I love some good Disney-themed romance, obviously. Tangled came out in movie theaters when I was pregnant with my son. In my hormonal and emotional state I think I went to see it in theaters at least three times. The gorgeous lantern scene is one of the most pivotal of the movie; the animators found inspiration from the use of lanterns in China, Taiwan, Thailand, and other countries. Lantern use has also picked up in the United States, with people incorporating them into weddings and celebrations. The real spectacle, however, is the sheer number of lanterns in Tangled—and today I’m going to tell you where you can have that same experience – at Lantern Fest!
I want to see the floating lights!
About this time last year I started seeing something pop up in the midst of my Disney-populated Facebook feed. It was an event called Lantern Fest, and it looked like something straight out of Tangled. I immediately did some digging, found out they were coming to a city near us, and informed asked my husband about going. Because he’s a smart guy, he quickly agreed.
The first step is to buy tickets online, and pricing is time-based so the sooner you commit the better your deal will be. And our readers get a discount code, so yay! There are events all across the country, so hopefully you can find one that’s near you. Everyone requires a ticket (no spectators) and a ticket includes:
- S’mores kit
- Marker to decorate your lantern
Kids 3 and under are free, ages 4-12 need a child ticket that includes a s’more kit and glow toy. For safety reasons, anyone under age 13 is not permitted to register for a lantern (you must provide age and sign a waiver when purchasing tickets).
See the Light at Lantern Fest
Lantern Fest is a party that starts long before sunset. The event will start in early afternoon with food trucks, face painting, live music, and other activities. Ours included a meet and greet with Rapunzel (obviously) and Elsa and Anna (because they love a good party with chocolate).
DIStracted Tip: We saw plenty of little Rapunzels in costumes, but lots of other princesses too! There were also some really spectacular adult Rapunzel and Flynn costumes. If you’ve ever wanted a romantic proposal or engagement pictures, this is a great time to bring a photographer along with you (whether you’re in costume or not) to capture some incredible shots.
Some helpful tips to know before you go –
- Parking: We had a bit of a trek from parking (which our facility charged for) to the site. We loaded up our stroller with our gear, and we were really grateful to have a way to roll our stuff along. There was also a tram available, if needed. Even if you don’t need a stroller I’d consider bringing a wagon. You should also be ready to carry your lantern and s’mores stuff with you once you enter the event.
- Food: Mmmm, food trucks! Lines can be long around dinner, so bring along a few snacks and plenty of water. Only cold food and water are permitted, and no glass containers.
- Weather: We went from a warm summer day to a cooler summer evening. Bring layers and be ready. Also know that the event itself is subject to the weather behaving. You can keep an eye on the Lantern Fest Facebook Page to see any updates about holding the event. They will also send you several emails leading up to the event with weather updates and other details.
- Seating: You’ll want to bring blankets, and probably camp chairs depending on your location. Ours is held where the ground is gravel/dirt, and camp chairs were a must.
- Strollers: When we registered for Lantern Fest I noticed that they recommended against strollers, but they were allowed. We opted to bring ours, for our toddler who we were 90% sure would fall asleep (spoiler alert, she didn’t). The only time this was a concern was during the lantern launch, but we kept a close eye on the stroller and we were fine.
- Restrooms: Plan on portable bathrooms around the perimeter of the event. Our event had plenty, so lines weren’t an issue. I did not notice anywhere to change a diaper—we just did it in our stroller.
I’ve Got a Dream
Knowing that our kids wouldn’t last the whole afternoon/evening, we arrived at Lantern Fest last year around 6:00 PM. After parking and rolling our caravan to the gate we exchanged our tickets for our lanterns and went to visit with Rapunzel. We opted to settle farther back from the main stage, dreaming that our youngest would fall asleep eventually if we weren’t right up in the noise. There we enjoyed live music and ate giant snow cones. When it was time to decorate our lanterns my son proudly wrote his name on one of ours, then doodled on the other one. If you have someone who will color for more than 3.7 seconds then bring a set of felt tip markers. Some of the lanterns are really beautifully decorated, carrying inspiring quotes and messages.
When the sun sets it’s time to grab wood to get the fires going. Each ticket includes graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, and a large skewer to roast your marshmallows (and drive your parents crazy). Kid tickets also include a toy, in our case glow stick glasses which are not nearly as fun as the marshmallow skewer in our son’s opinion. I think this year we’ll bring some extra glow sticks and things to play while we wait for the lantern launch.
Best Day Ever
Finally it was dark enough (and the fire department arrived, safety first!) for us to be ready to launch our lanterns. First, you carefully unfold your lantern completely. Then you will have two options to light the fuel source—the lighter from your kit, or the torches around the site. We really feel like successfully lighting a lantern is a two person job. One person should hold the lantern open (one hand on top, one on bottom). The second person can then light the fuel source and snap some photos before you let the lantern go.
Here’s the trick, you have to let the lantern fill with hot air before you let it go. The best way to do that is to hold it with the bottom of the lantern very close to the ground. After a few seconds of warming up the lantern should launch straight up very easily (we tried to pause just before we let it go to snap a picture using its light). If you don’t let lanterns warm up they tend to travel horizontally…which makes this an important time to watch your kids/strollers/chairs/self. If a lantern comes toward you then grab it, lower it to the ground to heat up, and let it go. Just be aware of those around you, because it’s easy to get caught up in watching and photographing the launch.
Shining in the Starlight
The launch itself is one of the coolest things that I have ever experienced. The mood quickly went from a big party to general awe. There is something really magical about being out in the desert with the summer sky and the beautiful floating lights. My son stood amazed, first holding his glowing lantern and then letting it go (with tons of help). He kept watching the lanterns even while we walked to the car as they faded away. My daughter stubbornly stayed awake, long past her bedtime, and watched the whole thing with wide eyes. While this would have made an amazingly romantic date, I was glad that we had the kids with us. I still had plenty of time to hug my cute husband and enjoy some almost-Disney magic. It really was one of the best days ever!
Go, Live Your Dream! – Giveaway
So, do you want to experience the floating lights? Lantern Fest has 18 events planned this season across the country (complete list here) in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Michigan, Utah, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Iowa. Even better, we are giving away a set of four tickets for one of our readers to go and experience Lantern Fest at any one of those events! Enter here for your chance to win! Entries will be accepted through 10:00 p.m. CST on February 28th. The winner will be announced on our Facebook page on Wednesday, March 1st. a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you don’t win the giveaway we still want you to go and live your lantern-inspired dream. The promo code “MAGICALDISTRACTIONS” will get you 20% off Lantern Fest tickets at any of their locations this season. The first events start in March (Dallas, TX and Albuquerque, NM) so it’s time to start making plans. I hope you’ll have the “Best Day Ever!”
If you want a firsthand look at the events, make sure you follow Lantern Fest on Instagram and Facebook. Their Facebook gallery has some great lantern decorating ideas! I’ve also posted some of our experiences (with videos!) from the Utah event last year on my Instagram and I will be sharing some live shots from Lantern Fest 2017 this May! See you there!
This post is sponsored by Lantern Fest. All opinions and experiences are my own.