One of the first things I heard about when I came to Columbus, Ohio was that there was an incredible zoo. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was one of the first attractions I visited and can recall that experience like it was just yesterday. The second thing I heard about was the Wildlights show the zoo presents from November to January. Needless to say, The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a source of pride for Columbus.
After missing last winter’s ‘zoo lights’ I made a point to visit the attraction this December and boy am I happy I did. This year marked the 25th anniversary of Wildlights. From the sounds of it, the attraction has expanded since the first year to monumental proportions.
The zoo features over 3 million LED lights. Strands of lights cover trees and shrubs along every pathway throughout the exhibits along with animal shaped light sculptures and nifty bobbles of bundled up lights hanging from tree branches like ornaments.
Near the entrance of the zoo is the Conservation Lake and it is completely adorned with lights that reflect into the water. There is a floating stage that holds several lit Christmas trees too. In celebration of the 25th anniversary, the lights come to life every 30 minutes with an animated light show that is performed to a selection of holiday music. It is a truly spectacular sight to see, especially in how in sync the lights were to the music.
It was 17 degrees (F) the night we attended the Wildlights so we came prepared with layers under our jeans, and sported our hats, scarves, and winter coats. It also snowed the day before, coating the trees with fluff making it a truly magical winter wonderland.
We arrived around 7:00 pm starving, so we made our way to the Congo River Market Food Quart to satisfy our hungry stomachs. They have your basic mall-like food selections of pizza and subs, but it’s indoors and a good place to warm up and fill up before more exploring.
There were certain exhibits closed during the Wildlights such as the Congo and Polar Bear exhibit due to the late hours. Otherwise, everything was accessible between 5-10 pm. And instead of the traditional ice rink my friends and boyfriend remember from childhood, there is a live performance with Jack Hanna – director emeritus of the zoo.
There were little kiosks throughout the zoo selling warm soft pretzels and hot chocolate in generously sized cups. Holding and sipping on hot coco made our trip pleasantly cozy and it was delicious!
There was a cute global village in the Asia Exhibit that featured 192 flags hanging under a bridge and ‘It’s a Small World After All’-like children singing Christmas carols in their traditional country’s garb.
Of course, the highlight for me was seeing Santa Clause feed the fish in the aquarium! That’s right, even Santa loves the zoo and makes an appearance. There is a scheduled performance for the feeding and plenty of time to get your picture with Kris Kringle.
And there are even more activities we didn’t even get to. Cookie decorating and reindeer spotting to name a couple. Our visit to the zoo was awesome. With a couple of good friends along side and the Christmas spirit, it’s hard not to have a good time.
Check out the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium website for this year’s Wildlights schedule and events.