ZooLights is coming to Smithsonian’s National Zoo Friday, November 23, 2018-Tuesday, January 1, 2019 from 5:00-9:00 pm, except December 24-25-31.  A $FREE (parking extra) event, ZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with two dazzling laser light shows set to music! This is fun annual event to do as a family or schedule a meetup with friends! Strollers are recommended for little ones.

Member Week

Sunday, Dec. 2, through Sunday, Dec. 9, is Friends of the National Zoo member week!

FONZ members will receive:

  • FREE event parking all week during ZooLights hours
  • A free gift and punch card that includes eight free rides/attractions — a $26 value
  • BOGO popcorn
  • A 10 percent discount on Zoo gift shop purchases during ZooLights

Members must present their membership card and matching photo ID for their member week benefits (available while supplies last). All offers are only applicable Dec. 2 through Dec. 9.

New: Gingerbread Village

Follow the twinkling lights to the Gingerbread Village at Elephant Outpost. This magical land is complete with frosted cookies, lollipops and a gingerbread throne that’s perfect for a photo opp. Enjoy food, holiday shopping and live music, too!

New: Reindeer Games Fun Zone

Head to Lion-Tiger Hill to zip down giant inflatable slides, try a holiday-themed obstacle course and twirl on illuminated rides.

New: Symphony of Lights

Explore an interactive light canopy that responds to music, creating a unique sound and light show as you listen to the festive sounds of holiday performers on the Great Meadow.

Laser Light Shows, sponsored by Pepco

Watch animals come to life in laser lights on the outdoor wall of the Elephant Community Center. Now with two shows!

GRUMP holiday market

Shop at a European-style outdoor market that will double in size this year, featuring more local artisans offering unique gifts for all ages. GRUMP visits the Zoo on Dec. 7, 8 and 9.

Zoo Rides

$FEE-Take a merry tour on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Choo-Choo, sponsored by Metro by T-Mobile, which whisks guests around the Kids’ Farm and features gorgeous views of the holiday light displays. Hop on to your choice of 50 animal figurines at the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel, which highlights the Zoo’s incredible research and success stories.

Please note that ZooLights does not feature the Zoo’s animals. All indoor animal exhibits will be closed to allow animals to get a full night’s rest. Visitors will be able to warm up indoors in the Zoo’s Visitor Center, Panda Plaza Gift Shop, Mane Grill and Great Cats Gift Shop.

All ZooLights attractions are weather permitting. Attractions may not be open when temperatures are 35 degrees or below.

Seasonal treats (for purchase) include:

  • gingerbread
  • “glowing” cotton candy on an illuminated stick
  • kettle corn
  • fresh donuts
  • holiday cookies
  • candy canes
  • soft pretzels
  • holiday gelato
  • hot chocolate
  • spiced cider
  • eggnog
  • mulled wine
  • coffee

Don’t Miss: Roasting s’mores over one of six fire pits located at Conservation Pavilion.

Live Performances

It wouldn’t be ZooLights without festive holiday music — and this year is no different. Every night, local community or school groups will perform live music or dance beneath the interactive Symphony of Lights.

The Elephant Outpost will also host live music by local school groups on select nights.


  • Nov. 25: Boyle School of Irish Dance
  • Nov. 27: Lost & Sound
  • Nov. 28: Capital Blend
  • Nov. 29: Sendy Browns TJMS
  • Nov. 30: Island Creek Elementary Chorus
  • Dec. 1: GWChorus
  • Dec. 2: Pritchard Music
  • Dec. 3: Nerds in Harmony
  • Dec. 4: Gaithersburg High School Chorus
  • Dec. 5: Vox Pop
  • Dec. 6: Mosby Woods Elementary School Chorus
  • Dec. 7: Lancer Singers
  • Dec. 8: American University Jazz
  • Dec. 9: Melodious Majors
  • Dec. 10: Columbia Elementary’s Cougar Choir
  • Dec. 11: Tucker Choral Ambassadors
  • Dec. 12: Arcola Elementary School Chorus
  • Dec. 13: Benjamin Banneker Bobcats
  • Dec. 14; Earle B. Wood Middle School Advanced Orchestra
  • Dec. 15: Franklin Sherman Elementary Chorus
  • Dec. 16: Supreme Chord
  • Dec. 17: Columbia Elementary’s Cougar Choir
  • Dec. 18: Thomas W. Pyle Middle School: Pyle Voices
  • Dec. 19: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Chamber Singers
  • Dec. 20: Persuasion Show Choir
  • Dec. 21: World View
  • Dec. 22: Pritchard Music
  • Dec. 27: Fantasy Players
  • Dec. 28: Southern Academy of Irish Dance
  • Dec. 29: Sydney Franklin
  • Dec. 30: Painted Trillium

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