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Merry and Bright with ZooLights


ZooLights is a favorite holiday tradition for many DC residents. We caught up with Jackie Vinick, the Senior Corporate Partnerships Manager at Friends of the National Zoo, about one of the beloved institution’s most popular events.

We have, of course, been to ZooLights, but tell everyone else what it is.

ZooLights is a free, family-friendly holiday lights show at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, a 163-acre zoological park that is home to 2,000 individual animals of nearly 400 different species. It runs from Nov. 27 – Jan. 2 (with the exception of Dec. 24, 25 and 31) from 5-9 pm every night.

So… how many lights in ZooLights?

The event features more than 500,000 LED lights and includes customized, animated light sculptures that match the Zoo’s collection. Guests enjoy seeing running cheetahs, soaring eagles, leaping frogs, and other beautiful light displays. The event also includes festive decorations, a laser light show, a gingerbread house competition, rides, and performances by area school children.

How did this start?

Together with our partner, Pepco, the event began as a small holiday light show in 2007. With Pepco’s support, the event has grown over the last nine years and has become a favorite holiday tradition among Washingtonians.

How many people attend every year?

Nine years ago, the event was ticketed. We initially welcomed 35,000 guests, and it has grown and is now a free event with attendance of more than 200,000 in 2014.

Are there actual animals to see? [You know we are all naked mole rat fans ever since they starred in that adorable Valentine’s Day promo.]

Yes, there are animals – thaw your paws in our exhibit buildings and see our nocturnal critters! The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Make sure to see:

Two-toed sloths Vlad and Ms. Chips (not moving fast but moving!)

Southern tamanduas (aka lesser anteater) Manny and Cayanne

Sand cats Thor and Lulu

How are the funds from ZooLights used?

The funds support the National Zoo’s critical science, conservation. and education programs.

Anything else we need to know?

We encourage visitors and friends to share the ZooLights excitement with the world! You can help us by voting now to make ZooLights #1 on USA Today’s list of holiday light celebrations.


Thanks Jackie! LivingSocial is a proud partner of ZooLights so let’s make sure everyone else knows how special it is too!

Learn more about ZooLights here.