TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The Toledo Zoo's newest must-go-to event is opening for the first time on Friday, and the zoo is hoping it will become a new tradition for area families.
"Luminous Nights" features 500 lantern displays around the zoo, some as large as 50 feet wide and 19 feet tall, in the shapes and forms of animals, dinosaurs, flowers and plants.
In Chinese culture lanterns are symbolic of illuminating the future and reunion of family.
The zoo is hoping families will come together for the new tradition every year.
The zoo bought the luminaries from the Calgary Zoo in Canada which was looking for a buyer.
So far reviews have been positive.
"I think it's fantastic. The color and everything here. They're very nice," said one visitor.
Each lantern was handcrafted by Chinese artisans on a welded frame and covered with pieces of silky cloth.
"It's completely new. All these exhibits next to me, like the moose, are all covered in satin with a wire frame on the inside. So while they still light up very much like our lights display, it's a completely different look and feel," said Assistant Director of Park Operations, Chris Martin.
Electricity runs through the luminaries, but they also have LED lights to make them come alive.
Some of them even move, adding more thrills for the little ones.
Zoo leaders thought this was just what the Toledo market would want, something unique to bridge the gap between the summer and the ever-popular Lights Before Christmas.
It cost the zoo hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the luminaries and transport them here.
You can't help but feel the season when you see these on the ground.
"We were just looking for an event to take advantage of the wonderful falls that we have here in Northwest Ohio. We had a wonderful opportunity with the Chinese lanterns in early spring 2017, and from there we put together an event with Chinese lanterns for families to enjoy," said Shayla Moriarty, the director of communications of the Toledo Zoo.
Nikki Brown, Emma Cox and family got a sneak peek before the official opening on Friday afternoon when it was still light out.
The family from Detroit say they'll definitely make the trip back to see the lanterns in the dark.
"Children need to have some memories of nice things," said Emma.
There's also pumpkin and wood carving planned for Luminous Nights.
"It's very interesting and colorful and good for grownups and kids," said Nikki.
The zoo will continue to have their annual Halloween themed events, Little Boo and Pumpkin Path in the month of October, in addition to Luminous Nights.
"It's just a new event and it drives attendance not just from our local community but outside of this network in northwest Ohio, southern Michigan. Any time you have an event like this of this scale it encourages our guests to experience what Toledo has to offer, not only just as a zoo," said Moriarty.
Moriarty says this is the perfect family event with a plethora of activities on each night including pumpkin carving, lantern and wood carving demonstrations and pie eating contests.
Luminous Nights will also feature a beer garden for adults.
The fall festival runs through October 29th every day at various times.
For Toledo Zoo members, tickets are $14 for adults and $11 for kids.
For non-members, tickets are $17 for adults and $14 for kids.
The zoo says you can save a dollar per ticket if you order online.
Tickets for Luminous Nights can be purchased here or at the Zoo doors.