ZooLights Chicago at Lincoln Park Zoo is a favorite holiday tradition. The free Lincoln Park Zoo is open every day of the year, and it’s particularly fun during the holiday season. Throughout the month of December this favorite destination lights up both literally and figuratively with ZooLights.
What is ZooLights?
Lincoln Park ZooLights is an annual family-friendly free festival. The zoo is lit up with over two million lights and every tree in the park is draped with strands. Festiva activities include:
- Photos with Santa through December 23
- 3D displays
- Warm spiced wine and frosty lagers
- Delicious holiday snacks
- Holiday gift shopping
Live ice-sculpture carving (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Family Night Mondays)
Strolling carolers (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Family Night Mondays)
- Carousel, train, ferris wheel, Light Maze, Undersea Adventure & Polar Journey experiences
- Musical light shows at Winter Wonderlawn
Candy Cane Lane and more than 100 giant themed displays
- 3D holiday specs while supplies last!
TLTip: If you take the kids to see Santa Claus he’ll be in the Kovler Lion House. If your children misbehave you can threaten them with more than just coal…
When is ZooLights?
ZooLights begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs until the first Sunday of January. For the first two weeks it’s only open on the weekends but as Christmas nears it’s open every day. During the rest of the year the park closes at 5 p.m., but during ZooLights it is open until 9 p.m.
Can You See the Animals at ZooLights?
Most of the outside yards are empty during ZooLights but all of the exhibit houses are open. Not only can you go inside to warm up, you can marvel at giraffes, penguins, gorillas, lions, and any of the other myriad animals that call the zoo home.
Is There Ice Skating at ZooLights?
No…This year they’re doing a light maze instead of ice skating.
When Are the Special Events at ZooLights?
There are several special events at ZooLights. Most of these require tickets, which means you can only enter if you’ve purchased one.
- Members-Only Night at ZooLights: Friday, November 16, 4:30–9 p.m.
- ZooLights Opening Night: Friday, November 23
- Holiday Market: Tuesday, November 27, 6:30–10 p.m.; $10 (10% off for Lincoln Park Zoo members)
- Adults Night Out: Holidaze: Thursday, November 29, 6:30–10 p.m.; $15 ($12 for Lincoln Park Zoo members)
- BrewLights Presented By Lakeshore Beverage: Thursday, December 6, 5:30–9:30 p.m.; $40
- Chris White Jazz Tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: Sunday, December 9; $25 ($20 for Lincoln Park Zoo members); VIP upgrade: $40
- Zoo Year’s Eve at ZooLights: Sunday, December 31, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.; $10 – $15
Are There Special Events for Families?
In addition to all of the above, you mean? Yes! On December 10, 17, and 31 (closes at 8pm), kids eat FREE at Park Place Café (one free limited-menu kids’ meal per paid adult entrée/combo), and all guests enjoy unlimited, free rides on Lionel Train Adventure and AT&T Endangered Species Carousel. Plus, zoo members at all levels get free parking.
How Much do the Experiences Cost?
Tickets can be purchased on-site for $3 each or a bulk package of 10 for $27, or a package of 20 for $51.
- Lionel Train Adventure: 1 ticket required per person to ride
- AT&T Endangered Species Carousel: 1 ticket required per person to ride
- Century Wheel: 2 tickets required per person to ride
- Light Maze Presented by PowerShares QQQ by Invesco: 1 ticket required per person
- Sea Explorer 5-D: 2 tickets required per person to ride
How Do You Get to ZooLights?
Lincoln Park Zoo is located between North Avenue and Fullerton Avenue and between Cannon Drive and Lake Shore Drive. With its location off of Lake Shore Drive the zoo is accessible by car. There’s free street parking, but that’s limited and fills up quickly. You can also use the lot at the zoo itself or the Lincoln Park garage located at North and Clark.
Find discounted parking near Lincoln Park Zoo.
Public transportation is easily available and you can plan your visit with Google maps. Burn some calories by using the Divvy bike-sharing system, or make somebody else drive and take a taxi or a ride-share service, like Uber or Lyft.
Click here for more favorite Chicago Christmas traditions
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