ZooLights at the National Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008

While the grandparents were visiting us over the Christmas holiday we decided it would be fun to go check out ZooLights at the National Zoo. We went on the Friday after Christmas. It was a warmer than usual December day, so we thought it would be a nice evening to spend outdoors.

One thing we learned as we arrived at the zoo is that the entrances are blocked off until just before 5pm, so don’t try to arrive much before then. We were stuck on Connecticut Avenue for about 15 minutes before they let us through the zoo entrance to go to the parking lot.

At 5pm, the zoo was already packed full of people so we decided to take the girls straight to the carousel since that is one of their favorite things to do at the zoo. The line was already fairly long; we had to wait about 10 minutes before getting on to ride.


We continued to walk around looking at all the lights. Most of the animal exhibits are closed except for the Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center, Great Ape House, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm. The indoor exhibits were very crowded so we opted to mostly walk around outside but we did go visit the farm animals in the barn.

zoolights                zoobarn

The train is located just in front of the Kids’ Farm. It’s one of those small wheeled trains that they have in shopping malls. The line for this was extensive so we decided to skip it.

The highlight of our experience at ZooLights was the tubing down lion/tiger hill. Clara is my little thrill seeker, so this was right up her alley! She asked to go again after the first time we went down the hill but at that point the line was getting pretty long, so we went on to explore other areas of the zoo.


Across from the Mane Grill is a cool light display that is synchronized with music. The girls enjoyed watching this for several minutes.


There were vendor carts along the paths selling cotton candy, popcorn, hot chocolate, glow sticks and other zoo fare. The gift shop and restaurants were also open. Overall, we had a fun time! We spent about 2 hours there before the girls started to get tired and cold (make sure to bundle up your little ones!). It is definitely a festive holiday event that children will love.

Additional Info:

•Admission is free.
•The train, tubing, and carousel require tickets; $3 per ride.
•Parking is $10 for FONZ members and $20 for non-members.
•Closest Metro stops are Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park on the red line.

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