Special to 1808Delaware

The enchantment of winter comes alive as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium presents the spectacular 35th Anniversary Wildlights event, efficiently powered by AEP Ohio. A cherished holiday tradition in Central Ohio, Wildlights will captivate visitors from November 17 through January 7. We’re inviting you to join us for a winter wonderland of millions of LED lights and seasonal delights that promise to make this year’s celebration a family-favorite that is unforgettable.

Columbus Zoo members are invited to enjoy early access for Member Night on Thursday, November 16, 2023, while a Sensory-Friendly Light Stroll is available on Tuesday, November 14 to offer a modified experienced for guests who might prefer a less stimulating environment with reduced sounds and visual stimulation. 

While the animals take a well-deserved rest, Wildlights takes the spotlight, promising a truly magical and unforgettable time for all visitors:

  • “Sounds of the Season,” presented by WODC 93.3 the Bus. Feel the holiday spirit as local choirs, bands, and musical groups perform at 7 p.m. at the Lakeside Pavilion stage on select nights, setting the perfect festive atmosphere.
  • “12 Days of Wildlights” train ride. Experience the 12 Days of Christmas in a whole new light and hop aboard this magical train ride as you sing along to our own Zoo-themed rendition.
  • Jolliest Holiday Craft Beer Celebration,” which offers guests ages 21+ the opportunity to sample seasonal craft beers, ciders, and seltzers at locations throughout the park. Weather permitting. (Additional fee.)
  • “Sparkling Spruce,” presented by Diamond Cellar. Behold a towering animated holiday tree that dazzles with a symphony of lights and sound.
  • Jingle Jam, presented by Nationwide. features six seasonal tunes and 36 spheres of light illuminating the Shores Play Park 
  • Holiday Magic Animated Light Display at Conservation Lake. A spectacular display of light set to festive songs to bring out the holiday spirit in everyone. 
  • Holiday Tree Trail. Take a self-guided stroll through this indoor display of beautifully-decorated trees representing each of the four parks and the eight regions of the Zoo, along with influences of the lovable Character Ambassadors. Guests can wrap up their visit with a photo opportunity with the larger-than-life ornaments paying tribute to their favorite destinations. 
  • Captivating Projection Mapping. Take in the wonder of your favorite wildlife scenes located at Bob Evans Farms My Barn in the Zoo’s North America region, and the entrance to the Naomi Coyle Dempsey Quest for Enlightenment Interpretive Center in the Asia Quest region.
  • Ring in the New Year diamond ring photo spot, presented by Diamond Cellar, located at the entrance of Adventure Cove
  • Conservation Courtyard Christmas Tree featuring large silver and gold animal ornaments
  • S’mores Experience, where guests can roast a giant marshmallow while taking in the sights and sounds of Wildlights on the shores of Conservation Lake. Weather permitting. (Additional fee.)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4-D®. Guests are invited on an extraordinary 4-D adventure this holiday season. (Additional fees apply.)
  • Reindeer Corral. On your way to visit Santa, be sure to visit some relatives of Santa’s reindeer team. 
  • 1914 Mangels/Ilions Carousel. Take a spin on a timeless carousel ride that will make you feel like a kid again. (Additional fees and rider restrictions apply.)
  • Santa Experience. Share your holiday wishes with Santa himself! Schedule a visit and take a keepsake photo (reservations recommended). Please note that after December 23, Santa will not be available due to other obligations.
  • Rudolph and Friends Character Experience. Located in the Polar Frontier region’s underwater viewing area, guests are invited to step into Bumble’s care and meet some of the beloved characters of the classic television special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, and Yukon Cornielus will be available at select times to greet their fans and create some holiday memories that only these loveable classic characters can!

Please note that an additional fee applies to some activities, and availability of activities is subject to change. The full Wildlights calendar can be found at ColumbusZoo.org.

Animal Viewing Opportunities

At Wildlights, the true star of the show is the radiant display of lights that illuminates the winter night. While our beloved animals take a rest, the focus is firmly on creating magical memories with family and friends amid the brilliance of the season.

If you want to see the animals before the start of Wildlights activities, guests are encouraged to arrive early in the day to view some animals like the gorillas and polar bears, who like to go to sleep early. Other animals may have access outdoors during Wildlights, while others can be found in their indoor habitats, including:

  • Sea lions (Adventure Cove)
  • Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village (Adventure Cove)
  • Naomi Coyle Dempsey Quest for Enlightenment Interpretive Center (Asia Quest)
  • Pachyderm Building (Asia Quest) – viewable until 7 p.m. nightly
  • Discovery Reef Aquarium (Shores & Aquarium)
  • Manatee Coast (Shores & Aquarium)
  • Reptile Building (Shores & Aquarium)

Important note for photosensitive visitors: While Wildlights features mesmerizing flashing lights, we advise visitors who may be photosensitive to take necessary precautions during their visit.

Know Before You Go

  • Regular Zoo hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Wildlights activities take place Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. 
  • Large crowds are expected for Wildlights, so plan to arrive early.
  • The Zoo will be closed Thanksgiving Day (November 24) and Christmas Day (December 25), as well as for Wildlights on Christmas Eve (December 24). 
  • Wildlights is included with Zoo admission. Regular admission rates apply to all guests, and admission is free for Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Members. 


For additional updates about the Columbus Zoo, events, and more, be sure to follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on FacebookInstagramX, and TikTok, and visit us at ColumbusZoo.org.

Source: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; Photo: Graham S. Jones


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