Illuminasia: A Festival of Animals and Light

If you’ve followed my blog for any period of time, you know I have a love for all things magical and light. Lanterns in Hoi An, Yi Peng in Thailand and now… Illuminasia in Calgary!


Illuminasia is an event at the Calgary Zoo with many authentic Chinese lanterns, mostly animal shaped of course! Knowing that this year I wasn’t going to be able to participate in Zoolights, the winter light festival at the Zoo, I was eager to see these lanterns up close.

You could be forgiven for thinking you were in Africa, watching the giraffes and zebras graze on the lawn. Flamingos dotted the ponds, their reflections in the water, and a set of rambunctious pandas played as a family.




We were even lucky to see some of the zoo’s real live animals out to play! Despite the chill in the air, we got a great view of the red pandas and the snow leopard.

My pregnancy need for sleep, however, kept us from being there super late. The bonus of that is that rather than arrive when it was pitch black, we were able to enjoy the golden hour of sunset.


Illuminasia runs until November 1st, so make sure you get out before you miss it. Take public transit if you’re able to, as parking will be busy. There are two more sets of cultural entertainment on for the rest of the month. October 1-11 you can “experience Japan” with history on their food, art and culture. October 15-25 you can “experience India” with a bit of Bollywood dance!



My advice for those visiting Illuminasia, or Zoolights for that matter, is to start at the back. It’s tempting to stop and take pictures at the first set of lights and lanterns, but if you hold strong and carry on to the end of the zoo, you get to many of the displays all to yourself. By the time you’ve worked your way back, you’ve essentially swapped places with all of the strollers and it’s a much more pleasant experience. If coming with young kids (under 1), I’d encourage you to carry them in a body carrier. Strollers are welcome, but that way you can go at your own pace, not at that dictated by the other strollers.

Have you been to an event like this? Do you love lights and lanterns as much as I do?

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