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Christmas and Winter Wild Lights at the Columbus Zoo - Bigger Every Year

Updated on December 10, 2012

Wonderful Winter Nights

As of November 2012, the Wild Lights festival at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium was officially 24 years old. It is increasing in size, number of lights, and variety of entertainment and attractions each year, all of which are well staffed and maintained. The electricity is used for LED lights and donated without cost by the City of Columbus, AEP Power, and other sponsors, as it is for the City Hall winter holiday lights.

Since 1988, this Christmas and Winter Holiday event has taken families through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's and other favorite cultural holidays of all sorts. Animals and staff from around the world welcome International visitors with millions of lights that do not cost our taxpayers an extra cent.

Many American and International zoos also hold Wild Lights festival, so such an event may be occurring soon in your area. If so, I hope you enjoy it! If not, and you are in our area, come to ours.


The Columbus Zoo is not on a regular daily bus route, but special seasonal service is delegated to this spot north of the city in the upscale suburb of Powell, Ohio. COTA Bus service is provided several times daily in the summer months for seasonal workers, high school and college interns, and visitors; and also during Wild Lights. The buses are decorated for Christmas. Many people use the COTA buses that would otherise not be able to visit the zoo or the light festival and they are thankful to COTA and the City of Columbus for this public service.

If you drive to the Columbus Zoo, you will find ample parking in well maintained, well lighted parking lots at $5.00 per car. Buses are admitted free of charge.

show route and directions
A markerO'Shaughnessey Dam -
O'Shaughnessy Dam, Ohio, USA
get directions

B markerColumbus Zoo & Aquarium -
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 9990 Riverside Dr, Powell, OH 43065, USA
get directions

C markerZoombezi Bay -
4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065, USA
get directions

Festival Nights

November 2011 through to January 01, 2012 and Mid-November - New Year's Day every year

  • Sundays - Thursday 5 - 9 PM
  • Friday - Saturday 5 - 10 PM
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day

Wild Lights is a safe and entertaining place to spend a portion of New Year's Eve.


Regular admission rates are charged, but admission is FREE to Members of the Columbus Zoo. If you are a Member of a reciprocal zoo or museum, you will probably be admitted free to Wild Lights. Call ahead to make sure, at the link at the top of the page.

Entrance fees are about half price for children 2-9 years old and Seniors 60 and older, with Senior's half-price day at even lower rates on Tuesdays. Kids under 2 years old are free, so this is a happy way to take the little ones to the winter holidays light festival at the zoo..

I have visited the Wild Lights festival several times and accompanied friends and taken school groups and clubs to the event. We have always enjoyed the family-oriented activities of music, light shows, and crafts for the kids, as well as visiting animals in their well maintained enclosures for winter or natural habitats for cold-weather animals. Santa's wife, Mrs. Claus has always set up a kitchen with tables at which children may decorate their own cookie to take home. They love it. Folks can have their picture taken with Santa or his reindeer as well.

The Historic Carousel
The Historic Carousel | Source

Holiday Encounters Village

An entire village opens up at the zoo from November through New Year's Day. This village includes a perfomance stage for family and child-related musical and comedy acts; and offers a Reindeer Corral for you to meet Santa's sleigh-pullers. In addition to light shows, animal performances are also entertaining throughout most evenings.

Envrionmental concerns are presented in an interesting "green" house open for touring, and visitors can board a holiday train for a ride. This year, Disney On Ice is at the zoo to present some special performances for winter holidays at no extra charge, with a choir sining background as a living evergreen tree display.

Displays for Christmas and other holidays and special events occur in all of the zoo's habitats and the famous restored 1914 Mangels-Illions Carousel will be open for rides. It the same one I rode as a child, with the horses so tall I could not climb on by myself.

One thing I particularly like is that the gorillas and bonobos are on display only until 5 PM during festival evenings, so they can get a good night's sleep, as they always do. Near their zoo home is a gift tree full of suggestions for gifts the animals of the zoo would like to have, if you are inclined to help.   

The entire landscape fo the zoo is covered in lights such as these.
The entire landscape fo the zoo is covered in lights such as these. | Source


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    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful hub. Maybe Joann, and Becky, and I will visit a zoo again one day. We love animals a whole lot. I especially love the colors on Bengal Tigers. Beautiful cats. God Bless You, and your hubs are interesting, and educational.

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Amazing in a zoo....great photos...up, awesome. Merry Xmas.

    • IntimatEvolution profile image

      Julie Grimes 6 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

      What great fun I bet.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

      Beautiful and looks like lots of fun while serving a good purpose. Hope ours will be one of the cities the Wild Life Festival comes to, but Ohio is not that far away, Hmmm. I'll have to keep that in mind. Voted and rated.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      I think they are all LED now.

    • glowires profile image

      glowires 6 years ago

      Very cool. Was that just LED Lights, or did they use EL Wire in there as well?

    • Trinsick profile image

      Trinsick 6 years ago from Cali

      I've never seen anything like this before, very creative. I'll have to suggest this to our local Zoo!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      It is a fabulous sight! I think they do a very effective job caring for the animals, too. Katie, and am glad you were able to attend; thanks for posting.

      dobo700 - It's one of the best winter attractions, I think. Does your local zoo do light shows? Perhaps they will in the future. Happy New Year!

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 6 years ago from Australia

      Looks like a fantastic sight. Wish I could get there.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      We were just there last night and it was wonderful. We saw several animals in hibernation. I'm so proud of our Zoo! GREAT review of one of our many qualities here in Columbus Ohio! :) Katie

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      It is beautiful and awesome and they add new lights every year. I will be attending soon!

    • eLightSpot profile image

      eLightSpot 6 years ago from Enid

      That is so creative! I wish all zoos would be this festive around the holidays! They definitely went above and beyond making their christmas lights into animals! Great job guys! Keep it up!

    • Albertttt profile image

      Albertttt 6 years ago

      Wow, nice.

    • Lauretta123 profile image

      Lauretta123 6 years ago from Ukr

      great party, thanks for sharingg

    • PatrickNormandin profile image

      PatrickNormandin 6 years ago from New York

      These lights are amazing! I love your shots as well as your hub :)

    • SJKSJK profile image

      SJKSJK 6 years ago from delray beach, florida

      Great lights. Love christmas linhts.

    • cookibuq profile image

      cookibuq 6 years ago from Ireland / Hong Kong

      Voted this up and the photos :)

    • profile image

      improvinghomeshub 6 years ago from Right Here

      Wow! My wife would be in heaven! She would love to see something like that.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      The pictures are wonderful and it must be a real experience to see it in reality. Thank you for sharing.

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 6 years ago

      Very cool! Thanx for sharing this!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      Makes me wish I lived nearer. Well, my daughter and her family live in Indiana, not too far from Columbus. I must mention it to her, in case she's not aware of it! Thank you for a beautiful and valuable piece of information!

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      Wow! This looks so beautiful!

      I always love looking at lights! I love it especially during Christmas time because that's when all the lights are lit!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      This zoo adds more features every year and has 100s of acres yet to fill. The lights are beautiful and bring many people out to see the animals, which helps support the important endangered-species work the zoo does.

      I think Jack Hanna's wife and daughter are working more closely with him on and off screen since Steve Irwin died, spending more time together as family and giving that family spirit to the zoo. It wsa heartwarming to see them visit Terri, Bindi and Bob Irwin not too long ago and the energy is infectious. Wild Lights is a happy festival.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I am glad to know this, Patty. I'll put this zoo on my travel list, especially in winter. I love snow. Good information from you. Rating up.


    • Kim Lynn profile image

      Kim Lynn 6 years ago

      Looks beautiful, makes me want to visit the Columbus Zoo. Thanks!

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Beautiful and enjoyable. Voted up as well. Support your local Zoo! Thanks for sharing this with us

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Very nice hub Patty. Such pretty lights. Must be so nice to see in person.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      up and beautiful. Those lights are really nice.