My 11 year-old daughter Grace and I visited the Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower all in one evening, and all without leaving downtown Atlanta! Well, they were actually giant lanterns, designed to look like the world's most famous landmarks, and a highlight of our visit to Global Winter Wonderland. The new seasonal attraction at Turner Field is a combination of holiday light displays, a state fair and a cultural festival, with international food and live music performances.
“This is awesome,” Grace kept saying as we walked by the holiday displays, or lanterns, that were shaped like snowmen, toy soldiers and a Christmas tree with “dancing” snowflakes. When I heard that this was the largest lantern festival outside of China, I pictured tiny lanterns that held candles. No, these lanterns are the size of small buildings and have taken months to design. At first glance, they looked like inflatable bouncy houses in various shapes. Upon closer inspection, they are steel frame structures, covered with silk fabric and lit by thousands of LED lights.After a visit with Santa Claus, we walked through the Global Village, which features the landmark lanterns. Each is presented with a brief historical description and music representing that part of the world. At the center was a lantern of the earth, held by a tree with branches made of thousands of recycled bottles!
We visited with Asian crafts vendors, including a sugar painter, a kite maker and a calligrapher. Later, we entered the food tent with offerings from Thailand, Japan and Greece, as well as hot dogs and funnel cakes. While we ate, we listened to live bands on stage.
At the midway, we entered the Dinosaur Maze, which is similar to a corn maze, but with Chinese lanterns as walls. We also rode the mini-coaster, drove bumper cars and felt our way through a glass house. However, the Ferris wheel was our favorite, because it provides the most spectacular views of all the lights.
-- Rebecca R. Leffler
Global Winter Wonderland
Turner Field, 755 Hank Aaron Dr. SE, Atlanta
Cost: $24.99; ages 5-12, $16.99; ages four and younger, free.
Hours: Daily through Jan. 5, 5p.m.-11 p.m.