If you like outdoor festivals, pretty lights and mythological caricatures in a cultural setting, head to Staten Island this holiday season. The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back at Snug Harbor through January 12, 2020.
The festival grounds have nearly doubled and the display consists of around a thousand lanterns. The majority of vignettes are designed around flora and fauna themes, with some sprinkles of Christmas and Chinese mythology.
Besides the impressive show of lights you will see short performances by Chinese acrobats, magicians, and other entertainers. Food stands, warming tents, an ice skating rink and souvenir vendors have been added this year.
“This event defines what it means to be the unexpected borough,” said Aileen Fuchs, CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. “Last year, thousands and thousands of New Yorkers came to Snug Harbor to have the greatest holiday memories with their family. They will surely do that again this year.”
The meandering layout is not exactly a narrative but leads the visitor past a wonderland including a giant Christmas Tree and holiday ornamentation, through a path of squirrels and bunnies and mushroom trees. Next come the geographic vignettes; western cacti and camels, followed by giant jellyfish and sea turtles.
After passing through the massive central pagoda the lanterns become more mythical, with dragons and phoenix, twelve Chinese lunar symbols, swimming koi fish and a hundred foot crocodile tunnel. On the other side we go back in time to the dinosaur and mastodon era of lanterns. The final stretch is an arch-alley hedge lighted from the inside.
Needless to say photo opportunities abound. The show can get quite crowded on weekends so if photography is your thing you might want to try Wednesday or Thursday. Photographers take note: avoid certain shutter speeds, specifically 1/250th because the LED flicker, invisible to the naked eye, will ruin those shots.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The festival is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, with the exception of Dec. 30 and 31, when it will be open from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
General admission is $23 per person; $20 for students and seniors with proper ID, and $17 for children ages 12 and younger. A group rate of $18 per person is available for parties of 30 or more.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is located at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island NY 10310.