There are two themed lantern trails around the beautiful gardens, with festive Christmas lanterns, and a series of Wildlife & Nature lanterns. In addition to these, there is a fantastic lantern to represent Birmingham; a glowing bull – a replica of the Bullring sculpture.
Visitors enter through a giant Merry Christmas archway, before winding their way around the gardens past gorgeous lanterns. It is definitely a visual treat! It took us over an hour to walk through the gardens to look at all the lanterns, and the girls really enjoyed it all.
We were able to watch the Lord Mayor turn on the lights – they used plasma balls which was a great effect! Georgie and Lydia had a peek at them after the turn on, and loved them. Obviously they aren’t a permanent part of the festival but the girls enjoyed the added fun.
You can get food and drinks all around the trail, with stands at the start. Dotted around the gardens we spotted some churros (which was delicious), some gourmet marshmallows which you could toast around the corner, amongst others.
There is a great 2016 display filled with presents, snowmen and penguins. Glowing white animals surrounding the aviary. Fantastical displays, including colourful sea life, fairies, birds, princesses, and grasshoppers.
The lanterns were really impressive; really big and very colourful displays. They don’t move but there are a few flashing lights here and there.
We let the girls go close to the giant lanterns for a few photographs but didn’t let them touch – I had to bite my tongue when I saw parents letting (and encouraging) their children to touch, poke and lean against the displays. We didn’t see any staff around the bulk of the trail discouraging it, and watching people trample all around the lanterns did spoil the experience a little.
Unfortunately the planned Grotto has been cancelled, but you do get to see Santa Claus and his Reindeer in lantern form at least! The girls loved this festive display, it is really colourful and happy. James’s comment was that the North Pole sign was pointing in the wrong direction – but I don’t think children will care one jot about that.
The Magical Lantern Festival is running from this evening, 25th November 2016, through to 2nd January 2017. During term time it is Thursday to Sunday, and then every day except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day in the Christmas holidays.
Tickets cost £14 for adults, £10 for children, £12 for concessions, or £44 for a family of four. There is a discount for advance bookings, and groups, plus under fours are free. On site parking is reserved for blue badge holders and drop off/pick up, but there is on street parking nearby and the parking attendants told us there was a public car park somewhere nearby too.
The trail is wheelchair & pushchair friendly but there are some slopes you’ll have to tackle, which were a bit slippy & mucky after a few days of rain. The path is fairly well lit all the way around, and there are some signs directing you around the trail – although these could be a bit more obvious, we saw a few people complaining about it.
Overall we did enjoy the experience. It’s a little pricey especially considering the Grotto has been cancelled – although this was planned to be an extra cost on top of the ticket price, it would have made the trip out even more magical for children. Saying that, all four of us ooh-ed and ahh-ed our way around the gardens, and the lanterns are magnificent.