By Steven Penn
In its 44th year, Christmas at the Zoo is still lighting up the hearts and minds of families by providing a family-friendly and unique Christmas experience.
Jon Glesing, director of public relations at the zoo, said the annual light show has been going every year since 1967, with the exception of missing a couple of years when the zoo made its transition from the eastside of Indianapolis to it current home in White River State Park.
“We have the distinction of being the first zoo in the United States to have a annual light show, and therefore we actually have the longest running stretch of zoos in the United States that have a Christmas light show,” Glesing said.
He said it’s interesting to see how the zoo transforms during this time of year.
“It’s really a transforming experience,” Glesing said. “There are times when you’re out there and you don’t even kind of realize you’re at the zoo sometimes. The lights are, in a very good way, overpowering. They are so colorful and there are so many and it’s all throughout the zoo, it makes for such a wonderful, kind of magical
In addition to the light displays, there are also several Christmas-themed activities going on throughout the zoo.
“We have Christmas at the Zoo-themed dolphin shows, we have special chats out on zoo grounds, and we do these things ... after dark with the Christmas lights as the backdrop, (which) again makes it even more special,” Glesing said.
He added that families can meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus and even go on a scavenger hunt in the conservatory.
“In the conservatory ... in the White River Gardens area, we have a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt,” he said. “So families can go into the conservatory, which is a great big glass building that’s part of White River Gardens, and there are about 10 clues or so, and you can walk around in there and look for things kind of hidden within the conservatory. Everyone who completes the scavenger hunt we have a little prize ... for the kids to take home.”
Glesing said there are also 10 mistletoe hidden around the zoo and guests can mark the locations down on their map and turn it into the gift shop to become automatically registered to win a drawing — which will take place on Dec. 30 — for a Dolphin In-Water Experience.
He said there are also reindeer, Christmas carolers, two campfires going for families to warm up at, but the main attraction may be the lights.
“We have two places where there is a synchronized light show set to music,” Glesing said. “ ... So many of the lights at Christmas at the Zoo ... they’re in the shape of different animals and they’re in locations where it makes for a really fun photo opportunity.”
He said prices at the gate are $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, and $8 for children between the ages of 2 and 12. Children ages 1 and younger are admitted free.
Glesing said there is a special right now that if the tickets are ordered online in advance, it reduces all prices by $1, and they can even be delivered.
“Another neat thing ... one of our sponsors is Donatos Pizza, and you can get discount tickets when you order pizza from them,” he said.
“They will actually deliver your Christmas at the Zoo tickets to your house with your pizza. This is our second year of sponsorship with them doing that and it was a lot of fun and it worked really well last year, and again this year.”
Christmas at the Zoo is presented by Donatos and Teachers Credit Union and is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday until Dec. 30.
The Indianapolis Zoo is at 1200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.
For more information, call 630-2001 or visit the website at www.indianapoliszoo.com.