A Tradition of Lights at Ohio’s Zoos
By Anietra Hamper

A Tradition of Lights at Ohio’s Zoos

There are few holiday traditions that can compete with strolling through the Wildlights display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on a chilly December evening.

Columbus Zoo Wildlights

Columbus Zoo Wildlights

The smell of fresh kettle corn in the air, my cup of hot coco to keep me warm and the sounds of holiday music and excited children provide a festive backdrop.

This is a winter wonderland of three million colorful, twinkling lights that whisks me away to that magical place where Christmas comes to life. 


 Schrader Dan

Anietra looking for Santa’s reindeer – photo: Schrader Dan

I set out to North America to look for Santa’s reindeer and stop along the way to marvel at how fascinating is to see the zoo in such a different light- literally. Zoos throughout Ohio are giving visitors lots of reasons to bundle-up and head out in this winter.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The holidays come alive from one end of the zoo to the other during Wildlights which run through January 4, 2015 (closed 12/24 and 12/15, 2014). As you enjoy many of the animals at night, kids will love the seasonal displays, train rides, scuba Santa in the manatee building and decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus at Santa’s house. You will find global celebrations in Asia Quest, a choreographed light display on the lake to the music of the Trans Siberian Orchestra and lots of activities in the holiday village. 



Visitors enjoy Columbus Zoo lights

Visitors enjoy Columbus Zoo lights

Cincinnati Zoo

The Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo is packed full of activities including appearances by Santa, S’mores-n-more on the grounds, puppet shows, North Polar Express train ride, strolling entertainment and a holiday post office. New this year is a re-choreographed Wild Lights show on Swan Lake. The zoo is even segmented into fun-themed areas so the look and experience is different in every section of the zoo.  



Mrs.Claus bakes cookies

Mrs.Claus bakes cookies

Toledo Zoo

The holiday season is energized at the Toledo Zoo at the  Lights Before Christmas display. In addition to brilliant lights throughout the zoo, your family can enjoy events and activities that change daily. Be sure to visit the Winter Village that features live reindeer and an opportunity to race down an ice slide. Get your photo with Santa at the museum or mingle with Mrs. Claus and Ellie the Elf for an evening at a Festive Feast. In addition to holiday events, the zoo is offering Winter Camps for kids that range from being a junior zookeeper to participating in winter zoo adventures. Registration is required.


Santa's reindeer - Columbus Zoo

Santa’s reindeer – Columbus Zoo

Akron Zoo

The Akron Zoo is holding winter hours (11am-4pm) with seasonal events for the family. In fact, you can “pick” your admission price by selecting a snowflake from Santa hat which offers discounted admission through December 31, 2014. The popular Breakfast with Santa events are sold out, but the zoo has other activities throughout the winter and most of the animals are on display.

Check online before you go to an Ohio zoo as hours and activities vary during the winter. Start a winter tradition with your family at one of Ohio’s zoos and discover a new way to enjoy the season. 

About the Author

For Anietra Hamper, writing is a passion. Anietra spent nearly 20 years as a top-rated television news Anchor telling thousands of stories that impact people's lives. Now, away from the spotlight, Anietra is a published travel writer. In fall 2013, Anietra was honored to be selected as a member of the prestigious Society of American Travel Writers. Anietra's zest for exploration and photography has taken her to untouched regions of Vietnam and tribal territories of the Philippines, sharing those journeys along the way through articles and blogs. Anietra is also a correspondent for Child Fund International; one of the largest non-Government Organizations in the world. Anietra graduated Cum Laude from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio and studied journalism at American University in Washington D.C. She enjoys fishing, photography, fitness and playing with her rescued dog Sunny. You can follow Anietra online at ThreeWordPress.com and Facebook/ThreeWordPress.