National Zoo Lights Up
When you live in Washington, you’re never more than a few minutes away from some entertaining surprises.
We live in Adams Morgan and one evening, getting a little exercise on a trek along Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park, we decided to head up to the National Zoo by way of the front gate.
We stumbled upon the zoo’s popular holiday ZooLights extravaganza, a delightful evening and night time event that rolls up as a classic Christmas occasion, combining a spectacular visual feast with sparkling electric light sculptures—lions and tigers and pandas, ohmygod – music and caroling, a train minus tracks, an artificial skating rink and opportunities to embrace the season’s spirit of giving.
Except for the train rides and the rink, everything is free and the occasion becomes an opportunity to visit the zoo in an entirely new way, in a very different nighttime setting, like wandering through a perpetual light show—see the flying, leaping leopards, electronic birds flying overhead
The big outdoors animals won’t be out, but their electronic, lit-up versions are everywhere. Indoor venues, on the other hand, are open, so there’s a chance to visit animals of night at the Small Mammal House, the Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, the Think Tank and the Kid’s Farm.
The event resumes after a brief hiatus to run again nightly, Dec. 16 through Jan. 1, except Dec. 24, 25 and 31, from 5 to 9 p.m.
ZooLights may be the best, most enjoyable, family-friendly event going in Washington during the holidays. There’s an electricity in the air beyond the lights themselves – it’s a magical time for children and adults alike, and the combination of children running and playing, staring up at the sky and all around them alongside siblings and parents creates a playful energy and warmth that’s contagious.
Music provided by local school groups, including jazz bands and choral groups, add to the spirit of the night.
It’s also a great night for charity and giving. This year, the Friends of the National Zoo are partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington to donate gently worn winter outer wear, including hats, scarves, gloves and coats. Guests can make donations during the zoo’s regular hours as well as during ZooLights. Additionally, all proceeds from concessions and parking sales will benefit numerous Zoo conservation efforts.