The Magical Lantern Festival is a new addition to Yorkshire this Christmas following success in London in 2015. Running from late November to January 2nd 2017 – on Thursdays to Sundays.
Covering ten acres of Roundhay Park, with some lantern installations the length of three buses and over 40,000 light bulbs, it is the biggest lantern festival in the UK.
Taking over the gardens around Tropical World in Roundhay, it features giant lantern sculptures that span across two separate areas which form part of the light trail. The Magic Lantern Festival is described as ‘a spectacular fusion of art, heritage and culture’.
On arriving at Roundhay Park, despite staggered entry times, parking was a nightmare, and with part of the main through road closed for the event it was a long queue until we found a parking space along a neighbouring road.
We had chosen our ticket time, forgetting how difficult access to Roundhay Park can be at the best of times. It was 5.30pm on a Saturday evening which must be the busiest phase of the whole week so we did curse ourselves, but unless they open a field for parking there are no other viable alternatives.
A few friends have said it is much quieter during the week or on Sundays.
Once we eventually parked and walked to the entrance, we were greeted by a power cut in the food and fairground area! This was quite entertaining, short-lived and full of Yorkshire smiles and comment.
Missing out on the Santa Tipi and food stalls, we quickly made our way towards the main entrance, which took us back over the road to the gardens at Tropical World.
If you are taking a pram or wheelchair, it is tricky in parts, and at the entrance, there are first several steps which we chose to negotiate. If we had gone to the ramped/accessible entrance we would have missed the first quarter of the attraction due to the one-way system.
After all of that, however, the Magical Lantern Trail was just that! It was an intelligent, engaging and enjoyable experience. Despite the crowds, we all had an unobstructed view of the lantern statues and were able to join other visitors taking photographs and pointing out the various creations to each other.
Walking along the pathways, it was evident a lot of thought had gone into each of the lanterns and how they would interact with their surroundings. It wasn’t simply a load of lightboxes in a row, they were sculptures fitting of each setting. The moon in the large pond being the most atmospheric.
Each section had a story to tell and although we didn’t discover the exact meanings for all of them, we felt animals, astrology, fairytale, underwater and Chinese culture were fairly prominent.
Despite being there at the busiest time and walking in convoy with others, we did always manage to find space for photos of ourselves and didn’t feel pushed along. This is especially noticeable around the selfie lanterns. An area where you could take pictures under the lantern, which had been designed to manage the flow of people so everyone could have a go.
The second section back over the road starts with a beautiful canopy before you enter a world of animals, underwater mystery and discover the impressive Chinese dragons suspended above the ponds in a walled garden.
There were also toilets at the beginning of this area and a little bit later a marshmallow food stand, which did cause a little bit of frustration with Little M as we powered on past it.
Both areas were just the right length and returning to the entrance, we felt we had got the most of the experience before treating Little M and Mrs M to their favourite Churros and exploring a few of the lanterns in the now much quieter entertainment area.
It really is magical to see all the lights and all of our family were wowed and impressed by the scale, detail and visual experience.
Whilst it was busy, we did go at the busiest time, with one of the security team suggesting they had over 8,000 people visit within the three hours we were there.
Taking these numbers into consideration, it was brilliantly organised and well planned. It is great that Leeds has attracted such a unique, fabulous attraction which more than made up for missing the Blackpool Illuminations this year, as we enjoyed a truly magical, enjoyable and illuminating lantern experience.
Although I had planned to attend and review the event, we were fortunate enough to receive complimentary tickets with no obligation.
For more information and tickets visit www.magicallantern.uk
A fabulous Magical Lantern Festival in Leeds
Although access is a little tricky and parking was a struggle on a busy Saturday night, it was well worth it once through the gates.
The Magical Lantern Festival was a memorable, engaging and clever display that was enjoyed by the whole family. Crafted around the fabulous gardens it was an experience that will remain a highlight of our festive activities.