When shoulder season rolls around, it can be hard to find fun things to do.

Shoulder Season: That awkward time between summer and winter; after the leaves fall and before ski season starts.

If you are feeling the pre-holiday blahs, then you need to check out Illuminasia at the Calgary Zoo. Illuminasia is a Chinese lantern festival set up around the gardens at the zoo and the last weekend it is open is coming up, October 14th-16th.

14519746_10210799731419085_4222078938803412653_nEach lantern is handmade in the traditional manner in China, but these are no ordinary paper lanterns. Combining all your favourite zoo animals, with bright lights and moving parts gives this ‘lantern’ show a magical feel.

There are different areas to explore, each one representing a different season. Spring is full of flowers and insects, summer is home to flowering trees; the fall section has a herd of moose (yes, I know real moose don’t live in herds) and maple trees that glow, while the winter section is home to adorable penguins and fierce tigers.


To top off the incredible lanterns, every night of the festival there is an incredible show combining dancing, music, ninjas and more:

The Journey of the Monkey Princess

Journey back to ancient China and prepare to be thrilled and excited. Our main stage show has something for everyone – ninja battles, martial arts, dancing, music, acrobatics and a classic tale of good versus evil. And a nightly 7pm performance is designed specifically for families with children.

The adventure begins in the court of the mighty Monkey King. While musicians and dancers entertain the King, his mischievous daughter, the Monkey Princess, takes her father’s staff only to lose it to a ninja. During her journey to retrieve the staff she meets a cast of wise and exotic characters. While performing daring and beautiful acrobatics they empower the Monkey Princess for her challenge ahead.

Join us and discover if the Monkey Princess conquers the ninja warrior and retrieves her father’s staff


The night that I went to Illuminasia, it was more than a little damp out. The fog was like pea soup, but at the rain itself died off for the couple hours that I was there. In all honesty, going on a foggy night made for incredible photos. The lanterns lit up the fog, and everything had a kind of mysterious glow to it. Don’t let a little bit of rain or fog stop you from getting out and enjoying this festival. Tickets can be purchased in advance and all the information you need can be found here.

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