The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo is a mesmerizing experience that is well worth staying up past bedtime.

John Ball Zoo is a gem and during the Lantern Festival it glows. The lantern festival features handcrafted Asian lantern displays that illuminate a pathway through the entire zoo, telling the intersecting story of wildlife and Asian culture. Throughout the walk you can stop to get photos with displays (including Chinese Zodiac sign and angel wings), stop for bubble fun, sneak off to the illuminated play area and more.

This is a beautiful exhibit any time of day but you will want to experience it at night so check the sunset hours and plan accordingly. Grand Rapids is a 2 hour drive from metro Detroit and a managable day trip but if you want to stay overnight, we recommend the Embassy Suites downtown. It’s a 10 minute drive to the zoo (has a pool with complimentary breakfast) and walking distance to some of our favorite destinations – Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

The Lantern Festival runs Wednesdays thru Sundays from 7pm to 11pm and ends on June 11th. Individual tickets are $22 per person or $66 for a Festival 4 Pass.

Make a full day of it, John Ball Zoo is open daily from 10am to 4pm and admission is $19 for adults and $15 for kids. A family membership is $130 and something to consider if you have multiple children over the age of 3 and think you’ll head back for another visit. There is an amazing playground right across the parking lot and plenty of family-friendly restaurants near by if you need to do something before the Lantern Festival begins.