Attractions: Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild.

The Asian Lantern Festival features stunning, larger-than-life, illuminated lanterns. (PHOTOS PROVIDED BY CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS)

The staff at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford, Florida, was abuzz with activity in early November as they made final preparations for their marquee winter attraction. The Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild, presented by Publix, is a dazzling holiday event that is fun for the whole family.

“It’s becoming a family tradition. It’s also great for church groups and businesses looking to come out, bring people together, and experience something totally new and different,” said the Director of Marketing and Communications, Will Wellons.

The Zoo’s biggest event runs from November 18 to January 15, 2023 with Santa Claus making a special appearance December 17 and 22. A vast arrangement of new lanterns will surprise and delight both new and returning visitors. Wellons has noticed that zoo patrons of a different crowd—those interested in arts and culture—also enjoy attending this spectacular holiday festival.


To bring the festival to life, lantern manufacturer Tianyu Arts & Culture provides artisans from China to help prepare the event. Approximately 40 displays, including hundreds of lanterns and lighted decorations, magically transform the zoo into an evening wonderland. Some lanterns can be as tall as two stories, such as the panda lantern on display last season. Tianyu Arts & Culture takes great care in designing the displays to complement the tapestry of the zoo.

The event is sold separately from the regular Zoo attendance, and Wellons recommends buying tickets in advance. Time slots are 6, 7, and 8 p.m., rain or shine, and visitors can stay as long as they like. Ticketing, parking, boardwalks, and pathways are set up to avoid overcrowding.

Categories: Arts and Events