Arts & Events

For cheerful holiday fun, explore Zoolights


Looking for a fun and festive way to spend an evening this holiday season?

Head down to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to see Zoolights, an annual Christmas celebration combining the beauty of a nighttime light display with the appeal of a zoo and its many creatures.

The first thing guests see as they walk up to the zoo entrance is a lighted “Zoolights” sign welcoming the cold and excited travelers inside. A Cheshire cat blinks on and off on the roof, its eerie grin remaining as a warm welcome.

Once through, guests can begin walking through the zoo, stop by the gift store, buy a light-up hat or wand or grab a hot cocoa or apple cider from the café to warm up.

None of the animals are out, but the various aquariums are open for public viewing. There’s even a tank where people can pet the manta rays, or “sea pancakes” as some people called them.

There is not a single tree or bush untouched by the half-million lights. Lights are either draped all around or posted on hidden animal signs that appear from underneath.

Each bush and plant and tree has its own color scheme to accentuate its natural colors or to make a bright, bold statement.

One tree is so decorated that it is completely enshrouded by green and purple lights, making it difficult to focus on any one light within the intense glow.

There are a variety of lighted animal signs throughout the park. Some are always lit, such as a woodpecker attached to a tree, meerkats and lemurs on the roofs and a wolf howling at the moon.

Some, however, are sequenced and lit up to display movement, such as a frog hopping, a peacock opening its feathers, an anteater approaching a termite mound to find a snack, a kangaroo carrying her joey then letting him out to roam or an eagle flying down from a tree to catch a salmon and later landing to eat it.

Some animals are formed solely by lights, not wooden signs outlined by the bright colors. A family of polar bears roams a piece of ice, a flock of puffins cluster nearby, a large tiger head roars (no sound—that is just how he is positioned) and a giant hundred-foot octopus covers one of the aquarium tanks.

One of the biggest displays is of Mount Rainier towering over the animals near the fence across from the entrance.

Tired of walking? Camel rides are available for a small fee if anyone is curious what it would be like to sit on one.

A large carousel glistens near the entrance, a fun ride for kids of all ages. There is even a chance to see a Santa diver swim with the sharks on the 17th and 18th at 6 p.m. in the South Pacific Aquarium.

There is also a photo booth available to get a picture with a reindeer in Santa’s sleigh. They provide antlers and Santa hats for those who want to look a little more festive for the picture.

Zoolights is a great family-oriented holiday event, and a fun way to enjoy time with friends and family surrounded by the warm and furry and the wet and scaly.

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Zoolights is open through Jan. 5, even on Christmas day, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the front gate, or you could save money and time in line by purchasing online or at any Fred Meyer store.