PORTLAND — ZooLights is coming to the Oregon Zoo for the 25th year, transforming it into a winter wonderland.
The traditional holiday light show begins Friday, Nov. 23, and runs through Dec. 31 at the zoo.
Last year, a record 193,000 visitors came to see ZooLights’ life-size animal silhouettes, moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and light-bedecked train.
“For 25 years, ZooLights has been a great way to start the holiday season,” said Kim Smith, zoo director. “We’re looking forward to dazzling newcomers and even surprising our loyal visitors when we flip the switch on Thanksgiving weekend.”
A new feature of ZooLights this winter is a magical walk through an illuminated forest, with purple rope lighting and neon tube lights creating a special glow. Visitors may also notice 3-D ladybugs. (A half-dozen of the spotted beetles are part of a scavenger hunt that can win sharp-eyed visitors a prize at the Zoo Store)
Much-loved displays are also back this year. Life-size, 3-D beasts linger on the zoo’s concert lawn, which is transformed into a 180-foot-long meandering river of light. Hippos graze near the water while crocodiles lie in wait, ready to snap their jaws on unsuspecting prey. Other returning favorites include leaping reindeer, trumpeting elephants, playful penguins and tobogganing polar bears. And covered in holiday finery, the famous Oregon steam engine takes guests on an express jaunt around the zoo to see light displays visible only from the train.
In keeping with the zoo’s commitment to sustainability, most of the 1.3 million lights displayed are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which use only a fraction of the power of standard holiday lights. LEDs don’t burn out the way traditional bulbs do, ensuring a long lasting, eco-friendly ZooLights experience. This year’s display adds more than 75,000 LEDs, for a total of nearly 1 million LEDs.
Costumed animal mascots and elves will provide entertainment as well as fun photo opportunities, and sounds of the season will fill the Elephant Plaza, with nearly 200 groups performing holiday musical selections.
Some of the zoo’s favorite animals will be visible at night as well. Guests can visit sea otters, polar bears, penguins, mountain goats, leopards, tigers, some primates and elephants.
Hours and cost:
ZooLights hours are 5-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5-8:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday. ZooLights will be closed Dec. 24-25. ZooLights package tickets, which include admission and a train ride, are $12.50 for adults (12-64), $11 for seniors (65 and older), $9.50 for children (3-11) and free for children 2 and under. Admission-only prices are $10 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, $7 for children and free for children 2 and under. Keep an eye on oregonzoo.org for specials such as two-for-one ZooLights admission in partnership with local Fred Meyer stores.