That's more fun than a barrel of monkeys? How about taking a walk on the wild side by enjoying some spectacular nighttime light displays during the Smithsonian National Zoo's annual celebration ZooLights– and it's all free this year!
Families and friends can stroll through ZooLights Dec. 17-23, Dec. 26-30, and Jan. 1, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thousands of environmentally-friendly lights illuminate life-sized animal silhouettes, dancing trees, building and walkways. It's the perfect way to celebrate the holidays and see the zoo after hours.
Unlike other area light shows, the zoo has live animals. Visitors can thaw their paws inside the animal houses and enjoy nocturnal animals. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discover Center, Think Tank and Kid's Farm will be open every night of ZooLights. Each week, ZooLights highlights a different animal house with special animal activities and interpreters.
In addition to the spectacular light displays, guests can enjoy costume character photo opportunities with Panda Claws, the official ZooLights ambassador. He will make appearances throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia through Dec. 15.
Train enthusiasts won't want to miss two new highlights this year: the Zoomagination Station (located inside the visitor center and sponsored by Amtrak) and the FedEx Panda Express train ride on the Great Meadow across from the Great Ape House. At Zoomagination Station, the Amtrak Wildlife Train will be on display inside the Asia Trail gift shop with an old-fashioned steam engine, Thomas the Train and animal figurines. The FedEx Panda Express will take children on a fun ride around the Great Meadow; every night, one lucky rider will get a "special delivery" gift from FedEx after riding the train. Train rides are $2 per person.
Seasonal treats such as hot chocolate, donuts and kettle corn will be on sale throughout the event site and visitors can do some eco-friendly holiday shopping at one of the zoo's gift shops.
As a holiday gift to the community, no tickets are required for entrance to ZooLights. A flat rate parking fee will be assessed during the event; note that free FONZ membership parking does not apply. Parking rates are $8 for FONZ members and $15 for nonmembers.