If your holiday season got a little dim when the DWP Christmas lights in Griffith Park went dark, get ready to see the light! Back for it’s third year, LA Zoo Lights is getting bigger, better and brighter every year and is a worthy replacement guaranteed to electrify your holidays and become a family tradition for years to come.
Favorites, Old and New
The dazzling display is back now through January 8 with even more lights, nights and 3D animations. Thousands of LED lights work together to create a magical display of “musical animals”, snowflake forests and twinkling tunnels. The oh-so-familiar to kids zoo becomes something entirely new to explore with animations that delight both parents (some of the subtly changing light displays will give you college flashbacks) and kids (the laser music show). All that, plus animals you can meet upclose AND Santa’s reindeer make this a festive outing that puts everyone in the holiday spirit.
Old favorites—like the dancing meerkats and singing frogs—are back, alongside enough new attractions to keep it completely fresh, like a laser show set to music and water behind the amphibian LAIR. Just look for the building with a giant illuminated snake on the roof. Park your strollers or wagons at the fence in front (it’s a tight squeeze when inside) and walk through the black light fun of the LAIR to visit the snakes, frogs and turtles before catching the laser show in back.
Psssttt…. Over Here By the Petting Zoo
There’s a new waterfall feature with animal animations that your little cubs sure won’t want to miss by the Petting Zoo. And what trip to the zoo would be complete without a live animal sighting? While most of the animals are asleep, there is a family of reindeer including two adorable babies, waiting for their picture to be taken. Another fantastic photo-op is the new shadow puppet installation where your pack of pups will enjoy romping, jumping and dancing behind the screen while you sit back and listen to live music filling the night air. Did we say photo op? It’s also a great rest your tired legs pit stop.
Naps Needed for Night Owls
The self-guided walking tour of the Zoo Lights takes about 60-90 minutes, and you can wander wherever you like and at your leisure. Though with popularity in the attraction growing more each year and high stroller traffic probability, it’s best to plan ahead for a special late night out, even if you get here when the zoo re-opens for Zoo Lights at 6 p.m. Families with small children may have more luck navigating the crowds and lines on non-peak nights—Zoo attendance is lighter during the week.
Expect long lines at events like pictures with Santa and entrance into the LAIR (for crowd control). For those little, less-than-patient guests who are waiting for their turn with Santa, a view of the LAIR laser show can be visible from the Santa line bridge to bide the time. (Santa pictures are available at an additional fee starting at $24.99 from December 2-23.)
Don’t Let Hungry Turn Hangry
If a churro isn’t enough to satisfy the hunger of the holiday spirit, several of the zoo restaurants are open for business as well as bars throughout the event stocked with beer, wine and limited cocktails. There are no restrooms in the Zoo parking lot (where the long entrance line is) so be prepared for a mad rush to the bathrooms (just to your right) once through the gates. There are, however, plenty of restroom stops throughout the zoo and the further in you get, the shorter the lines seem to be. Our tip: beeline in and head further in for a potty stop, then enjoy the zoo entrance when you exit, and the crush at the gates has dissipated.
In previous years tickets were sold with timed entry, making parking difficult. This year they have streamlined the entry process, making the free parking easier. On light nights, you can enter any time from 6-9 p.m. (the zoo closes at 10 p.m.). On peak nights you can enter at 6 or 8 p.m. While parking is easier, this can lead to a longer entrance line and bigger crowds early on. Luckily, there are treats and hot chocolate for sale near the front gate (just no restrooms, as mentioned, so plan accordingly!) and the lines move fast as soon as they start taking tickets! We recommend either getting there early, and staking out a place in line so you get in as soon as gates open, or if your kiddos can take it, eat dinner first and get here after 6:30 or 7 p.m., when you’ll still have plenty of time to see everything, yet you won’t have to wait in long lines or beg for potty access.
For Party Animals
If you’re looking for something to do to ring in 2017, the Family New Year’s Eve event on December 31 is a wonderful festive night that’s not too crowded, but lets littles feel like they’re out late partying with the big people. Kick off the New Year with a wild night at the Zoo with a DJ dance party, a ride on the conservation carousel, games and a buffet dinner complete with champagne (and sparkling cider for the kids) and the broadcast of the Times Square ball drop at 9 p.m. Tickets for this dazzling evening are $45 for children and $69 for adults (GLAZA members save $5 per ticket).
The Price of Beauty
Ticket prices for this glowing event start at $14 for adults and $11 for children ages 2-12 Monday-Thursday. On weekends and peak nights (check the website for exact peak night dates) tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for children. Zoo members can take advantage of ticket discounts.
Tickets are valid only for the night purchased and all LA Zoo events occur on a “rain or shine” basis. In other words, if it rains, you can take in the twinkling lights under an umbrella or forfeit your tickets.
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden
5333 Zoo Dr.
What are some of your favorite bright spots in LA for the Holiday Season? If this gets you hooked on the wattage, here are our favorite holiday lights displays in town.
—Andrea Conway Kagey
A special thank you to the LA Zoo for providing tickets to see this dazzling display up close.