A picture of me (Claire!) at the entrance to Lightopia festival at Chiswick House

In January, I went to the the Lightopia Festival, the 2020 winter light trail event at Chiswick House and Gardens.

I really enjoy these light festival walks! I have been to the event at Chiswick Festival twice before, to Kew Gardens four times and this year also went to the light trail at Audley End. Dann and Jupiter invited me to join them and I was really excited to go! (Check out their Lightopia Festival review here.) This year’s light festival runs until 1st March, so there is plenty of time to go.

Chiswick House is in south-west London, not far from Kew Gardens. However, once you are inside the estate, you would never know you were in London! I didn’t hear any road or air traffic noise throughout the event.

The peacock light display at the Lightopia festival at Chiswick House
The peacock light display

About my visit

Lantern festivals are one of my favourite winter activities. I love walking around the displays, feeling cozy in a faux fur coat with a hot chocolate. I love the art and the creativity that goes into these events!

The magic begins as soon as you arrive at Lightopia. The walk along the driveway to the ticket check is decorated with numbers and flower lanterns — a great taster of what’s to come! There was no over-arching theme for the displays, which meant that there was a huge variety in the displays.

Here were my favourite pieces:

  • The peacock with moon and star decorations alongside the stream — the peacock’s tail changed colour in time with the music, and looked beautiful reflecting in the water.
  • The dandelion clocks that were on some of the bushes along the walk — these were perfect replicas of real dandelions, but bigger!
  • The zodiac — there were 12 classic-style archways, each with one of the zodiac constellations inside. They lit up in time to music, building to a crescendo at the end! It was a huge exhibit and really beautiful. We all really enjoyed this one and thought it was one of the best displays of the walk.
  • The roses — the path wound through flowerbeds which had been filled with roses of different colours. These then lit up in time with the music, leading to a large lantern of two hands holding a bouquet at the end.
  • The animals! There was a huge display with different birds, such as flamingos, cranes and herons. Later on, there was a display with different safari animals such as rhinos, giraffes and zebras. The stags reminded me of Harry Potter’s patronus.
  • I liked that Chiswick House was incorporated into some of the displays — there was a laser light show that featured the 1920s, the Chinese New Year and more on the side of the house, and flower lanterns around one of the fountains.
Two stag lanterns at the Lightopia festival at Chiswick House
The stags reminded me of Harry Potter’s patronus

Lightopia has very few barriers and so in many places you are able to walk right up to the lanterns. This was great for photography, but I was really disheartened at how many people were climbing and standing on the lanterns when I visited. There are signs throughout the event saying not to touch the lanterns but these were ignored by almost everyone. I saw children standing and jumping on the small present lights, the dinosaurs and the animals in the safari section. I think Chiswick needs a few more members of staff to guide visitors as it would be tragic if the lanterns were ruined during the event.

The acrobatic performances

Throughout the walk there are stops with food and drink stalls. I usually enjoy stopping for a hot chocolate on my way around but there were really long queues when I visited. The end of the walk has a funfair with food and drink stalls, craft and gift stalls, as well as a tent with acrobatic performers.

The acrobatic performers were fantastic! This was really unique and something I hadn’t seen before at similar lantern festival events. They were all incredibly talented performers! My favourite was a woman in a panda onesie, who balanced on a board on a round pipe with a bowl on her head. She then knocked smaller bowls from the end of the board onto the top of her head (first just one, then three at a time!). I struggle to stand upright on level ground sometimes so her balance was incredible! There were multiple performers, each only on the stage for five to 10 minutes at a time. Make sure you stop to watch them before you leave!

Planning your visit

Lightopia runs until 1st March this year, from 5pm to 9pm daily. Tickets are available on the Lightopia website. The nearest stations are Chiswick on the South Western Railway or Chiswick Park on the District line. Visit the Chiswick House and Gardens website for full directions by your preferred method of transport.

Booking tickets through the Lightopia website is a bit strange, as tickets have the same start time of 5pm. Only once you have chosen your tickets do you select your preferred entry time between 5pm and 8.30pm. The preferred time is listed near the very bottom of the ticket. For other lantern festivals I have attended, the time is selected when choosing your ticket, which is much more intuitive.