Celebrate the Holidays during Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo (2023)

The Columbus Zoo lights are a Christmas event you won’t want to miss!

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo are back for another year of Christmas magic to be enjoyed by young and old. In 2023, the Zoo lights will run from November 17- January 7. The Columbus Zoo Lights will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

One of my favorite things about visiting the Christmas lights at the Columbus Zoo is that zoo admission is included in the cost of the ticket! So many other zoos have special pricing and hours for the lights, but the Columbus Zoo allows you to arrive any time in the day and stay until the lights come on!

I think this is perfect for young families like ours who tire out by 7 p.m. We like to visit the zoo earlier in the day and enjoy some of the animals during daylight, then retreat when the crowds start showing up around 6 or 6:30.

When is the best time to visit the Zoo Lights in Columbus?

The best time to visit, in my opinion, is before Thanksgiving! You may not be ready to share in the holiday spirit, but it is when the crowds are lightest.

Overall, I recommend visiting early in the day and then staying for the wonder of the lights to appear at dusk! Parking gets really dicey in the evenings, and long lines of traffic will form from the parking lot. Visit on a weeknight to avoid sitting in traffic.

Indoor attractions at the Zoo

Yes, December is too cold for many of the animals at the Columbus Zoo. In fact, during our visit, the Heart of Africa was completely closed. However, there are plenty of indoor attractions to keep those who are too cold (or toddlers who are too crabby) entertained when not viewing the Columbus Zoo lights.

A few places to consider:

  • Stingray Bay & the Sea Lions in Adventure Cove
  • Gorillas at Congo Expedition
  • Indoor Exhibit at Australia and Islands
  • Manatees at Shores & Aquarium
  • Reptile House

Check the zoo map for more ideas.

The Polar Express is currently playing at the 4D theatre in Play Park. This is an additional $4 for members or $5 for guests. The Polar Express 4D experience is based on the award-winning children’s book.

Columbus Zoo lights - visit with the sting rays before dark.  This indoor attraction is also great for very cold days.

The lights!

The best part of the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo is the animated Christmas lights! Many of these displays are set to music. Most of the best lights are centered around Conservation Lake. One of the best photo ops is at the giant snowman adorned with “CZ.” (And yes, it took me a minute to realize what that stood for! Ohmy)!

Columbus Zoo lights- the large lighted snowman with the initials CZ is a hit

Our family also really enjoyed the “Sparkling Spruce” located in Adventure Cove! This massive tree plays a colorful display to song. This would be convenient to watch after warming up in Stringray Bay.

The Sparkling Spruce in the Adventure Cove at Columbus Zoo

If you haven’t been to the Zoo before and are visiting with kids – you’ll definitely want to bring a stroller (our favorite stroller)! The Columbus Zoo is huge! The zoo also allows you to bring in a cooler and snacks, which we always take advantage of. Make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes for the cold weather and think about bringing glow sticks for the kids (this one is fun!). The Columbus Zoo offers lots of different lighted toys for purchase, but they will set your wallet back a bit!

Columbus Zoo Wildlights Tickets

As previously mentioned, admission to the zoo includes the Wildlights. For our family of 6, it isn’t much more to just go ahead and purchase a membership (One visit + parking would be $182 for our family – the online price for a membership is currently $195). Whether you purchase a membership or a single ticket for the event, it’s best to purchase online ahead of time to avoid lines at the entrance.

Visiting Wildlights is on the list of my favorite Advent traditions or Christmas Activities.

If time allows for more than just visiting the zoo, check out my post on free things to do in Columbus with kids.

Have you been to Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo? What tips would you give?


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