The first ever Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival is more than halfway through its five-week run, and already the unprecedented event is surpassing expectations for ticket sales and attendance.
Opening the last weekend of September, the spectacle of color and light runs through the first day of November — that's in two-and-a-half weeks, so don't wait to go if you've been planning on it.
While final estimates of the festival's economic impact on downtown Spokane won't be known for some time, Visit Spokane reports that ticket sales have surpassed halfway-mark estimates, with 31,655 people visiting as of this Tuesday. Organizers originally projected to sell 50,000 admission tickets before its last night, on Nov. 1.
Of those visitors so far, nearly 700 have also opted to get the full festival experience by dining at the pop-up restaurant, Deng Chu, created by Sante Restaurant & Charcuterie Chef Jeremy Hansen and his team. Operating inside a large picnic shelter inside the festival, the restaurant's menu has changed each week to showcase different styles of cuisine from specific regions of China.
This week's highlight is Jing cuisine of the Beijing region, followed by Chuan cuisine of the Sichuan region and finally, Hu cuisine of the Shanghai region. Fixed price dinner service ($25/person, plus $14 discounted festival admission) is offered Thursday to Saturday, from 5-9 pm. For a more intimate and unique dining experience, diners can sit at the Chef's Table inside the kitchen ($100/person, starts at 6 pm Thu-Sat, and is limited to around 20 people each night). Reservations for dinner at Deng Chu can be made online.
Over the past weeks, several downtown restaurants and hotels have seen increased traffic due to the Lantern Festival. One downtown hotel already sold out of its allotment of festival hotel packages. Across the street from Riverfront Park, O'Doherty's Irish Grille has seen an increase in traffic from people coming and going to the event, Visit Spokane's communication manager Peyton Scheller tells the Inlander.
"Most people seem to be very pleased with the event and are happy to see a cultural event of this size here in Spokane," Scheller says.
Tickets for the Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival are $17 for adults, and $12 for children age 12 and under. Kids under age 2 are free, and senior night is offered on Monday and Tuesday, for $12. Festival passes are also available for $60, and groups of 10 or more can get discounted admission.
The festival was originally set to be open during the day for a lower ticket price, but because the lantern displays are best viewed at night, it's currently open Sun-Thu, from 5-10 pm and on Fri-Sat, from 5-11 pm. Visitors can also see nightly performances of Chinese music, dancing and acrobatics on a stage in the park's Lilac Bowl, at 6:30 and 8 pm Sun-Thu, and at 7 and 9 pm on Fri-Sat.