FAQ: What you need to know about ZooLights at the National Zoo this year

Before traveling to the National Zoo’s popular ZooLights attraction this holiday season, here’s what you need to know to get the full experience.

What is ZooLights?

Now in its 13th year, ZooLights features displays made from thousands of lights as well as rides, shopping and food options for the whole family.

When is ZooLights?

ZooLights takes place from Nov. 29 through Jan 1, except Dec. 24, 25 and 31.

How much does it cost?

Admission to ZooLights is free for all ages.

How do I get there?

Parking is available for a flat rate of $25 per car. During Member Week Dec. 1 through Dec. 8, FONZ members receive free parking at ZooLights. The zoo is accessible via Metro’s Red Line to the Woodley Park-Zoo or Cleveland Park Metro stations. The zoo entrance is about halfway between these stops and both are a short walk from the zoo.

What’s new this year?

This year, ZooLights is featuring new glowing animal lanterns crafted in China, reflecting lights for visitors to strolls through and an interactive art exhibit titled “Entre Les Rangs.” Also, the GRUMP Holiday Market is doubling in size this year. The market features arts and crafts from local artists and makers. The European-style outdoor market will be at the zoo’s main entrance on Connecticut Avenue from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 6, 7 and 8.

Will there be rides?

Returning this year is “ZooTubes” where guests can hop into and slide down the hill near the lion and tiger exhibits. ZooLights also features tours on the National Zoo Choo-Choo, which offers views of the Kids’ Farm and holiday lights display as well as a carousel. Individual rides are $3.50 each. A 10-ride punch card can be purchased for $25 or $20 for FONZ members.

Will the animals be out?

ZooLights does not feature the zoo’s animals. All indoor animal exhibits will be closed.

Is there a place to warm up from the cold?

Visitors can warm up indoors in the zoo’s visitor center, Panda Plaza Gift Shop, Mane Grill and Great Cats Gift Shop.

Is it rain or shine?

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

Will there be food?

This year, ZooLights visitors can enjoy Bootheel BBQ, crepes, funnel cakes, kettle corn, holiday cookies, Dippin’ Dots (weather permitting), gelato, soft pretzels, ice cream, hot chocolate, hot spiced cider, mulled wine, winter lagers and more. In addition, during the opening weekend of ZooLights the Big Cheese food truck, Firehouse Subs food truck, Sausage and Brats food truck and fresh apple cider donuts will be available.

When is the best time to visit?

ZooLights is busiest on the weekends and the days leading up to Christmas and in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It tends to be less crowded earlier in the season and earlier in the week.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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