Tickets for China Lights now on sale, lantern festival begins September 21

HALES CORNERS, Wis.  (CBS 58) -- Tickets are now on sale for China Lights, the event that celebrates Asian culture and lights up the Boerner Botanical Gardens for a month during the fall. 

The theme for 2018 is "Panda Mania." China Lights features 45 huge sculptural lantern displays and much more. On Wednesday morning, organizers announced some enhancements for this year's show. 

China Lights runs from September 21 to October 21 at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners. The festival is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 until 10:00 p.m. It will be closed on Mondays. 

Special weekend themes will be the following:

  • Sept. 21–23, Opening Weekend
  • Sept. 28–30, Asian Cuisine/Chicago Weekend, sponsored by MillerCoors
  • Oct. 5–7, Moon Festival Weekend, presented by the Milwaukee Chinese Community Center and OCA–Wisconsin
  • Oct. 12–14, Cultural Weekend, sponsored by the Reiman Foundation
  • Oct 19–21, Closing Weekend

Each night at about 6:15 p.m., entertainment staff, dressed as a lion, will lead a procession through the audience in the Shrub Mall of the Botanical Gardens. The parade will conclude at the main stage in time for the first performance of the night.

Stage performances will highlight folk arts and culture, with professional acrobats, martial artists, and musicians from China. Entertainment will vary nightly, and bonus shows will be added Fridays through Sundays. Schedules for the two performance stages will be posted at the Welcome Gate.

In front of the Education & Visitor Center, a giant panda display will be constructed almost entirely of ping-pong balls. This display can be viewed free of charge.

Throughout the festival, a wide variety of Asian and Western food options will be available, from Mongolian Beef to hot dogs. Vendors at this year’s event include China D’Lite Café, Gift of Wings Grill, Heavenly Roasted Nuts, T. Best Kettle Corn Co., Tanpopo/Greenfish, Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds, and Zilli Hospitality Group. Beverages available will range from Tsingtao beer and Ozeki Sake to domestic and premium tap beers and sodas. Hot beverages will also be available. Vendors will service two concessions areas—both with picnic table seating.

Park Rangers will direct traffic through Whitnall Park, and electronic boards will provide additional parking information, in real time, for visitors heading to the show. First-come, first-served, complimentary parking will expand to 10 fully lighted parking lots. Complimentary shuttle service from the four outer lots will switch from a route system to a dispatch system to better serve event-goers. The shuttle service will also include an audio introduction to the show.

Preferred close-up paved parking nearest the China Lights entrance will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to people with disabilities who have state-issued disabled parking or disabled Veteran parking license plates, or the state-issued disabled parking identification card.

Designated drop-off areas for authorized taxis/uber and motorcoaches will also be located near the China Lights entrance. Motorcoach operators must make advance arrangements. 

China Lights admission tickets will be valid any night of the regular 2018 schedule. Ticket prices are the following:

  • Child, age 5-17, $12
  • Adult, age 18-59, $20
  • Senior, age 60+, $12
  • One-visit individual VIP package, $30
  • Unlimited-visit individual Season Pass $50.

The VIP package includes early entry (5 p.m.), a collectible premium, a tour (5:15 p.m.), participation in the Illumination Parade (6:15 p.m.), VIP seating at the first show of the night, and the mobile guide. The mobile guide, which requires a cell phone for use, provides a cultural perspective on the displays. The guide is also available for $5 on-site.

E-Tickets, which include priority access at the Welcome Gate, may be purchased in advance online at The e-ticket can be scanned from a print copy or directly from a phone.

Tickets may also be purchased in person at Boerner Botanical Gardens, Milwaukee County Parks Public Services Office (9480 Watertown Plank Road), and golf courses at Brown Deer Park (7625 N. Range Line Road), Currie Park (3535 N. Mayfair Road), Dretzka Park (12020 W. Bradley Road), Grant Park (100 E. Hawthorne Ave.), Greenfield Park (12035 W. Greenfield Ave.), Hansen Park (9800 W. Underwood Creek Parkway), Lincoln Park (1000 W. Hampton Ave.), Oakwood Park (3600 W. Oakwood Road), Warnimont Park (5400 S. Lake Drive), and Whitnall Park (6751 S. 92nd St.).

Same-night tickets will be available on-site at the outdoor ticket office starting at 4 p.m.

For more information, call 888-733-1888 or visit

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