The crackle of a warm fire, the harmony of choirs singing and a bright glow in the night sky — the Indianapolis Zoo brings the best of the holiday season together with a “wild” twist for Christmas at the Zoo presented by Donatos and Teachers Credit Union.
For the first time, this beloved tradition begins the week before Thanksgiving, kicking off Nov. 23 and continuing daily through Dec. 30, closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Day. The Zoo opens at noon and Christmas at the Zoo activities go from 5-9pm, extended until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Nominated for USA Today’s 10 Best Zoo Lights for a fifth straight year, the Indianapolis Zoo was the first zoo in the nation to start a holiday lights event back in 1967. Now in its 51st year, more than 100,000 guests each year come to experience the magic and wonder of the Zoo during the holiday season.
Many of the Zoo’s more robust animals — tigers, red pandas, brown bears, walrus and more — will be out to enjoy the cooler weather. The Zoo’s many indoor exhibits offer a perfect place for guests to go when cheeks get rosy. Plus, visitors can learn more about their favorite animals during special chats throughout the day.
As the sun sets, the Zoo will transform into a winter wonderland filled with colorful lights and displays. Near the front of the Zoo in Santa’s Village, a stunning tunnel of lights has become the most photo-worthy spot after dark. In Flights of Fancy, We Three Trees presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers provides another fun family photo op. The new display at the Holiday Harmony Stage will dance to the sounds of voices. All the holiday LED lights are presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent.
Santa’s Village is the largest recent addition to Christmas at the Zoo. Under the Bicentennial Pavilion, the whimsical scene looks like a Christmas card come to life. Santa’s Study welcomes guests to meet the Jolly Old Elf himself. Holiday surprises hide around every corner in the Snowflakery Mirror Maze presented by Honda Manufacturing. For a special treat, children can decorate cookies in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. And with a wild twist like only the Zoo can do, guests can also interact with animals including wintertime dogs, penguins and reindeer.
While local choirs fill the night with the familiar sounds of holiday carols, visitors can chase the chill away with a cup of hot cocoa or even a seasonal cocktail presented by Hotel Tango. As they stroll through the Zoo, guests can warm up by the campfires and look for hidden mistletoe for a chance to win a spectacular holiday gift — an Animal Art Adventure.
As Christmas draws nearer, families will have extra opportunities to meet Santa from 12:30-4pm Dec. 13-23 in the White River Gardens Rotunda.
Christmas at the Zoo is free for members and included with regular Zoo admission. Discount tickets are available at participating Donatos and Teachers Credit Union locations. Guests can receive $1 off admission at the gate with the donation of a new hat, scarf or gloves to benefit St. Mary’s Child Center. Visit IndianapolisZoo.com for advance tickets and more information.
Parking is $8 per car and free for members. On busy evenings, additional parking is available in the Zoo’s new south lot off Harding Street.
Visitors can also bring their old holiday lights to the Zoo’s Entry Plaza for recycling presented by Jay’s Moving Co.
Pick your day. Pick your price. Pick your package. Prices online are cheaper than at the gate.