China Lights brighten the night at Milwaukee’s Botanical Garden!

China Lights brighten the night at Milwaukee’s Botanical Garden!

I was so excited to hear about the Milwaukee China Lights! I always wanted to go to a lantern sculpture festival like the ones I see in photos from Asia. It’s uncommon to find an event in the U.S, like this one. I couldn’t wait to see the scultures with my own eyes!

Of course with light displays, it’s best to go when it’s darker outside. However, you should consider getting there 30 minutes before the sun sets. There are other things to enjoy like the live performances, the food and taking a quick walk through the grounds before it gets packed with people.

The entrance, a red Paifang (牌坊) at Milwaukee China Lights
This is the entrance! It has a red Paifang (牌坊) or Pailou (牌楼) like many festival grounds in Asia.

Right away when I arrived, I could see the amazing lanterns light up the night. It’s not just bright and it’s not like Christmas light either. We can decorate and be very creative with Christmas lights but there’s something mystical about lantern art. The first thing that caught my eyes was the entrance.

People lanterns

There are many, MANY lanterns and each had their own plate explaining who the artist is and the meaning of the lantern. Of course with how crowded it was, it was difficult to take a moment to appreciate the artists statements.

Chinese lanterns of people in Milwaukee China Lights
Left: It looks like a father with his children. Right: It looks like a teacher and some students in a class room.

Some lanterns were about Chinese history and culture. The photos above and below seem to be lanterns of important people or cultural importance.

Chinese lanterns of important people and deities
Arcs, tunnels, bridges

China Lights had a few lantern tunnels, bridges and arcs to walk through. Below are the mouse and pig lantern arcs in the zodiac tunnel. There was one arc for every Chinese zodiac animal which made this tunnel hard to get through because everyone was stopping to take photos with their zodiac. On top of that, if you look closely at the inner sides of the arcs, you can read the years and characteristics of the signs. If you didn’t know what your Chinese zodiac was before walking through, you could easily identify and read yours.

Chinese Zodiac arc tunner at Milwaukee China Lights
Left: Mouse arc. Right: Pig arc. Behind it are the Snake & Rooster arcs.

Some of the most popular lantern arcs were the hearts arc near the entrance and the blue vine with berries arc after the lion dance lanterns. It was impossible to take a photo without other people showing up in it.

Heart arc tunner and blue vine with berries arc tunnerl
Left: Heart arc tunnel. Right: Lions with blue vine & berry tunnel.

The lantern bridge was long but magical. Lovely traditional lanterns were hung above the wooden board walk which went over and around tall grass and small ponds. Some lanterns were traditional red and orange square and round lanterns but there were also the white laterns with flowers shown in the photos below. What really made these special were the decorate blue seals above the lanterns; it made the walk through the bridge feel like I was walking through another dimension.

White lanterns with flowers
under the sea

You can really see the hard work and dedication that went into making the lanterns for the China Lights event. These lanterns were set up as full displays of nature. I was blown away by their “under the sea” display. There were jellyfish, goldfish, clown fish, koi, sharks, seaweed and coral as you can see below.

fish, shark, jellyfish lanterns at Milwaukee China Lights

The massive jellyfishes and koi fishes were breath taking which were my favorites! The colors made me feel like I was in Alice In Wonderland or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It made me crave sweets! ☆ ~(‘▽^人)

chinese lanterns of a goldfish and a koi fish
Left: Large goldfish. Right: Koi fish.
mystical creatures

After 30 minutes, I was wondering where the giant dragon lantern would be. If there’s anything Chinese taking place, I always expect to find a dragon somewhere. I finally found it and it was quite enormous. I would say it was taller than 10ft (304.8cm) and longer than 53ft (16.15m). Across from it was a giant phoenix. It’s tail was long just as the dragon’s body.

huge Chinese dragon & phoenix at Milwaukee China Lights
Left: Chinese Dragon. Right: Phoenix.
motor displays

New this year are the motor displays which actually move. These were absolutely amazing to see! The photo below of the panda display was bigger than a semi-truck and individual pandas in the display moved. For the cute little elephant below, the ears moved as if they were flapping and the little bulbs also changed randomly from green to blue to pink.

motor lantern displays of pandas and an elephant
Random lanterns

The owl lanterns were absolute the cutest. My favorite were the one in the photo on the right.

lanterns of owls at Milwaukee China Lights

The duck lanterns were huge and their blue necks could be seen from far away. Normally, one of my favorite thing to see is the dragon dance and while I thought it was cool to see a lantern display showing that but my favorite part was the frog. The details were amazing; to me it out shined the rest of the display. It’s hard to look at the rest of the display without the frog catching your eyes.

large ducklanterns and dragon dance lantern

I bet you’re here for more than just the photos. If you’re not convinced about attending this awesome event, you can find more information on their website China Lights.


This year’s dates range from Sep 22nd to Oct 29th. You have over a month to plan a trip to see the China Lights.


Tickets online are sold with a small discount but with transaction fees, you still end up paying full price. At the botanical gardens, it was $15USD plus tax.


You can order online or at the door. It doesn’t matter when you buy them because you can go any day you want while the event is happening. So you can buy your tickets early in August and decide to attend the last day of the event if you want.


I didn’t buy anything because the prices were festival prices. As for the food options, you can expect regular concessions like hot dogs, burgers, popcorn, soda, water, etc for festival prices.


They also had live performances at specific times listed in the event pamphlet. It’s all included in the ticket price so I would recommend to go to the festival earlier to see the live performances. They had martial arts, singing and Chinese plate spinning.

large chinese lantern at Milwaukee China Lights
I almost missed this one if I hadn’t gotten hungry and decided to look through the concessions. This display had the light randomly switch on and off.
Would I go again? Definitely!

The Milwaukee China Lights of my favorite Chinese cultural experiences! It was so pretty! (´。• ω •。`) ♡ The event grounds were more crowded and bigger than expected so there will be a lot of walking around. My recomendations are to bring your phone fully charged and some bug spray. Be prepared to be shoulder to shoulder with some people or being hurried by others behind you.

My yumdroplets rating

Overall Experience
Entertaining Atmosphere

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