John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival Returns to Grand Rapids for 2024. GR Zoo Lights are Back!

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival dragon tunnel

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo – Spring 2024

The GR Lantern Festival is at John Ball Zoo from April 10 through Sunday, June 16, 2024.

Featuring over 50 hand-crafted Chinese lanterns, interactive displays, fun activities, and endless enchantment, it’s like nothing else in our area. Plus, 2024 features all NEW lanterns. Even if you went last year, you’ll want to visit again. Somehow, the experience is even more magical than the 2023 debut!

Due to high demand for the festival so far this spring, John Ball Zoo just announced an additional day each week to see the lanterns. Now you can visit on Tuesdays too!

Be transported to a realm of magic and creativity at the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival. Things to do in the spring, like this Grand Rapids Lantern Festival, are rare in West Michigan landscape. We’re excited it’s back for another year.

Video of 2024 GR Lantern Festival

Note: Tickets went on sale in early 2024. Zoo members got first dibs at purchasing ticket and member ticket access started January 8. General Admission ticket sales opened February 5. As of April 2024, tickets are still available.

Swans at Lantern Festival Grand Rapids

Swan Lanterns in the pond at John Ball Zoo

What to Expect at the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Get ready for a breathtaking experience for all ages. As the sun goes down, the festival comes to life every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through June 16, 2024.

John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival 2024

John Ball Zoo has teamed up with Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc. to bring this festival to Grand Rapids for its second year.

(Our city was the first and remains the only place to see these incredible works of art in Michigan.)

As the largest Chinese lantern festival producer in North America, they were the first company to bring authentic Chinese Lantern traditions to the U.S. and Europe.

Chinese Lantern Festival Display by Tianyu Arts & Culture

John Ball Zoo Lantern Entrance


  • one-mile pathway lined with intricate lantern lights and activities
  • one-of-a-kind event, unique in Michigan
  • held at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, May-June
  • entertainment & concessions available
  • tickets required
  • plan at least an hour, pay attention to time of sunset

Walking the Lantern Festival

The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival will feature 55 handcrafted Asian-themed lantern displays on a mile-long path through the zoo.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival Under the Sea

Walking through the entire festival takes roughly 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Many of the zoo walkways are on a gradual incline, as the zoo is built into the side of a steep hill.

The first half of the trail is a climb; the second half is the descent.

Walkway Grand Rapids Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo

The pathways are accessible and wide.

Surfaces are either paved or boardwalks, making them suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

upper realm lantern festival grand rapids

Top of the Hill:

Walk through a shark belly, enjoy concessions, entertainment and interactive light features.

Shark Tunnel at Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Light Festival Lanterns Grand Rapids zoo

Be sure to find the bubble machines.

And the light up disco dance party.

It’s all truly delightful!

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival Performance

You may even encounter roaming entertainment, like these Chinese Dragon performers throughout the festival.

About the Lanterns

Constructed from metal frames and covered in fabric the lanterns are lit from inside, making them glow.

Dragon tunnel lantern festival grand rapids

Special luminescent tunnels will make you marvel at your surroundings as you walk the path.

Lantern Fish

Shaped as animals, insects and fish, the lanterns tell the intersecting story of wildlife and Asian culture as they light up the night at the zoo.

Flower Lantern Pathway JBZ

Every lantern festival is unique.

The theme and lanterns are custom to John Ball Zoo for this year.

John Ball Zoo wings

Interactive, Intricate Displays

“We’re so excited to bring this incredible experience to John Ball Zoo for people of all ages,” said Darci Napolillo, promotions and events manager at John Ball Zoo.

Lantern Lights on the walkway John Ball Zoo 2024

Dancing in the middle of the sidewalk? Sure, you’ll want to do it here.

The innovative dynamic projections and ground displays bring everything to life!

Flower Face Puff Lantern Festival

Step on the lily pad and see if you can take the what the puffing flower doles out.

This is fun to try and fun to watch.

gr lantern festival pathway

Every turn reveals a new themed walkway.

We enjoyed every twist and turn of this adventure.

human kaleidoscope lantern festival

More interactive elements, like this human kaleidoscope lantern, add to the event’s magical charm.

Lantern festival eaten by shark

Jump inside of photo ops like this shark mouth, too.

A Magical Light-Up Playground

Don’t miss the magical playground at the top of the hill.

Glowing seesaws, light-up swings, playing animal instruments or blowing bubbles make a magical playground come to life, too.

Seesaws Glowing at John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival
Magical Lantern Festival Playground
Cloud Swing Lantern Festival John Ball Zoo

The festival also features themed foods and beverages, special merchandise and live entertainment from local cultural groups at this hilltop stop.

acrobat performs  grand rapids lantern festival
Acrobat performs at Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Food & Extras at 2024 Lantern Festival at John Ball Zoo

Several concession stands fill the air with tantalizing smells when the lantern festival is in session.

Each kiosk sells different fare, so be sure to take advantage of the offerings at each stop. The pizza at the top of the hill lured our group in!

Intricate face painting is also on the menu, as are traditional Chinese souvenirs.

lantern festival face painting

This really is an event every age group can enjoy.

Timing Your Lantern Festival Visit

The lanterns take on a different look as the sun sets. If it’s important to you to experience the festival under full darkness, pay attention to the timing of the sunset. When we visited on April 9, the sky was still quite bright at 8 PM but was fully dark by 9 PM.

The festival is fun no matter what the light level, but it’s good to know that timing of your tickets can impact the visual display you experience. (link to check sunset times in Grand Rapids)

Festival before sunset

festival at sunset

Festival at twilight

festival at twilight

Festival after dark

festival after dark

lantern festival shark tunnel

Watch on Instagram

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival Instagram Image

2024 Lantern Fest Ticket Prices

Tickets are available to purchase online.

Member ticket access starts January 8. General Admission tickets open February 5. (Zoo members will receive a discount on their ticket purchases.)

How much do Zoo Lantern Tickets cost?

Non-members | $22.00
Members | $19.00

*This means you are purchasing 4 tickets for 4 people on the same night.

Non-members | $70.00
Members | $60.00

Non-members | $24.00
Members | $21.00

*This means you are purchasing 4 tickets for 4 people on the same night.

 All children 2 years old and under are FREE! Children ages 3 and up will require a ticket.

Timed tickets sold every 30 minutes. Last entry at 10:30pm. Advanced tickets required.

Entrance to John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival

Dates & Details

The lantern festival runs April 10 – June 16, 2024 at John Ball Zoo (1300 W. Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI 49504)

It will be open Tuesdays through Sundays each week from 7:30 – 11:30 PM.

Timed tickets are available in half-hour increments starting at 7:30 pm. Last entry at 10:30pm.

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival Timed Entry

To book your tickets, simply select the date you’d like to attend the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival from the zoo’s website.

Then, select your preferred 30-minute timed entry slot.

Event Tickets

love word lantern festival

Zoo Lights FAQS

Do I have to purchase tickets online in advance?

It’s recommended that patrons purchase tickets online ahead of time to ensure an available ticket at your preferred entry time. Tickets may be purchased onsite if entry time capacity is still available. The ticket booth is open every night and the Lantern Festival runs from 7:30-10:30 PM.

Do I only get to enjoy the festival for my ticket time slot?

Entry times are staggered to ensure an enjoyable guest experience. Once you’ve entered the event you can enjoy it at your own pace. You can stay until the festival closes for the evening if you’d like.

Are the animals visible during the Lantern Festival?

Animals will not be viewable on the Lantern Festival route at night. For the animals’ safety, they are kept on their typical nightly routine and for most of them, that means that they are in their indoor habitats for the night.

If I am a member at a Zoo that provides a reciprocal discount for Daily Tickets, does that mean I also get a discount on the Lantern Festival?

It does not. Discounts are only available to those who are members at John Ball Zoo.

Do you issue refunds if the weather is bad?

The Lantern Festival will operate rain or shine. Refunds are not offered for any tickets purchased. If necessary, tickets can be moved to an alternate date. To do that, please email [email protected], provide the Booking ID on your tickets and the alternate date you would like to move to.
*There is no guarantee that you will be able to move your tickets if the alternate date you are requesting is full.

Is there food?

Several food options are provided throughout the park during the festival.

How long does it take to walk through the whole zoo lights tour?

It takes roughly 1 – 1 ½ hours to walk through the entire Festival.

Will You Attend the Grand Rapids Lantern Festival?

Let us know in the comments if you plan to go to this amazing new Grand Rapids event!

Panda Lanterns along the walkway at the Lantern Festival

More Photos from the 2024 Grand Rapids Lantern Festival

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival Photo Op
lantern festival peacock
lantern festival shrimp

3 thoughts on “John Ball Zoo Lantern Festival Returns to Grand Rapids for 2024. GR Zoo Lights are Back!”

  1. Mary Ann Ewald

    Loved it last year. Have my tickets for this June. So amazing. Can’t wait to see the new

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