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  • Carrie Cochran

A Festive Date Night in Atlanta: Featuring the Skyview and Chinese Lantern Festival

Happy New Year, everyone!

I have one final holiday post to share with you all before this wonderful season is officially over.

While perusing adventures in Atlanta, I stumbled across this Groupon, offering access to both the Atlanta Skyview and International Winter Wonderland.

I'd been on the Skyview once before on my first official date with my husband, but that was several years ago, and I was dying to go again. The night we went, I would have loved to go to the Chinese Lantern Festival (part of the International Winter Wonderland) as well, but it wasn't an option. So three years later, I decided it was time to revisit downtown Atlanta and get the whole experience.

I'm happy to say I was not disappointed! For $27 each, Daniel and I were able to ride the Skyview (usually $14 each) and enjoy the International Winter Wonderland (usually $20 online). We had such an incredible time, and I'm so excited to share our experience with you!

The International Winter Wonderland (IWW) runs until January 5, so you have a few days left to check it out this year. But it is an annual event in Centennial Park, so don't worry if you can't make it this week. Plus, the Skyview runs year-round, which means you can catch it any time you're in town.

1. The Skyview Atlanta

The Skyview is a 20-story Ferris wheel featuring enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas and an incredible view of Atlanta's downtown. While riding during the daytime does offer some more detailed panoramic views, I highly recommend going after dark, particularly during the IWW.

In addition to Atlanta's regular night-time lights, you'll get the full display of lights from the Chinese Lantern Festival across the street, and it is gorgeous! You'll also be able to view the Olympic rings from here. And of course, the Skyview itself lights up in an ever-changing flow of colors as you ride, setting both a festive and romantic atmosphere.

The Skyview takes you on four rotations, stopping at regular intervals to change passengers and so that you can enjoy the scenery. The whole ride takes about 15 minutes in total. The private, climate-controlled cabs make the ride enjoyable at any time of year and are the perfect environment for a date night. Plus, seasonal music played over the gondola speakers adds to the whole experience.

If all you're looking for is a romantic Skyview ride, you can also check out this Date Night Groupon, which cuts the price to $25 for two people and includes chocolates!

2. Chinese Lantern Festival

Through the screened chain-link fence surrounding the Chinese Lantern Festival, you can catch glimpses of the colorful light displays inside, but I promise you cannot fully comprehend the beauty of this event until you are inside and surrounded by the festival.

The Festival has two entrances, both on the opposite end of the park from the Olympic rings. The one closer to the Skyview has a dramatic archway of safari trees lining the path as you enter, while the other gives you a stunning view of the Fairy Tree and the rest of the festival behind.

Light Displays

As you walk through the safari archway, you'll see snakes, sloths, and tropical birds perched in the trees' overhanging branches.

To the right, the next display pays homage to the beautiful crane, one of China's important mythological motifs. The flock showcases a lovely blue and pink color pallet with the central crane standing tall in an ever-changing colored egg.

From there, the theme turns to some of the more classic safari animals, including tigers, zebras, gorillas, chimps, rhinos, and jaguars. Another archway featuring white giraffes graces the sky overhead, and at the end of that path sets one of my favorite exhibits: the panda bears.

A tall tree covered in color-changing flowers holds a little pack of chubby panda bears, and they're just so cute and sleepy-looking!

The area culminates with a long line of safari animals extending down the next path. Here, you'll also see elephants, a crocodile, ostriches, gazelle, lions, and giraffes.

You can get a better view by turning the corner here and walking the length of the menagerie, but don't forget to come back to the crossroads!

If you keep right at the crossroads towards a small off-shoot, you'll come across a more interactive and whimsical selection of lights.

First up is a music box shaped like a grand piano with a twirling ballerina in the center. The ballerina spins while on the ground, a giant keyboard allows children to plunk out notes with their feet.

Just a few steps away, a dazzling myriad of "fireworks" fill the sky from tree-hung lights. These are exceptionally beautiful in conjunction with the Skyview in the background!

Next up, you can take your picture in a magical Pegasus-drawn carriage, complete with Cinderella-esque pumpkin features. There may be a line for pictures in the carriage, but if you want one go for it! It's a cute and unique photo opportunity.

The last thing in this off-shoot is a line of glowing, circular swings. Each swing is a full circle and changes hues through all the colors of the rainbow! There are about six swings, and lines can be long, but the swings are so fun to sit in!

Back on the main path, you can walk past the menagerie as well as some booths filled with intricate arts and crafts. Authentic Chinese fans, sculptures, tapestries, paintings, and even interior-personalized bottles are available here.

At the end of this row, a giant heart dominates the corner with an ever-changing display of colors. If two people approach the heart at the same time, they can press two buttons together to make the words "I love you" float across the heart!

Another small circuit off to the right has a particularly impressive and interactive exhibit. A large pink guitar shape lies on the ground, covered with tall, steel rods of varying heights. Atop each pole sits a lighted globe, and at the tip of the guitar's headstock, there is a small microphone-like apparatus.

When you blow into this microphone, the globes light up in blue and white waves as if you were blowing bubbles!

Off to the side, there is also a colorful "rockstar" display with a small stage, music notes, soundwaves, and a decked-out guitar.

After this point, the exhibit themes change to aquatic animals. The showcase item here is a giant open-mouthed shark. The shark's skin constantly changes hues, while the gaping mouth offers the perfect place for a photo. When you're done, you can walk all the way through the shark to access the rest of the festival.

In this back nook, you'll find sea turtles, eels, and a big red octopus, as well as some delicious food! If you're hungry, this is a great place to try steamed pork buns, among many other traditional dishes.

The aquatic area continues through another gorgeous archway. I felt that this one was the most immersive ones because the lights extend all the way overhead. From the ceiling, jellyfish lights dangle their tentacles toward the floor where more outlined jellyfish line the sides of the path.

Outside the jellyfish archway, a final aquatic exhibit features a school of blue and yellow fish swimming through colorful seaweed and coral with one larger, color-changing fish in the middle.

Before you keep going, don't miss the fairy tree on the corner. This enchanting tree has colorful globes trailing from each tip and pearlesque strings draping from every limb. It was probably my favorite exhibit of the entire festival because it was so different and mystical.

The final section of the Chinese Lantern Festival features birds and flying creatures. Displays of vibrant peacocks, butterflies, and more fill this last area with plenty of colors and stunning centerpiece birds. This section culminates with the crane exhibit.

In addition to the incredible colors and lights of each display, many of them also have moving parts, like flapping wings or moving mouths, which helps bring each one "to life."

The Show

In addition to the lights, the Chinese Lantern Festival also had an incredible show! I've included videos and a short summary of each since words can't really describe the full scale of their performance.

The first act featured two male gymnasts swinging and tossing lighted balls around on lengths of rope while doing a variety of tricks and complicated moves.

The second act had a girl hula-hooping enough hoops to cover her entire body as well as juggling several in some impressive coordination feats.

In the third dangerous and suspenseful act, one male gymnast balanced on a tower of rolling tubes!

The fourth act featured a female dancer performing "The Peacock Dance," a traditional Chinese dance.

In the fifth and final act, the two male gymnasts performed a tumbling routine, complete with raised hoops that they'd jump through in synchronization.

3. The Olympic Rings

Is any trip to Centennial Park really complete without stopping by the Olympic rings? No, it's not.

Before you leave, be sure to swing by and enjoy them. If you don't know, the Olympic rings are lighted fountains that you can run inside or just watch from a safe distance. They change colors constantly and even do little shows by alternating light and water patterns.

If you hop inside a ring, it becomes its own little world--and a perfect spot to spend a few minutes on your date! It can be very cozy and romantic while you're surrounded by tall jets of colored water, sectioned off from the rest of the world. Just watch your step if you decided to go in or out of a ring, or you'll get soaked!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you get to visit the Skyview and Chinese Lantern Festival someday soon! The festival is open until January 5th of this year, so there's still a few days to pop over if you're in the Atlanta area. And it is worth every cent!

If you have any questions, please post them below! If you liked this post, please give it a heart, and be sure to share it with your friends who would be interested in visiting the Atlanta area!

Happy travels!

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