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Celebrate tradition at Christmas at the Zoo

Now in 52nd year, beloved holiday event grows with more nights, lights

  • Updated
  • 2 min to read
Christmas at the zoo

INDIANAPOLIS — Celebrating 52 years of holiday tradition, Christmas at the Zoo presented by Donatos and Teachers Credit Union is bigger than ever with more nights and more lights.

As the first zoo in the nation to host a holiday lights event, thousands of families from Central Indiana and beyond come year after year to enjoy the season with the Indianapolis Zoo.

Featuring 37 nights of magic and lights, this year’s event will kick off Nov. 21 and continue daily through Dec. 30, closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day. The Zoo opens daily at noon. Festivities go on each night from 5-9pm, until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Under the Bicentennial Pavilion, Santa’s Village is the newest and most popular addition to the event. Attendance will be monitored in this area to ensure space for social distancing. Jolly Old St. Nick will greet families for fun and reimagined visits inside his beautifully decorated study. Visitors can see reindeer and pose by a sleigh inside Santa’s Barn presented by Honda Manufacturing of Indiana. Cookie decorating kits are available in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. With a wild twist like only the Zoo can do, guests can also interact with wintertime animals, including dogs and penguins. 

Nominated for USA Today’s 10Best Zoo Lights for a sixth straight year, the Zoo will transform each night into a winter wonderland filled with more than a million colorful lights. Near Santa’s Village, the stunning Tunnel of Lights is the most photo-worthy spot after dark and leads visitors down a glittering, one-way path into the rest of the Zoo. In Flights of Fancy, We Three Trees presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers provides another fun family photo op. Guests can activate the Dancing Lights display with the sounds of their voices. The Zoo’s holiday LED lights are presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. Plus, Visitors can bring old holiday lights to the Zoo’s Entry Plaza for recycling sponsored by Technology Recyclers.

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Guests can enjoy the sounds of warm themselves by campfires and chase away the chills with a cup of hot cocoa or a seasonal cocktail inspired by Hotel Tango. Plus, on select Saturdays, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir will fill the night with the sounds of holiday carols.

Many of the Zoo’s robust animals — walrus, tigers, red pandas, brown bears and more — will be out to enjoy the cooler weather. A new cold-weather species, the beautiful Arctic fox awaits in Flights of Fancy. Plus, visitors can learn more about their favorite animals during special chats throughout the day. The Zoo’s many indoor exhibits also offer a place for guests to go when cheeks get rosy, and again, attendance will be monitored for social distancing.

Christmas at the Zoo is free for members and included with regular Zoo admission. Everyone is required to visit IndianapolisZoo.com to reserve a timed-entry ticket in advance. The Zoo is totally compliant with the most up-to-date safety guidelines from the city and state. With limits for Zoo capacity, guests are encouraged to plan ahead and visit early in the season.

All guests age 3 and up are required to wear a mask when entering the Zoo, in all indoor areas, including buildings within Santa’s Village, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. All the Zoo’s standard safety guidelines will also be in effect during Christmas at the Zoo, and guests are encouraged to visit the Zoo’s website to know what to expect for their visit.

About the Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo protects nature and inspires people to care about our world. Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. Visit IndianapolisZoo.com