Wild romance: ZooLights offers its first date night

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – In a city with plenty to do, people are flocking to the National Zoo’s holiday show, ZooLights. But this year, the zoo is catering to couples by offering its first ZooLights date night.

The normally free event becomes a couples event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14. However, families and single visitors are still welcome.

When couples arrive, they will be met with a glass of champagne and chocolate. If they’re feeling festive, they can climb into a giant snow globe for a holiday photo op.

“The zoo is one of the best places in D.C. for a date,” says Dan Pierron, special events manager at the zoo.

“The zoo is very special at night. Many people come to the zoo for dates during the day, but at Date Night they will have exclusive access to our invertebrate exhibit, home of the cuttle fish,” he says. (It’s pronounced cuddle fish.)

In fact, the Invertebrate House will be the must-see attraction at the event as zoo workers explain the courtship and breeding behaviors of some of the zoo’s residents.

But those looking for more romance than an exhibit can offer, will have other options. Couples can also use special night-of coupons, redeemable throughout the zoo at different concession stands for hot chocolate and snacks for the one-night event.

The zoo also will offers alcoholic options so visitors of drinking age can spike their cider, egg nog, cocoa or whichever holiday beverage they choose.

Pierron expects the highlight for many couples will be zoo tubing, the new snowless tubing slide near the zoo’s entrance on Lion/Tiger Hill. Riders sit in a snow tube and zip down the steep hill’s 150-foot slide, bouncing into the slide’s bumpers on the way down.

While the normally popular animals slumber, visitors have a rare chance to see the zoo’s nocturnal animals up and active. Zoo officials suggest stopping by the Small Mammal House to see the sloth moving around, the Great Ape House to see the primates prepare for bed and the Reptile Discovery Center.

“The reptile house is absolutely fantastic at ZooLights — A lot of the reptiles are active at dusk at night, so when you go in there, they’re moving, active, and eating which is really fun,” says Brandie Smith, senior curator of mammals.

While VIP parking is part of the date night package, the zoo suggests the eco- friendly option of taking Metro.

Tickets to Date Night are $50 a couple for Friends of the National Zoo and $60 a pair for non- members. Even if you’ve been to ZooLights in years past, Pierron says it is constantly changing. For starters, there are 20,000 more LED lights illuminating the zoo this year than last.

“If you come this year, you’re going to see a different event,” Pierron says. “The lights are already moving around. We’ve got new music for our dancing trees. It gets brighter and brighter every year.”

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