultural event. Thank you for reading, I hope you'll be back for more on Coasting with Culture!
Take Care and Safe Travels