Wildlights is back at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium this year as a fantastic holiday tradition, and you won’t want to miss this event powered by AEP Ohio.
From Friday, November 19, 2021 – Sunday, January 2, 2022, you can check out the Columbus Zoo Christmas lights and festivities featuring displays of millions of LED lights and holiday fun. Now in its 33rd year, Wildlights just keeps getting better and better!
Sparkling Spruce: The 42-ft. LED-powered tree. This 21 century tree presents the shows “Candela: The Evolution of Light” and “Holiday Cheer” featuring light and sound displays to delight visitors of all ages. The shows alternate every 30 minutes.
Holiday Rhythms Around the Waterhole: Check out the alternating animated light shows around Conservation Lake every 30 minutes.
S’mores Experience: New in 2020, this socially-distanced activity allows guests to gather around a glowing fire to roast their own giant marshmallow. After roasting, seating is available for guests to assemble their own warm and gooey s’more while taking in our animated light display from the shores of Conservation Lake. Advance purchase is strongly encouraged as space is limited. Guests can add a S’mores Experience ticket for $3.99 each to any timed entry reservation for Wildlights.
Santa Experience at Polar Frontier: Located in the North America Region at the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost. Sunday, 4 pm – 9 pm; Monday-Thursday, 5 pm – 9 pm; Friday-Saturday: 4 pm – 10 pm. Details for 2021 are tba for the Santa experience.
Animated Musical Light Shows around Conservation Lake featuring holiday rhythms. Enjoy the show every 30 minutes, starting at 5:45 p.m.
Rudolph and Friends in Asia Quest: Rudolph, Bumble, and Hermey the Elf will be hanging out for photos and fun.
Polar Bear Express Train Ride: Ride through the Winter Wonderland on the North American train tour. $2 per rider
Camel Rides: Heart of Africa will be closed, but the camels will be giving rides through the season. $7 per ride
Carousel Rides south of Shores Park: $2 per person
Santa’s Reindeer Corral
Jingle Ball Animated Light Display: Shores Play Park will illuminate with a brilliant display and holiday tunes.
4D Theater Experiences: (additional fees apply) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Hot Chocolate will be available for purchase on those chilly evenings! Dress warm, but there are plenty of indoor holiday activities where you can warm up.
Regular zoo admission rates apply; free for Columbus Zoo and Aquarium members.
Admission $21.99 adult, $16.99 children 3-9 and adults over 60. Franklin County residents receive a $5 discount with valid driver’s license, state-issued ID or a current utility bill. Purchase tickets online to save $1 (plus save time at the gates – can show admission on your smartphone).
Parking is $10/car, free for members. Now is a good time to invest in a membership!
These make great gifts or holiday experiences with families or friends!
Reindeer Encounter – Enjoy an up-close experience with the Zoo’s adorable reindeer! During this exclusive opportunity, guests will spend time with the Animal Care team while visiting the reindeer in their habitat to learn more about the care and conservation of this species. Experience is approximately 30 minutes. $99 per person; includes admission reservation, but does not include admission to the Zoo.
Private after-hours tours are available to enjoy Wildlights without the crowds. You’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of Wildlights as your ride on a golf cart through the Zoo. You’ll make some stops to visit animals at preselected areas of the Zoo during the 1 hour, 45 minute excursion. These tours are a splurge, but make a great date night, special occasion, or memorable family holiday events. Admission to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is NOT included. However, you do NOT need to purchase a timed ticket online or make a member reservation prior to your visit. Bring your confirmation to our Ticket Sales window upon arrival to purchase admission or present your membership card. Reservations are limited and must be made 3 days in advance.
- $250 for up to 4 person cart
- $350 for up to 6 person cart
- $550 for up to 10 person cart
Other special experience tours that may be available before, during, and after Wildlights season include,
- Giraffe Barn Feeding Experience
- Chatting with Cheetahs
- Behind the Marina Sea Lion Tour
- Stingray Feeding Experience
- Red Panda Experience
- Animal Programs Tour
- Animal Health Center Tour
- Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village Tour
Columbus Zoo Christmas Lights Wildlights Hours
Zoo opens daily at 10 am, and you can stay for Wildlights for as long as you like after visiting the animals. Reservations required; see above.
Many animals will be inside during Wildlights, so arrive earlier in the day if you wish to view the animals; all-day admission is included. Some of the animals may be available for indoor viewing after dark in select regions including Asia Quest, Shores Region, and the Noctural Building. These building also provide a warm respite from whatever the Ohio weather throws at us.
Please note the Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Special Wildlights Dates
Read below for special Wildlights dates with free admission. Due to the limited number of tickets available for the free employment appreciation nights, it’s recommended you pick these up at the Zoo ticket window as early as December 1. Proof of employment required.
Thursday, November 18 is Wildlights Member Preview Night from 5 – 9 p.m. Don’t miss the Tree Lighting Ceremony of the animated 42 inch tall Sparkling Spruce. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and cookies at Water’s Edge Park (while supplies last), meet Character and Animal Ambassadors, plus many more activities. More details will be released closer to the event.
Friday, December 3 is the Stuff a Truck Food Drive – Bring 6 cans of food per guest for free admission and parking. They will be collecting cans as early as 10 am, so you can arrive early and stay all day to enjoy Wildlights.
Reservations aren’t required for free admission, but a limited number of tickets are available upon arrival at the Zoo. Arrive early! Stuff the Truck is supported by Kroger
Free admission for Wildlights Appreciation Days
For Wildlights Appreciation Days below, a limited number of free tickets are available each night at the Zoo’s ticket window. You cannot make online reservations for Appreciation Days. Tickets are available for early pickup at the Zoo’s ticket window starting on December 1. Proof of employment is required. You will have to pay the $10 Parking fee for the ticket pickup, but will receive a parking credit for your future visit during Appreciation Days.
First Responder and Public Safety Appreciation Days
December 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022 are First Responder and Public Safety Appreciation Days. All current and retired first responders and public safety personnel, plus immediate family up to 5 guests, can enjoy free admission to the Columbus Zoo and Wildlights from 10 am – close. A valid police/fire photo ID must be presented (showing proof of department of employment), or badges and credentials, plus a photo ID. Standard parking fee of $10/car applies to non-members.
Qualified personnel include firefighters, EMT/paramedics, police officers, state troopers, border patrol agents, deputies, investigators, evidence technicians, firearms examiners, crime lab technicians, 911 dispatchers, corrections officers, hand writing examiners, intelligence analysts, and investigative assistants. The number of tickets may be limited due to capacity limitations.
Healthcare Professionals Appreciation Days
December 26, 2021 -January 2, 2022 are Healthcare Professionals Appreciation Day. Current and retired healthcare professionals and their immediate family (up to 5 guests) can get free admission from 10 am – close.
Qualified personnel includes surgeons, physicians, therapists, nurses, CNA’s, pharmacists, optometrists, paramedics, EMT’s, dietitians, pathologists, family practitioners, phlebotomists, vet techs, chiropractors, psychiatrists, nurse’s aides, medical assistants, and more.
A valid healthcare I.D. must be presented at the Zoo’s ticket window. The number of tickets may be limited due to capacity limitations.