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Real Mom Review: Water Lantern Festival

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Voted #1 Best Cultural Festival by USA TODAY, Water Lantern Festival is a memorable event that brings people together to celebrate life. Participants inscribe paper lanterns with their hopes, dreams, memories, and even letters to loved ones and then launch their candlelit lanterns in the water in a beautiful sunset ceremony. This event travels to different locations throughout the country and is full of family fun with food trucks, vendors, and lantern decorating. 

We sent two of our MOM Squad ambassadors and their families to experience the Water Lantern Festival's Washington, D.C. event. They received free admission in exchange for providing an honest review of their experience.

Save an extra 10% off admission to Water Lantern Festival events throughout the country with this CertifiKID deal

Water Lantern Festival

Divinity: The Water Lantern Festival is family oriented event. It’s an event meant to bring people together to share memories, loss, joy, etc by writing these things on lanterns and releasing them into the water.

Lisa: The Water Lantern is a festival where people decorate lanterns and place them in the water. Each person gets a small string backpack which includes the paper lantern, wooden stand and stickers, a marker and a small LED candle. 

Water Lantern Festival

Photo by Divinity Buggs

The location was basically a big hill with the food trucks, music, porta potties and vendors on top of the hill in a parking lot. On the bottom of the hill was the walking path and a ledge with rocks to climb down towards the water.

Water Lantern Festival

Divinity: Once we received our bags, we stepped to the side to try and figure out where to go and how we were going to navigate the stroller through the crowd. We attempted to make our way to some of the activities but decided to just sit outside the gate as it was too overwhelming for my 4-year old. We found a less crowded space close to the rocks and allowed the kids to color our lanterns. 

Lisa: We played some card games we brought along, decorated lanterns and played by the water. There was not a lot of activities for the kids to do besides looking at vendor tables and playing with a few of the cornhole games they had out. A bounce house or more games would have been nice.

Photo by Lisa Liu

Some people decorate their lanterns with art, others to remember those they lost, others set down their intentions, etc. The designs varied greatly and it was nice to see how others decorated theirs.

You are allowed to bring lawn chairs, blankets, coolers, food, etc. No alcohol is allowed. We ate some dinner from the food trucks. There were about 15 of them and they offered a good variety of food: twisted potatoes, Kona Ice, bubble tea, BBQ, Jamaican food, and more.

Photo by Lisa Liu

Water Lantern Festival

Divinity: One of the bags didn’t have a candle which set my 2-year old off. After we calmed her down, my husband took my son down to the water to release the lanterns into the water. The kids enjoyed seeing all the lanterns floating in the water and we were even lucky enough to see two helicopters fly by. The kids loved that!

Photo by Divinity Buggs

Lisa: When it got darker, the tide came in so it was time to set out the lanterns. That was a little difficult to do. There's a lot of people so it was crowded. They provided big plastic sheets to be used as slides for the lanterns if you didn't want to get wet. There are no steps to the water so you need to be able to climb down and get back up. Good thing most people lent a helping hand to others struggling. It was beautiful to see everyone's lantern out on the water!

Water Lantern Festival

Time Recommended to Enjoy Experience

Divinity: Plan to arrive early, before the masses!

Lisa: I think three hours would be good to eat, decorate and launch the lanterns. 

Recommended Age Range

Divinity: My children are 2 and 4. I would recommend for ages 5 and up. Not recommended if your child has sensory issues or doesn’t like large crowds.

Lisa: My kids are 8 and 10. This would be great for kids 5 and up. It's crowded and I heard a few announcements about lost kids. 

Tips for Families

Divinity: There were several stairs we had to carry our stroller down as we could not find an elevator or accessible ramp. There were also no signs to direct us where to go and no clear lines and we were stopped several times by one security guard trying to control a herd of people.

Pack a light dinner and blanket with some activities for the kids. Highly recommend sitting outside the gates as it was not as crowded.

Lisa: You can bring your own lawn chairs, blankets, coolers and food to save money. I would also suggest bringing your own entertainment/activities so your kids won't get bored. Have kids wear Crocs or sandals so they can have fun in the water!

I don't know if there was a first aid station or not. I felt like they should have an information/help tent.

Photo by Lisa Liu

Would Your Family Visit Again?

Lisa: We would go to the Water Lantern Festival again as it was a fun experience the whole family enjoyed.

Divinity: Sadly, we will not be returning to this event. The setting was beautiful, the weather cleared up and made for a wonderful night. The event was just too overpopulated to enjoy the activities and event itself.

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Tags: Outdoor fun, Water Lantern Festival, Family, Food


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