Alright enough about donuts, but I'm not quite ready to talk about rides just yet. Rest assured we'll be looking at cool stuff and drinking beer in this next installment.
Last weekend the missus and I wound up having an impromptu date night of sorts to check out Independence Beer Garden
, a new(ish) little spot near our downtown historical area where you can find the likes of the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Constitution Center, blah blah blah... (sorry but when you grow up here it all gets a little old). After some drinks and a bite we planned to walk a few blocks north to Franklin Square Park
which was hosting the 3rd annual Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival
, and which is coincidentally the only park in Philadelphia proper that contains a permanent, operating amusement ride. Yes its a carousel but its still counts. The park itself is one of the five original open-space parks planned by William Penn when he laid out the city of Philadelphia 1682. Over the last century it fell into disrepair and eventually became a homeless camp until the early 2000's when the city invested into cleaning it up. It currently houses gardens, a large fountain, a playground, and Philly Mini Golf - a fairly respectable course with obstacles and themeing based around Philly and its history, as well as Squareburger - a small milkshake/burger stand.
We hopped in an Uber and after a short 11 minute drive we were at 6th & Chestnut being dropped off in front of the new spot. The missus noted she felt a little old among the sea of early-20-somethings scattered around. I agreed. Once we got wristbanded after being carded at the entrance (feels nice when you're our age lol) we walked around and found the place was enormous. Sadly I was not thinking I'd be doing a Trip Report at this time, so I didn't take a lot of pictures at the beer garden (the missus took a few).
We grabbed some beers and began to explore, noting the place had at least 4 different bars, indoor and outdoor seating, a whole section for people to park/lock up their bikes, shuffleboard, as well as an entire lawn with a small cornhole competition going on.
We found a covered table, seated ourselves and within no time our server appeared and grabbed us another round of drinks and some menus. It's mostly bar food so I ordered up a juicy cheeseburger, some fries and pretzel bites. All three items were small for the price but not surprising considering we were smack dab in the middle of the most touristy area of the city, but we loved all 3. Slightly annoying was that all three items came out separately, which our server warned us about, but at the end of the day who cares.
After we ate we settled up and slowly made our way a few blocks up 6th Street to find a very large crowd of people gathered around the entrance to Franklin Square. Even though we bought tickets online in advance, we still had to wait in a decent line. It moved quickly, and thanks to the beer we consumed prior to arrival, we were inside the park in no time.
The park itself was very, very crowded. Inside, where the festival is held, are two dozen different lit up "installations" consisting of 1,500 individual lanterns made up of more than 15,000 LEDs. The lanterns are created by local and Chinese artisans. Some are small, while some are enormous, like a 200 foot long dragon that snakes across the park. The festival also features Chinese folk artists, as well as performances by acrobats & contortionists, and a food/beer garden.
The event has been going on nightly since early May, but the night we attended happened to be the first Saturday in Philly in about a month where it didn't piss rain so the entire park was mobbed. Unfortunately the area around the stage where the performances were being held was particularly crowded, so we just slowly wandering around the park and checking out all of the different lanterns...
You can see the stage in red. The large area in front of it is a huge lawn that was just covered in people. We didn't even try to get close, instead wandering further into the park to check out more of the lanterns...
I took a few videos to make a few gifs out of so you guys could see the changing lights/colors. Really neat stuff.
I'm not sure if you can tell by the photos but this tree was huge - easily 20-25 feet tall. The attention to detail was incredible. It was crowded enough that we had to "fight" a little bit to get close to the lanterns, but we did.
Right in the center of Franklin Square Park is a large fountain, built in 1838, with water piped in from the Schuylkill River, and is thought to be the oldest surviving fountain in William Penn’s five urban squares. The park was very dark so it wasn't easy to get photos but at least I tried.
Note the carousel on the other side of the huge fountain.
Was having 90s rave flashbacks in this funky tunnel. That led us over to...
The absolutely massive 200 foot long dragon!
All the lanterns for this years show are newly created except for the giant dragon (above) and the ever popular pandas.
Across the way we notice this massive contraption.
So neat. And the dragon from the other side. Due to the crowds and the size of this thing it was near impossible to get the whole lantern in one shot. *sad face*
This was one of our favorites - a giant glowing shark you could walk right through.
This giant flower softly changed colors and then would suddenly turn into a tron rave robot.
We made our way back toward the central fountain, stopping to peak over at the very busy mini-golf, and checked out the food offerings.
We wound up getting a "funnel cake" which was a giant overpriced disappointment. No photos I'm afraid since it was so dark in the park, not to mention it was awful. We soon thereafter found ourselves the beer guy where we grabbed a couple of suds, so that made up for it. Sadly no photos of that either. But... look! A ride!
We didn't bother with a ride on the carousel, as anyone who had brought children was lined up for a ride. I've ridden it already, its a nice carousel.
One of our favorite of all the installations was the elephant. You could ride a bike that powered the changing of the lights but of course there was a nice little line we didn't feel like waiting in.
You can kinda see a guy pedaling off to the right there.
And suddenly we're snapping Brit like we're @ Seaworld. The was another one of our favorites.
And that's all from the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival! Thanks for reading, and I promise the next update (coming soon) will feature some airtime. Subscribe!