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  • MarylanderOnTheMove


Norfolk Botanical Gardens first hosted the magical LanternAsia Art by Day, Magic by Night exhibit in 2016. Sadly, I was unable to attend in prior years, but when I found out that Norfolk Botanical Gardens would be hosting this event for the third year in a row, I knew I could not miss this opportunity to go see it in person this year!

This spring, Norfolk Botanical Garden has again transformed the Garden’s landscape with colossal Asian lanterns – MORE Art by Day, MORE Magic by Night. They have even added new displays including several underwater scenes, representing Coastal Virginia. This magnificent lantern exhibition will leave you awestruck!

Lantern Festivals are an ancient tradition that began more than 2,000 years ago in China. This is the inspiration for Norfolk's LanternAsia. You'll see more than 30 mystical works of art come to life in beautiful illuminated displays. It took Norfolk Botanical Gardens more than a month and over 35 people to construct the installations to prepare for the exhibit. The displays are welded pieces of wire and steel that are held down by concrete. The creations are mainly a silky fabric material and illuminated from within. Some are more than 4 stories tall! Six different Asian countries are represented in the LanternAsia show - China, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Korea, and India.

You know from my earlier blogs that I am a huge fan of Christmas light displays and I can honestly say that this was nothing like I have ever seen! Much more spectacular than even the best Christmas light shows I have been to. I was blown away!

The illuminated displays stretch through a 1 mile loop inside the Garden. (There is a tram that will take you half way through the exhibit for those who cannot walk the 1 mile loop).

Each exhibit had a different history message that went along with it.

My friend Jenn and I arrived at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens around 5:45pm so that we could walk the 1 mile loop once around before the sun began sinking into the sky. The sunset cast a beautiful glow across the enormous colorful lanterns - just lovely! After our first loop around, we watched a terrific Asian Entertainment Show while waiting for the darkness. Then, we made a second loop around when the lanterns came to life. Staying til after dark adds to the enchantment. Just magical!

Below, you can get an idea of just how different the displays are during the day time vs. at night.

We entered through this walkway of 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Mine is the year of the sheep - "The warmest character and benevolent stature is what sheep carry. They are blessed with lifelong harmony and seen by many as pure, clean, and noble. Often rich and famous, the path to this life is set by good deeds." I'll take it!

One of the very first magnificent displays is the Fairies Dancing with Phoenixes. OMG! This was so intricate and grandiose!

You can see how the warmth set in once the lanterns started to shine at dusk. So rich in color!

Click on the video below to hear the music and see the fairy dancing with the Phoenix!

We made many friends along the walk of this exhibit, too! There were several of them - each so different and so cute, but we had our favorites that we returned to visit at night :)

Here you can really see how the Phoenix came to life in the dark!

This one really shined!

The picture below isn't great since it was from my iPhone and at a far distance, but you can see the shadows of other visitors which gives you an idea of scale. This exhibit was massive!

As I mentioned earlier, after our first spin around during the daylight, we took a quick break to watch one of the evening performances. The entertainers were so talented! There were three different features. I caught one of them doing some fancy footwork on video below. There are two live performance times each night. I definitely recommend timing your walk to catch one of the shows!

One of the most impressive displays when you are walking through is this beauty. It is constructed from porcelain china - over 1 million plates, cups and spoons! Remarkable! I loved how it changed colors at night.

The china is all tied together by string and each set is attached to the steel framing. I can't imagine how long this took to assemble!

So gorgeous at dusk when the sky matched the blue glow from the up-lighting.

It changed from blue-green-purple-red. And could be seen in the background from pretty much anywhere on the walk.

The trail was lined with a variety of flowers and figurines all 6 feet tall.

Several of the walkways along the trail were also lighted overhead. They weren't as impressive during the daytime.

But were magical at night!

It sure is tough to get a picture of yourself and the illuminations on your phone at night! LOL

The picture taken below with my camera is much clearer. I loved the illuminated walkways b/c we were surrounded by all the bright colors! I felt like I was in a Pixar movie.

There is a whole section that seems to be dedicated to children with Dinosaurs, Pandas, Turtles, baby Birds and other forest creatures. Most of which change colors or move. They are way back in the back past the butterfly garden, near the magnificent Peacock!

I wish the Peacock below had been a little closer to the trail. The camera didn't really capture the detail, but the colors were incredible!

What Asian display would be complete without dragons? And a mighty dragon he was - fierce and beautiful! He is longer than 6 school buses!

As I mentioned, most of the displays are made of silk, but the dragons below were my absolute favorite! They are made of tiny bottles of colored water that make the beautiful mosaic really stand out. They are neat in the daylight, but really come to life in the dark!

Any guesses on how long it took to fill these bottles and attach them each to the steel base? I'm so curious! But I wasn't able to get the details.

These guys weren't the length of 6 school buses, but they were pretty big! And they sure were beautiful! I'm 5'6" and they towered over me!

I wanted to take one of them home with me and put him in my backyard. I guess my neighbors might not appreciate the radiant glow...and I wonder if my dog would get along with a dragon?!

Adults and children alike will love this event! Strollers are no problem along the walk.

I was so impressed by this exhibit! It's like nothing I have ever seen! It's totally worth a trip to Norfolk, VA to visit LanternAsia! Give yourself time to take pictures and see the creations from different angles - some have moving parts and can be viewed from different points on the pathways.

The LanternAsia exhibit runs from now through May 13, 2018.

If you do go, you are also close to other attractions in Norfolk, Hampton, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg that could pair well for a nice day trip or weekend getaway. Email me if you need any recommendations in those areas!

Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 3 and up. Trust me - it's worth the price!! Tickets are available online in advance or at the gate when you arrive. On good weather days, it can be a crowded event, so if you can swing a visit on a weeknight you may have better photo opportunities. It had just snowed the day before we visited and was still quite cold, so we practically had the Gardens to ourselves, making for a enjoyable and peaceful weeknight!

I highly recommend going before sunset. The sunset in the background made for some fantastic photo ops! You can see the whale changing color in the video below.

Don't live close to Coastal Virginia? There is a Lantern Festival coming to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Franklin Square beginning on May 1, 2018! You can find more information HERE.




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