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 17, 2023 – Sunday, January 7, 2024, you can check out the Columbus Zoo Christmas lights and festivities featuring displays of millions of LED lights and holiday fun. Now in its 35th year, Wildlights just keeps getting better and better!
Sparkling Spruce: The 42-ft. LED-powered tree. This 21st century tree presents features light and sound displays to delight visitors of all ages. The shows alternate every 30 minutes.
Holiday Magic Around the Waterhole: Check out the alternating animated light shows around Conservation Lake every 30 minutes.
Sounds of the Season at Lakeside Theatre: Local musical groups from schools and organizations will perform on select nights at 7 pm
S’mores Experience: Gather around a glowing fire to roast your 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.
Jolliest of Holidays Craft Beer Celebration: Guests can sample craft beer, cider, and seltzers at tastings stations throughout the Zoo. Full size, sample sized, and tastings cards are available for purchase for guests 21+ after 5 pm Thursdays – Sundays.
Twelve Days of Wildlights Train Ride: Enjoy a different version of 12 days of Christmas on this holiday-themed train ride. $2 per person
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. Reservations recommended. (read more below!)
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 Jam 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 $29.99 adult, $25.99 children 3-9 and $27.99 over 60. Franklin County residents receive a $9-$10 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!
Columbus Zoo Wildlights Santa Experience at Polar Frontier
November 17 – December 23, 2023
Guests can talk with Santa and get a photo near Santa. It is free to visit with Santa, and you may purchase photos taken at the end of your experience.
Reservations are requested and can be made on the Zoo website under “tickets/special events”. 10 guests per group, maximum. Walk-ins may be accommodated if space allows, but unlikely available on most nights.
Please review all details of the program on the Wildlights event page on https://columbuszoo.org. Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Zoo at 614-645-3400.
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. TBA for 2022
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. Reservations are limited and must be made 3 days in advance.
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
Click on Tours and Experiences under the “Visit” tab on the website. to schedule.
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.
The Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Yearly memberships make a GREAT Christmas gift! You can use it this year to see Wildlights, and it’ll still be valid for early season Wildlights NEXT year (plus Boo at the Zoo, and Zoo fun all year). Read more here!
Special Wildlights Dates
Tuesday, November 14, 2023 from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm. The sensory-friendly light stroll at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium meets the needs of guests who may be overwhelmed at a regular Wildlights night.
Tickets are limited, which makes the event less crowded. Music is turned off for the night, and flashing/blinking lights are reduced to cut down on stimuli. A limited number of indoor exhibits will be open.
Noise cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget devices are available for use with $10 refundable deposit at Guest Relations. Read more about accommodations on the Zoo website.
Free for Zoo members, $16.99 for all guests, free parking for all.
Tuesday, November 14, 2023 from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Sunday, December 10, 2023 from noon – 4 pm
Bring your own camera; cost is $5 per group. Located in the Suzie Edwards Education Classroom Building. Reservations are required (and limited!). Wildlights and/or Zoo admission is not required or included.
To book Sensory-friendly Light Stroll or Sensory-friendly Santa, click on “tickets” and then “special events” on the Zoo website.
Thursday, November 16, 2023 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. Get food and drink discounts for one night only, plus the special limited edition holiday ornament.
Need more holiday fun in Columbus?
Don’t miss these Christmas Events in Columbus, Ohio
Friday, September 29, 2023
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sunday, October 1, 2023
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Special dates tba for 2022
Friday, December TBA 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.