Last weekend, my family and I had a lovely meal at home to celebrate Chinese New Year. On the Sunday we set off for the Magical Lantern Festival. Traditionally, the lantern festival marks the end of Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, it was a rainy evening. We dressed as practical as we could but we were wet by the end of the lantern trail. So, our visit was curtailed. Nonetheless, the unrelenting rain could not deflect from the beauty of the lanterns. In just over an hour, the Magical Lantern Festival gives a crash course in the historical contribution of the Silk Road to commerce, communication, cultural exchange and more.
Prior to visiting the Magical Lantern Festival, the kids and I watched videos about the story of the Silk Road. We were eager to visit. Once at Chiswick House Gardens we entered via Dukes Avenue Gate for the trail. Angelo saw the illuminated animals lining the path to the box office and immediately made the connection to The Great Race story of the Chinese Zodiac. Super excited, he ran ahead to spot his animal, the tiger, and Valentina’s, the dragon. Where the trail actually began there were knight lanterns. The artist’s intention was to show the social group (knights) that rose up when the Silk Route was being used, 206 BCE – 220 CE during the Han Dynasty. Meanwhile, Valentina wanted to know where the caterpillar (silk worm) was. Along the route I pointed out various installations that would interest the children. The Aladdin and Jasmine installations were a hit. I pointed out the lotus flowers and mentioned its importance in the Buddhist faith. I found myself speaking in terms of Disney for the children’s benefit referring to Mulan’s reverence for the ancestors. Valentina loved the Pandas especially the one that other patron’s referred to as the Kung Fu panda. My favourite was the ‘Wisdom and Conversation’ contemporary piece. About halfway along the trail there were public toilets as well as small refreshment and glow-in-the-dark trinket stalls. The Marshmallowist was lovely touch with the campfire feel. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to try them.
At the end of the trail was the designated entertainment area. The VR Games area catered for about five customers at a time. Games ranged from a roller-coaster ride to a zombie experience. They were all in use on our arrival. Hubby didn’t have chance to try one. The Ice Rink looked unmanned. I assumed due to the weather it was not operation but I didn’t enquire. The Ferris wheel didn’t seem to be in use. Perhaps the uncovered seating was a deterrent. However, Valentina and I had fun on the tea cup ride. The covered eating area looked popular but we didn’t go in. The kids were uncomfortable in their wet clothes and the walk was tiring for them. If the weather was better, we could has stopped and rested at points. It was a shame about the weather but we had our highlights. I would visit again.
The Magical Lantern Festival is a wonderful cultural experience. There are many points of interest and topics that can be explored to extend learning beyond the visit. It’s best seen in good weather because adults and kids alike would be able to appreciate the beautiful grounds as well. Commuting with tiny tots could be challenging for patrons who live far from the venue. The 75 mins long trail could tire out walking tiddlers. Locating on street parking nearby may be best. There’s limited parking on site. Nearest tube stations are Turnham Green and Gunnersbury and overground station is Chiswick. There is disabled access. Wrap warm and wear comfy shoes. Please visit the website for details. The festival is open Thursdays to Sundays during the Feb half term holiday week. Last day of opening is 26th Feb. Tickets available online.
Please note we received a family ticket to visit the above event for the purpose of this review.