Going to the zoo during the winter? Sounds weird to me when it’s so cold out. Plus the animals tend to hide, hibernate or go off exhibit. I completely understand. When it gets to freezing, I’m tempted to go off exhibit, too. Send me somewhere tropical! But you don’t have to be a polar bear to enjoy a zoo during the winter, especially at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights. During the holiday season when it gets dark, two million lights twinkle on, giving a magical feeling to an already magical place. Now on its 20th year, it’s fun to wander around the holiday lights show at Chicago’s free zoo.
After Christmas was over and all the holiday hubbub died down, Emily and I spent a quiet afternoon at Lincoln Park Zoo. I made sure to check in on the white-cheeked gibbons. They’re among my favorite animals. I watched two young gibbons fly around their enclosure before the whole gibbon family of four went off into a side room for dinner.
It’s quiet at the zoo during a cold winter day. That all changes at night during the ZooLights. As dusk fell, all the trees and paths lit up. Party time! I liked walking through the flashing light tunnels. Near the middle of the zoo was a light show that’s synchronized to holiday tunes such as Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.”
My favorite displays were of the wild animals, particularly the glowing cheetahs, rainbow zebras and electric flamingos.
There’s an ice-carving demonstration every night, and earlier I’d seen the crystalline reincarnations of SpongeBob SquarePants and Frozen‘s Olaf the Snowman. By the farm animals is an ice skating rink, and in the Lion House was cookie decorating. If you get cold, and you will, you can warm up with some hot chocolate or go in the exhibit houses where you’ll see some sleepy animals. Even though it’s after Christmas, walking around the ZooLights gave me a cheerful holiday glow.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614
ZooLights runs from Thanksgiving to just after New Year
recommend 1-2 hours to visit
free admission, and I recommend taking the bus since parking isn’t easy (or cheap) to find