ZooLights—powered by Pepco—at the Smithsonian's National Zoo is wilder than ever this year and a perfect holiday event for everyone in the family! The annual lights festival, hosted by Friends of the National Zoo, is 25 nights—longer than it has ever been in its six-year history—and it is free! More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights will make the Zoo shine the weekends of Nov. 23—25, Nov. 30—Dec. 2, Dec. 7—9, and every night beginning Dec. 14—Jan. 1 (except Dec. 24, 25 and 31) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Lighted animal silhouettes and musical light displays will entertain guests strolling through the Zoo after dark. ZooLights will feature more lights this year than ever, including a new garden scene light sculpture. The Visitor Center, Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center, Great Apes House, Think Tank and Kids' Farm will stay open late especially for ZooLights. Guests can thaw their paws inside and catch some lively nocturnal animals or watch some of the other species, like the great apes, tuck in for the night.
New this year, guests can ride the brand new Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel opening to the public on Nov. 23. The carousel spins guests through scenes from forest, grassland, savannah and aquatic ecosystems, sitting atop hand-carved and painted animals—many of them endangered species. Tickets for the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel are $3. Those looking for a wilder ride can head to Lion/Tiger Hill for snowless Zoo Tubing sponsored by GEICO. Two tracks will send tubers on a 150 foot-long ride down the hill. Tickets for snowless Zoo Tubing are $3.
Pepco will provide smart energy information in the Think Tank to illuminate the best ways to save energy. Guests will receive free giveaways and learn how to conserve energy in their homes.
Special ZooLights activities and features include:
- At the Imagination Train Station in the Visitor Center, guests will delight over the creative entries in the annual Gin-GRR-Bread Habitat Contest, inspired by American Trail. They also will enjoy the Wildlife Train Park, which features three model trains, including an old-fashioned steam engine and Thomas the Tank Engine, which will puff and chug around wildlife scenes, a winter village scene and a LEGO™ model of the iconic Smithsonian castle.
- Board the National Zoo Choo-Choo and go for a trackless train ride around Great Cats Circle. Passengers will have a special view of the Zoo's holiday light displays. Tickets are $3 per person for a five-minute ride.
- Panda Claws will perform nightly in the Snow Globe at Panda Plaza, sponsored by SunTrust Bank.
- Hungry guests can enjoy festive winter snacks at the Mane Restaurant including chili, hot roast beef, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, egg nog, pumpkin spice lattes and much more.
- ZooLights guests can do some eco-friendly holiday shopping at one of the three gift shops or kiosks located throughout the Zoo.
FONZ and Pepco are getting into the holiday spirit and have special gifts for ZooLights guests. Visitors are encouraged to follow FONZ on Facebook and Twitter for daily specials and coupons that can be redeemed only during ZooLights. Guests should check the pages before coming to ZooLights to find out what the special of the night is.
Admission to ZooLights is free. 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 animal care and conservation science at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Open Top Sightseeing will provide free shuttle service from the Woodley Park-Adams Morgan/Zoo metro stop to the National Zoo on Saturday evenings during ZooLights.
For more details about ZooLights, visit the Zoo's website. ZooLights is supported by a generous donation from Pepco. Other sponsors include: The Coca-Cola Company, Comcast, FAMILY Magazine, GEICO, Giant Food, NBC4, Open Top Sightseeing, SunTrust Bank, 97.1 WASH-FM, The Washington Post/KidsPost and United Airlines.