2020 has brought lots of changes, but this is one to get excited for. Woodland Park Zoo’s new holiday light display, WildLanterns debuted this past weekend, and its larger-than-life lighted animals will knock your kiddo’s socks off. Planning to go? Here’s what you need to know.

Editor’s note: Due to Gov. Inslee’s most recent health and safety guidelines, indoor food services at WIldLanterns will remain closed until Dec. 14, 2020. Grab-and-go and outdoor food options remain available. Additionally, the ZooStore will limit capacity at 25%; the zoo already operates at just under 25% capacity using timed tickets for WildLanterns and daily zoo entry.

Light Up the Night

Say goodbye to WildLights and hello to WildLanterns when you bring the kids to experience this stunning new display. Families will find over 40 different animals and lighted plants lining the zoo’s walking paths, some at kiddo eye height, but many towering overhead. All of your zoo animal favorites will be there, alongside familiar PNW ocean dwellers like crabs, octopus and orcas, lit up from within. And keep your eyes peeled because some of these creatures move, starting with the strutting peacock just inside the entrance. Otherwise, challenge your kiddos to find swinging monkeys, winking frogs and alligators opening wide. Plan about 90 minutes to walk the whole loop with your little adventurers.

Wildly Fun Interactive Zones

Like all great kid activities, this one comes with playful elements. Three to be exact. As you wander the zoo grounds, you’ll find Interactive Zones interspersed among the lighted animals. At these spots, kids can make music on an oversized piano à la Big, catch smoke bubbles falling from a giant mushroom and dance like no one’s watching in a psychedelic tunnel. There’s also a photo challenge to keep things interesting. Just look for the posted signs to join in.

What to Bring

Plan your WildLanterns visit like you do other zoo trips and you’ll have everything you need to keep your wee ones happy. The zoo’s wide paths were made for strollers, so be sure to have yours on hand for just-walkers or sleepy toddlers who need a rest. Outside, rain or shine, is the name of this game, so dress for the weather, with plenty of layers (hats and gloves), rain gear and snuggly stroller blankets to keep kids warm and dry. Don’t forget to throw your trusty umbrella into the mix too. Snacks are allowed and face masks are a must. And last but not least, make sure you’ve got room on your phone for all the cute pics! The light from the lanterns makes this experience a selfie paradise of sorts.

Notable Noshables

If all this animal gazing has your crew’s tummies rumbling, families can find plenty of tasty options at the zoo. Duck into the food barn near the carousel for a steaming cup of hot cocoa or cider (there’s mulled wine for parents, too). Then take a pic with your drink at the selfie station. Families will also find warm food like burgers, pizza and fish 'n' chips alongside sweeter treats like elephant ears and maple bacon rolls at the restaurant and other zoo snack spots. Like other zoo events, families are welcome to bring their own food and drink to enjoy on-site. Just remember to find a designated spot before you dig in.

Good to know:
1. The early bird may get the worm, but in the time of coronavirus, there’s such a thing as too early. To avoid crowds, please arrive no more than five minutes prior to your entry time, and plan to stay in your car if you arrive earlier.

2. If early works best for your kids, you’re in luck. Even if you get the earliest ticket time spot, it’s dark enough to enjoy this experience. Plus, by the time you head out, the lanterns will be at their magical best, and you’ll still have the kids home by bedtime.

3. Families will be welcomed at the West Entrance only, where the experience begins.

4. Download your tickets and the WildLanterns map to your device for safety and to reduce waste.

5. Mask up! Face coverings will be required for all visitors over five, and they’re suggested for little zoo goers ages two through five, too.

Woodland Park Zoo
5500 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
Online: zoo.org/wildlanterns
Event details.

Dates: Nov. 13, 2020-Jan. 17, 2021; closed Mondays and Nov. 26, Dec. 24 & 25
Hours: 4-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $28.95/adult; $23.95/kids, ages 3-12; free for kids 2 & under; 20% discount for members.
Ages: All

—Allison Sutcliffe

All photos courtesy Tianyu Arts & Culture


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