FREE and Brighter Than Ever, ZooLights Sparkles at the National Zoo; Ice Skating, Train Rides, Animal Exhibits and Expanded Hours Enhance This Year's Event

Sparkling brighter than ever in its fifth straight year at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, ZooLights-- powered by Pepco--remains the only free holiday light show in the Washington-Metro area. With added dates and expanded hours this year, ZooLights will run the weekends of Nov. 25–27, Dec. 2–4, and Dec. 9–11, and every night beginning Dec. 16–Jan. 1 (except Dec. 24, 25, 31), from 5 p.m.–9 p.m.

Every night of ZooLights, thousands of environmentally friendly LED lights will illuminate the Zoo's beautiful trees, walkways and buildings; and life-sized animal silhouettes, dancing trees, and festive holiday décor make this a perfect night out. Unlike other area light shows, the Zoo's live animals offer visitors the unique opportunity to thaw their paws inside the exhibit houses and view the animals at night. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank and Kids' Farm will be open every night of ZooLights.

We are pleased and proud to offer free admission to ZooLights again this year, said Bob Lamb, executive director of the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ). As this annual holiday tradition continues to gain popularity, we've been able to add even more sparkle to the event--more lights, more action, more activities and a wonderful way to visit the Smithsonian's National Zoo during the winter months.

For the first time, visitors will have a chance to skate on an iceless rink, sponsored by GEICO, at the Zoo's Picnic Pavilion. Families will enjoy ice skating on the world's best and most eco-friendly synthetic ice skating surface, composed of specially engineered polymers that permit skate blades to glide as smoothly as on real ice. This green high-tech plastic ice is made from a non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material. Admission is $5 for a 30-minute session. Skate rental is available for an additional $2. Visitors can also bring their own skates.

Special ZooLights activities and features include:

  • Young and old alike can enjoy a unique trackless train ride around the Zoo's lion and tiger habitat featuring some special lights and a gorgeous view of the Zoo's holiday light displays. Admission is $3 per person for a 5-minute ride.
  • Back again this year, the Zoomagination Train Station, is located inside the Zoo's Visitor Center auditorium. The Kids' Farm Train will feature an old-fashioned steam engine, popular Thomas the Train and animal figurines.
  • Also in the Visitor Center auditorium, the fabulous display of Gin-GRR-bread habitat contest entries, sponsored by Starbucks. The theme this year is Winter Wonderland at the Gin-Grr-bread Farm (based on the Zoo's Kids' Farm). Note: Gingerbread habitat winners will be revealed on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend this special event.
  • Back by popular demand this year, ZooLights guests will enjoy free costume character photo opportunities with Panda Claws, the official ZooLights ambassador. Panda Claws will also perform nightly in the Snow Globe every half hour. Watch for Panda Claws to make special visits to select Giant Food Stores from Nov. 21-Dec. 17. Visit the Zoo's website for more details on dates and times.
  • Learn how to save Energy with the Help of your new Pepco smart meter, inside the Think Tank, sponsored by Pepco, visitors will receive free giveaways and learn how they can save energy around their homes with the help of their new smart meter.
  • See and hear the area's talented youth in concert! School groups of all ages, from across the Metro region, will be performing every night of ZooLights at three locations throughout the event site. Jazz bands, chorus groups and more will add a festive holiday sound to the holiday lights. Visit the Zoo's website for details on performance dates and times.
  • Make this dinner and a light show! The Mane Restaurant will be open for dinner. Seasonal treats such as hot chocolate, coffee, roasted nuts, kettle corn, cookies, gingerbread, mulled cider, peppermint schnapps, and beer and wine will also be on sale throughout the event site.
  • ZooLights guests can do some eco-friendly holiday shopping at the Zoo's three gift shops or kiosks located throughout the event site. Bring Panda Claws home by purchasing one of the Zoo's exclusive Panda Claws plush animals.

This year FONZ is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington to donate gently worn winter outwear, including hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and coats. Donations for all ages will be accepted, but the need is especially great for children ages 2-12. Guests can donate outerwear during the Zoo's regular business hours and during ZooLights. Donation boxes will be located at all three gift shops and the Mane Restaurant.

No tickets are required for entrance to ZooLights. A flat-rate parking fee of $9 for FONZ members and $16 for nonmembers will apply. All proceeds from ZooLights concessions and parking sales will benefit a variety of Zoo wildlife conservation programs and initiatives, from educational opportunities to new and improved animal exhibits, to conservation science research projects.

For more details about the event, visit the Zoo's website. ZooLights is supported by a generous donation from Pepco. Other sponsors include: ABC 7 /WJLA-TV, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Coca-Cola Company, Comcast, FAMILY Magazine, GEICO, Giant Food, News Channel 8, SunTrust Bank, United Airlines, 97.1 WASH-FM, and the Washington Post/KidsPost.