TOLEDO, Ohio — Over 1 million lights will illuminate the Toledo Zoo on Friday, Nov. 18 when the Lights Before Christmas returns for the holiday season.
The display has been voted Best Zoo Lights in the Nation by USA Today twice and received nominations in several other years, including 2022. As with previous years, the lights show and special viewing hours will be available until Dec. 31.
Familiar sights and sounds
Several Toledo Zoo traditions make their return this year, including the illuminated 85-foot Norway spruce, which can be found near the zoo's greenhouse and botanical garden. The "Dancing Lights" show, which features lights that flash in-time with holiday music, will also return. In a press release, a spokesperson from the Toledo Zoo said "Dancing Lights" will feature all-new songs, with one exception: "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."
The Amphitheatre ice slide is also back alongside older traditions like the African Carousel and the Holly Jolly Express Train (known during the summer as the African Safari Train). The train is open on weekends only, weather permitting.
Several indoor exhibits are open for visitors to both enjoy and use as an opportunity to warm up. The natural history museum, aquarium, arctic exhibit and reptile house will be open.
Kids wishing to get a photo with Santa Claus can do so at the Arctic Encounter.
Food and beverages
Zoo concession locations, such as the new Monarch Marketplace, will offer seasonal food & beverage items in addition to some of their standard fair.
The Yuletide Food & Spirits tent, located on the historic south side of the zoo, will offer seasonal dishes in addition to holiday cocktails and beers.
For a list of some of the concession options, click here or watch the video below.
More Toledo Zoo holiday events
In addition to the Lights Before Christmas, several other holiday-themed special events will occur.
Brewdolph Bash: This 21+ event on Nov. 17 offers a preview of the zoo lights before they officially begin on Nov. 18 and the chance to enjoy festive adult beverages. Entertainment for this event includes strolling holiday characters, dueling pianos and more.
Tickets are $50 for members and $55 for non-members. Drink package wristbands are available for purchase as well. A four-drink package is an addition $30, while an eight-drink package is $55.
Admission is only for adults age 21+ only and ID will be checked prior to entry. The event is from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. and tickets must be purchased online.
Polar Paws & Santa Claws 5K & Kids Cubs Run: This holiday-themed 5K walk and run will be held on Toledo Zoo grounds on Dec. 11. A one-mile kids "Cubs Run" is also offered.
Participants will receive a collectable medal, tech-friendly gloves, collectable souvenir cup and admission to the Lights Before Christmas on Dec. 11. The Kids Cubs Run kicks off at 3 p.m. and the 5K begins at 4 p.m.
Registration for the 5K is $35, until Nov. 14, when the price will increase to $45. The Kids Cubs Run costs $15.
To register for the event, click here.
Noon Year's Eve: Celebrate the new year a little early at Noon Year's Eve on Dec. 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this family-friendly event, bring in 2023 with biodegradable confetti, an apple juice toast, ice carving demonstrations and more. Reservations for this event will be available on the Toledo Zoo website beginning mid-December.
Enter this contest for a chance to win a Lights Before Christmas V.I.P. package worth over $800 dollars in value. The winner will be announced during the WTOL 11 live Lights Before Christmas special on Nov. 18 beginning at 5 p.m.
The package includes a Toledo Zoo family membership, 10 extra tickets to the Lights Before Christmas which are useful for bringing guests and a behind the scenes tour.
Dates, times and prices
Dates: Nov. 18 - Dec. 31
- 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. (Monday - Thursday)
- 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday - Sunday)
- The zoo will remain open one hour after final admission
- Adults (12-59) - $26
- Seniors (60 and up) - $24
- Children (2-11) - $24
- Children under 2 - Free
- Members - Unlimited free admission
Unlike general admission with valid ID, Lucas County residents are not offered a discount for Lights Before Christmas admission.
Reservations for Lights Before Christmas are required.
PHOTOS: Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo
PLAYLIST: MORE LIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS COVERAGE