Colorful and glowing, a luminous and magical ambiance filled with handcrafted, life-size silk and steel-constructed LED lanterns awaits your arrival inside the Asian Lantern Festival at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, where you might feel as though you have been whisked away to an Epcot-like venue, while you spend time at the ticketed Pittsburgh Zoo Asian Lantern event, which is zoo-wide, sins animals, and open only 4 nights a week.
The Pittsburgh Zoo at night comes to life with a new display that captivates and delights every age as I witnessed first-hand delight walking throughout.
Sprawling illuminated life-size silk lanterns shaped as prehistoric dinosaurs, swans, monkies, pandas, cherry blossoms, and more line the pathway of the Pittsburgh Zoo, some are animated, some are still, and each shares a mix of history, and culture, while lending to a fabulous walk-through event for families or date nights!
If you are wondering if you should visit the Pittsburgh area Asian Lantern Festival at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, give this a read and I hope it helps! (fast answer… YES!)
Transparency About My Visit To the Asian Lantern Festival
To be clear, I was not paid sponsored, or hosted, nor was I provided admission to the event, and this is my overview of spending personal time there. Generally, I find that most events we have been invited to in our area, are not quite as entertaining as they should be, however, the Asian Lantern Festival far exceeded my expectations and I want to share it with you!
As a travel writer, I visit endless venues and attractions/adventures around the world and love finding the best of the best to share and the local lantern festival at the Pittsburgh Zoo definitely holds its own.
All photos, videos, and the story from spending a night at the Asian lantern festival at the Pgh Zoo are subject to copyright and may not be used used for any form of publication or website posting without DanaVento.Com’s explicit written consent and acknowledgment.
Why You’ll Want To Visit The Limited Time Pittsburgh Zoo Festival Of Lanterns?
Here is a brief overview of why you might want to visit the Asian lantern event inside the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
- Night events that fit both date night and family night are not the easiest combinations to blend, but somehow, the night among the giant luminous handcrafted sculptures (Asian lanterns) successfully melds either option as viable! The festival of lanterns at the Pgh Zoo is a perfect nighttime destination
- the Pittsburgh Zoo Festival of Lanterns is a ticketed event so only so many patrons can enter
- the overall cost of visiting the Asian Lantern Festival in Pittsburgh may well be the most organized, economical ticketed event, with fun things to see that, I’ve attended in Pittsburgh to date!
- you’ll find a lot to see and experience inside through the Asian Lantern Festival event at the Pittsburgh Zoo
- the festival of lanterns in Pittsburgh provides a great mesh of culture and education wrapped into a fun event
- the lantern festival Pittsburgh is truly a unique event where you walk through the Zoo at night with illuminated life-like Asian sculptures and presents the Pgh Zoo and Aquarium in a whole other light (yep, pun intended!)
- You’ll want to visit the cultural Asian lantern festival when you want to do something else in Pittsburgh at night as a family or on a date instead of the norm of going to a sporting event or a bar (well at least until after you walk through, lol)
What The Pittsburgh Zoo Really Does Well With Hosting The The Asian Lantern Festival
- I love the fact that you can buy a ticket online and it has nothing to do with being a member or not and quite honestly the price differential between being a member and purchasing a ticket to a non-member is minuscule so don’t worry about being a member and getting a better deal.
- There is not a separate charge for parking which was fabulous too!
- Once you have a purchased ticket you have a 1/2 window within that ticket to enter the park, so an 8:30 ticket can gain access as early as 8 or as late as 9.
- The pathway is well marked and it shares a sign for a 1-way flow in order that you circle through.
- Last, the time that you enter, has no bearing on how long you stay as long as you leave by 10:30 when the Pittsburgh Zoo Festival of Lanterns turns down for the night!
- You are made aware that the animals in the zoo will not be present during your visit so your expectations are set.
- the Pgh Zoo Asian lanterns are not lit during the day but they are still there when you visit, so if you don’t purchase the event tickets for a night at the Zoo on the feature zoo nights (Thursday – Sunday through October) you will still get to see the enormous lanterns throughout the pathways.
You’ll Love The Lantern Festival Pittsburgh Because…
Of course, these are reasons I loved walking the pathways lined with all of the Asian lanterns throughout the Zoo in Pittsburgh you may find at least one reason to go and I share how my curiosity was piqued and why I went.
- you’ll find the luminous silk Asian lanterns truly stunning and numerous throughout
- there are often more than 1 of the same lantern (cherry blossoms, dinosaurs, butterflies, etc)
- the walk at the Lantern Festival Pittsburgh inside the Zoo at Night is a perfect Romantic date night if you are looking for a fun thing to do!
- you’ll also find the Pgh Zoo Lantern Festival is first and foremost very family-friendly!
- the handcrafted sculptures are so precise and realistic, life-size variations of culture and history and the LED illumination brings each to life
- walking through the Pittsburgh Zoo Asian Lantern Festival can take a few hours and it feels like you have left the burgh and traveled to an amusement park far, far away, which is a magical feeling on its own IMO!
- there are plenty of bathrooms for those that need to make a few stops along the way which is always a perk as a parent of children or as the parent LOL!
What You May Not Love Too Much About The Asian Lantern Festival At The Pittsburgh Zoo And PPG Aquarium
Hey, y’all you are going out with the public so if mixing with others is not your thing, you won’t enjoy the zoo at night at the later festival in Pittsburgh and there is no other way to say it!
There were plenty of people cutting people out of line, going the WRONG Direction through the giant walkthrough dragon, and kids running everywhere ahead of their parents and with their parents. This is a public event and it is what you should expect it’s not a huge ordeal, it is great to see so many people out and enjoying the event!
Keep in mind, if you are looking for perfect photo moments, you may have to way just a bit for your turn, as there are many illuminated Asian lanterns but many clusters at the first one they see in each different zone.
Everyone had their cameras out (yes everyone) so you are not alone in your want to take a photo, and there are so many spaces to take photos in it is basically impossible to not find a spot where you can get the ultimate Asian Lantern festival best photo memory.
Watch my video for a few tips to get the best photo ops without the crowds, it works we tried it!
Remember, you will be going in one way and coming out another, yet you can loop through as many times as you prefer before you exit.
There are no animals out, this is not about the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Asian Lantern Festival is celebrating culture and history and sharing extinct animals on its display so don’t look for the animals they are not there!
It’s a ticketed event and the Pgh Lantern Festival at the Zoo is not included with your membership if you have one, but honestly, the price is tiny for what it is.
Should You Take A Date To The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium Asian Lantern Festival But…
To most, that read my website daily you know that I work full time and I am a mom of 3, but here is something you might find shocking, as a mom sometimes a night without kids would be awesome and I would even have paid more for that which I am sure is very relatable to many of you!
We visited without kids and made it a date night but, I really wish the Pgh Zoo lantern festival offered but it is just a thought not what currently offered!
I would love to visit the Asian Lantern Festival at the Pittsburgh Zoo if they offered a special adult-only night but, again as a mom, bringing the kids is also something I love to do, so I would have visited twice instead of once.
Really it would be nice if this option existed as it is the perfect setup for hand-holding, uninterrupted selfies (if it was adult only), accompanied by entertainment and possible dining options.
So if I were dating and wanted something to do, I would have to weigh out if I wanted a bunch of kids running around me and whoever I was with. If that is tolerable then go for it! Plus I think you’ll be so captivated by the Asian lantern display (and each other) that you may not even notice anyone else is around you except for trying to capture selfies together!
Go later if you are going on a date, while there were a lot of families still there at 8:30 by 9:15 the crowd died down a lot!
In my opinion, I definitely would visit for a date, but if you want to eat, read on, because you’ll want to plan out your timing a bit unless you are headed to a bar afterward with food! Yes, there were people on dates without kids, from teens to well-seasoned adults.
What I Wished The Asian Lantern Festival And the Pittsburgh Zoo Did Differently
These again are my personal thoughts based on large amounts of travel and what other events and festivals provide. These are simply my thoughts, and I am sharing them because it’s what I thought about during and after the lantern festival.
Plus, I believe in community and when an event such as this happens (The Asian Lantern Festival), I really felt as though a big portion of the community was missed here, and that the bigger picture is not just the silk lanterns themselves but a way to share the Asian culture bigger and I’ll share that though just below as well as what you will find!
Food Options At The Lantern Festival Inside The Pgh Zoo
After I had booked our tickets, I thought I had read that there would be Asian Food Stations, throughout, such as those famed Disney-esque food carts.
Not the case, instead the Asian food spread was more centered in the food court area of the Pgh Zoo (Safari Plaza), sake and another food item in the entrance area at the Village Market, and 1 open vendor in the Forest Passage but other than that, not really throughout zoo so thumbs down on this.
- you would have to stop right as you entered to dine which takes away from moving through and the time that you might arrive (unless you take the 6:30 time slot and plan to eat first)
- the other option is to stop and eat during the live entertainment in the Safari Plaza area
The food in the Safari Plaza area was under the tents and was a la carte, with veggie rolls, chicken, rice, etc. Additionally, as we walked away from Safari Plaza and the Asian Lantern festival live entertainment towards the PPG Aquarium, there was a beer and Wasabi Popcorn stop, and donuts with an Art Display across from it that was closing down at 9:25P so we missed whatever that was, and the walk was available through 10:30 so this didn’t make sense to me. The beer line and popcorn line was long.
What I Thought The Asian Lantern Festival Food Would Be And Should Be
I was really hoping for a combination of the Disney-like carts with food options similar to those found on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, (hibachi street-grilled) Asian Chicken and Shrimp on a skewer kabob, and a veggie spring roll or any kind of spring roll cart, I didn’t want to sit down, I wanted to walk and eat!
A Pre-Order app on the Zoo website for food would be helpful so upon arrival to the food area, we could just grab and go, or a takeout option for those of us that left the lantern festival late as with this post-covid thing finding open restaurants is very difficult outside of a Burger King or a Primantis!
To help with the takeout option, a fabulous alternative would have been if the food station that was closing up at 9P in the Safari area then became pre-packed with combinations of each of its offerings, or a la carte and, boxed and labeled and for purchase down towards the entrance so we could grab and go.
After all, they were boxing it up in the Safari Area so it could be made to go. (This comes from a Mom who had worked all day, did a lot of other stuff, and then walked the Pgh Zoo on an empty stomach because I had no time to eat all day and I am not the only mom that rolls like this!)
I realize it might be more work for the marketing team, but it has the potential to work, if it was something patrons knew about in their newsletter or their social media pages or even on the website, or if the Zoo had an app it might be possible.
And the biggest opportunity that was just totally missing was the chance to have a line of food trucks after hours in the parking lot with Asian food options. I understand the economics/profitability model as well as the retail side of the Pittsburgh Asian Lantern festival within the Zoo, and the food sale and profit margin.
However, I am certain I am not the only Mom or Dad, or person coming out of there hungry because I was enamored by the fabulous display of Asian lanterns.
In my opinion (take it for what it is worth or not worth) a complete date night or family outing is just more all-inclusive than the grand scheme going on here. Again, as a seasoned travel writer, experiences like this happen on trips out of Pittsburgh, not within our area, so it is just my personal thoughts on what I felt was missing at the Pittsburgh Zoo festival of lanterns and it would not take away from your experience.
Music and Entertainment At The Lantern Festival In The Zoo
The times for the live entertainment were not listed, and I just asked one of the performers but it would be nice if the show listing platform by the stage had the times on it or if the Pittsburgh Zoo had a viable app with the information.
The music at the entrance as you ascend on the escalator to the beginning of the Asian Lantern Festival truly set the tone, but the same music is not throughout the Pgh Zoo, which kind of takes away from the overall immersive feeling that you start out with. Music incites, excites, and enhances the ambiance. I felt that was a true miss.
Why Is There No App For the Pittsburgh Zoo And The Asian Lantern Festival?
Apps are so helpful for guidance through a park to where to find food, bathrooms, or live events. I’ve scoured the website but I can’t find an app, and I live off apps, they make shopping, events, and attractions, much easier to navigate.
Case in point, I knew I had read somewhere that the Asian Lantern Festival at the Pgh Zoo was offering entertainment, but I never located that article again, and once I located the entertainment area there were no listed times for performances. Why is there not more information available? This is a very enchanting Pittsburgh Zoo event I would think there would be more information and insight!
The App could have provided the information on the live entertainment and offered food items for purchase (and a quick side pickup area (like we do everywhere else for food to go instead of a line) and a mapped-out area.
Plus if the app were integrated with a reminder of your visit arrival time as well as once in the Asian Lantern Festival a reminder of closing time would be priceless and why not add in a would you like to purchase food option, upsell what you have going on?
Make Your Plans Now To Visit The Asian Lantern Festival Pittsburgh!
I read the website over a few times, and the Pittsburgh Zoo Asian Lantern Festival is a limited-time engagement open only Thursday Nights through Sunday Nights.
The hours are very limited and begin at 6:30 at night and the Asian Lantern festival in Pittsburgh is done as of October 30. To gain entrance to the Asian Lantern display within the zoo by night, you need to purchase tickets for the event online. However, I did see a sign at the entrance allowing patrons to purchase at the entrance. Maybe that is based on presold attendance and what amount is left unsold and available? (check with the zoo website for more info)
Yes, it is a fun night and very well worth the small $22 we paid to get in per person.
Plan on spending about 2 hours maybe more, depending on how much you stop to photos or video.
Enjoy ~ Dana XO