A generous sprinkling of twinkling lights, a cup of hot cocoa and just a dash of snow. Add in some animals and you have Christmas at the Zoo presented by Donatos and Teachers Credit Union.
This holiday tradition began in 1967 when then-director Earl Woodard wanted to decorate the zoo with lights. That year, the Indianapolis Zoo became the first zoo in the United States to host a holiday lights event.
Now entering its 45th year, visitors can experience the zoo at Christmastime Wednesdays through Sundays from Nov. 29-Dec. 29, plus Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. The zoo is open noon to 9 p.m. and festivities begin at 5 p.m. The zoo is closed on Christmas Eve and Day.
Each year, Christmas at the Zoo offers the holiday season with a “wild” twist. Many of the zoo’s more robust animals will be out late to enjoy the cooler weather, including the polar bear, tigers, red panda, brown bears, walrus, and many others.
Holiday-themed dolphin shows and special animal keeper chats will help guests get into the Christmas spirit. When visitors’ cheeks start to get rosy, they can dash inside to enjoy the animals in the Dolphin Dome and Oceans exhibit or the scenery inside the Hilbert Conservatory in White River Gardens.
As the sun sets, the zoo will be covered in the colorful glow of twinkling lights. From the animal displays to We Three Trees presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers, all of the zoo’s holiday lights are LED energy-efficient for the first time thanks to Damar Services.
While taking in the displays, guests can sip a cup of hot cocoa, sample holiday treats, and enjoy carolers singing near the fireside.
Additional activities await in White River Gardens inside Santa’s Workshop presented by Chick-fil-A, where children can decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus, write letters to Santa, and meet Chris Cringle himself. Guests can also register to win one of two Dolphin In-Water Adventures by finding the mistletoe hidden around grounds.
Christmas at the Zoo is free for zoo members and included with regular admission. Discount tickets are available at participating Donatos and Teachers Credit Union locations, and guests can also save when they purchase tickets in advance at indianapoliszoo.com.