One of the season's most anticipated events is starting off with a bang with new light installations, delicious treats, and a cozy artisanal marketplace.

With the holidays fast approaching, it's time to acquaint ourselves with the season's beloved traditions. Hot cocoa and sleigh rides come to mind. But no winter is complete without a visit to the National Zoo for Zoo Lights!

Starting November 29, guests can witness the zoo's dazzling light displays combining music, sound, and over 50,000 fabulous LED lights. Free and fun for all ages, it's the perfect winter activity to start off the season!

zoo lights

WHEN: Friday, November 29, 2019–Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | 5–9 p.m.
WHERE: Smithsonian National Zoo | 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW | Washington, D.C. 20008
ADMISSION: FREE

This year's event will be shaking things up with two new installations. Entre Les Rangs, A Luminous Field of Lights will recreate the image of a billowing wheat field while Animal Lanterns will light the zoo's pathways aglow with the zoo's beloved animals (zebras, elephants, pandas, oh my!). Don't forget to catch the spectacular laser light show! For getting around, guests can board the National Zoo Choo-Choo or zip downhill with a Zoo Tube.

zoo lights

One of our favorite parts about Zoo Lights is the food. For some cold-weather sustenance, concessions will be sold throughout the park. Keep warm with wintry treats like spiced egg-nog, mulled wine, donuts, and more. When in doubt, there's always hot chocolate topped with whipped cream! There will also be an outdoor market, so browse ceramics, jewelry, art prints, and other goods while enjoying the sights. Created by local artisanal vendors, these goodies would make the perfect present for someone special!

The zoo is accessible both by car and public transit. For $25, visitors can park in lots A, B, D, and E at the zoo, or take a shuttle to and from the parking lots. Guests can also ride the Metro's Red Line for a straight shot to the Woodley Park-Zoo stop. The zoo recommends utilizing public transportation for less stress and therefore, more fun at this popular event!

zoo lights

Here are a few things to know before you go:

  • This event is wheelchair-accessible.
  • Animals won't be on view during the event.
  • Due to big crowds and special events like Military Night (December 17) and FONZ Member Week (December 1-8), we recommend going early in the season! Want to avoid crowds? The zoo suggests going on weekdays before Thursdays.
  • Zoo Lights will be closed December 24, 25, and 31.

**All photos courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo

Will you be going to Zoo Lights this year? Have any special memories from the years past? We would love to hear them in the comments!