Winter Wild Lights at the Columbus Zoo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2010 Patty Inglish