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Winter Wild Lights at the Columbus Zoo

Updated on November 9, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).


Bright Winter Nights for the family

As of November 2017, the Wild Lights festival at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium was officially 29 years old.

The light show increases the number of exhibits and bulbs each year and I am always excited to see the new venue on Riverside Drive in Powell, Ohio. The background music playing throughout the zoological gardens ranges from classic carols to Rock 'n Roll Christmas Tunes to Elvis's lesser known ballads for the holiday season.

The electricity used for the event illuminates all-LED lights and is donated without cost by the City of Columbus, AEP Power, and other sponsors. The price of entrance is only that of zoo admittance and members of the zoo enter free of charge.

Exhibit added in 2012.
Exhibit added in 2012. | Source

Since 1988, this event has entertained families through most of the major winter holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's and other cultural favorites.Safe bonfires in large barrels provide warmth, as do indoor exhibits and an auditorium for holiday productions. One favorite is a show put on with a happy team of dogs and other animals rescued from animal shelters.

Animals that sleep early are cordoned off from the event and never disturbed, while nocturnal animals awaken and watch us watching them.

Many American and International zoos also hold Wild Lights festivals, so such an event may be occurring soon in your area.

ONe of the newer light sculptures at our zoo.
ONe of the newer light sculptures at our zoo. | Source

Transportation to the Zoo is Easy

The Columbus Zoo is not on a regular daily Columbus bus route, but special seasonal service is provided from November through New Year's Day.

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 for more fun and to be instantly recognized. Many people use the COTA buses that would otherwise 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 a reduced rate of $5.00 per car for the light show. Tour 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 Information

November through January 01 annual Wild Lights hours:

  • Sundays through Thursday, 5 - 9 PM
  • Friday and Saturday, 5 - 10 PM
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day
  • Veteran's Day admission is free to all veterans with proper ID

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

Entrance Fees:

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..

The Historic Carousel. I rode the horse on display when I was a child.
The Historic Carousel. I rode the horse on display when I was a child. | Source

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.

Holiday Encounters Village

An entire village opens up at the zoo from November through New Year's Day. This village includes a performance stage and auditorium 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.

Environmental concerns are presented in an interesting "green" house open for touring, and visitors can board a holiday train for a ride.

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

© 2010 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 months ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Patricia Scott - You remind me of the 1/4 size holiday train near Frankenmuth, Michigan! It is a shorter ride, but fun; and I'd like to ride that train in Georgia. The zoo exhibit is huge this year, with different music playing in the sections of the zoo park. The administration is kind and closes off the great apes exhibits at dusk so the inhabitants can sleep in peace.

      Merry Christmas to you!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 months ago from sunny Florida

      It sounds like a spectacular event. I travel to some light displays in nearby towns here and adore them every year. When I was still living in Georgia we would travel about 2 hours away to ride through on a small train to view miles and miles of amazing lights set to music. There is just something so very special about the whole experience. Angels are on the way to you today ps pinned

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 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 6 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

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

    • IntimatEvolution profile image

      Julie Grimes 7 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

      What great fun I bet.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 7 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 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I think they are all LED now.

    • glowires profile image

      glowires 7 years ago

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

    • Trinsick profile image

      Trinsick 7 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 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      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 7 years ago from Australia

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

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 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 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

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

    • eLightSpot profile image

      eLightSpot 7 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 7 years ago

      Wow, nice.

    • Lauretta123 profile image

      Lauretta123 7 years ago from Ukr

      great party, thanks for sharingg

    • PatrickNormandin profile image

      PatrickNormandin 7 years ago from New York

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

    • SJKSJK profile image

      SJKSJK 7 years ago from delray beach, florida

      Great lights. Love christmas linhts.

    • cookibuq profile image

      cookibuq 7 years ago from Ireland / Hong Kong

      Voted this up and the photos :)

    • profile image

      improvinghomeshub 7 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, 7 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 7 years ago

      Very cool! Thanx for sharing this!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 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 7 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 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      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 7 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 7 years ago

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

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 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 7 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 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      up and beautiful. Those lights are really nice.