A Walk Through “LA Zoo Lights”

by Noella Noelophile®Entrance to Los Angeles Zoo lit up at night with snowflake decorations

“Spectacular’ barely began to describe it.

On Monday evening, we had the opportunity to visit LA Zoo Lights.

Since its opening in 2014,  L.A. Zoo Lights has made USA Today’s list of  “Ten Best Zoo Lights” shows in the nation twice–both in 2015 and 2016.  (They’re nominated again this year! )people wait in line outside Los Angeles Zoo gates at nightAnd Monday evening was sold out, with the crowd waiting to get in.  People enterimg main gate of LA Zoo with Christmas tree in backgroundThe doors would open to magic at 6 pm.People around Christmas tree with multicolored lights at LA Zoo entrance The first thing we saw, as we entered, was this Christmas tree radiating lights to an uptempo version of “Sleigh Ride”–and later, to “Jingle Bells”.

Throughout the Los Angeles Zoo, “Zoo Lights” would be celebrating the season with fourteen different displays.   These would point up the Zoo’s residents and conservation efforts.illuminated monkey silhouettes, outlined in neon, swing over the International Marketplace plaza“Monkey Business” was the second display to welcome visitors.  Throughout the International Marketplace shopping plaza, these illuminated mischief-makers seemed to swing across their wires, through the magic of technology.People walk past "LA oo Lights" sign with lighted trees in backgroundDoing justice to all fourteen of the displays we saw, at L.A. Zoo Lights, would be impossible with mere photographs.  (We also don’t want to ruin the “surprise” element of what you’ll see!)  But we’ll list several of the highlights of our visit.  You get to choose your own favorites, as L.A. Zoo Lights runs from now through January 7th.antlered reindeer eats from a trough in her penOf course, our first priority?  Seeing the reindeer, for the Zoo’s annual “Reindeer Romp”!people at a reindeer's penFour reindeer–Elvis, Hazelnut, Cinnamon and Tinsel–were now in residence.

“Can they fly?” a small visitor asked a Zoo staff member.

“Not until they’re around Santa, with his magic.  Then they can fly,” she assured the child.

Elvis, the staffer said, is a male, six months old, and the “girls” tended to “boss him around a bit.”.  Elvis, six-month-old male reindeer without antlers, lies in a pen at the LA Zoo.Female reindeer, she explained, keep their antlers in the winter, while males lose theirs in autumn.  Since the three female reindeer would push him away from the food dish, Elvis, who is still growing, was separated from them.Cement elephants on which light patterns ofsnowflakes and poinsettias are being projected at LA Zoo LightsWe laughed out loud at these “Electric Elephants”.  Not only did they appear to be wearing the classic “ugly Christmas sweaters” at one point, thanks to the lighting–they also appeared to host an electric-train track, complete with train!trees with pink lights and silver disco balls hanging from their branches“Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,” we hummed along, while walking through the “Deck the Halls with Disco Balls” display. We desperately wanted to dance–and a couple of young Zoogoers were doing exactly that!spiders outined in pink light on a "web" of white lightsWe wanted to stay on Santa’s “nice” list, so did not take pictures in The Lair.  (Flash photography isn’t a favorite of the snakes, spiders, Komodo dragons and such.)

Our favorite resident, though, was a turtle who put on a show for his adoring public!  He moved and thrust his head out to look at the funny animals looking in at him.Green "Fountain" of light with audience watchingA standout favorite, for the evening, was the “Lightscapes Water Show”.

Of course,impressing  Los Angeles audiences, with their access to top-quality entertainment, is no mean feat.red and green fountains of light“Lightscapes” drew the audience in and kept them, in a matter of seconds.

Pictures won’t do this justice.  Neither will telling you that this combined the effects of a fireworks show with water and laser light.red. b;ie amd [ir[e;e kets pf ;ogjt amd water with blue highlightsThe light and water seemed to be emanating from the fast-paced Christmas music, and the rainbow “sparkles” and light changes were enough to dazzle the most jaded L.A. audience member.

Viewers oohed, aahed, gasped–and applauded and whooped at the show’s conclusion.

rainbow colors of water with red water jet crossing them As we get closer to Christmas, if you have limited time to see “LA Zoo Lights” on the evening you go, we’d recommend this as a “don’t-miss”.

(And if the date you have in mind is this Saturday, December 23rd, you may need to prioritize.  According to the Zoo’s website, Saturday evening’s 6 pm show is sold out, but there are still tickets available for 8 pm.)Carousel glows with Christmas lights through crowdOf course, we weren’t going to miss seeing the “Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel”, which is a favorite every day of the year.  The animals each represent a member of an endangered species.  Keeping in mind that we are dignified adults…

…we chose to ride a bee, to the strains of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.silhouette of polar bear outlined in green lights

The evening was moving by too quickly.  We’ll give you two warnings before you go to L.A. Zoo Lights.

The first: dress warmly (layers work really well), and wear gloves.  You will feel the cold snap we’ve been having.  However, all the photo opps and incredible displays are likely to take your mind off having cold hands!

Second: allow time to stand in a line as you move through L.A. Zoo Lights to Display #12: the “Twinkle Tunnel”.people approach the twinkle tunnel

We didn’t have a long wait, but we did hear a loudspeaker warning that the last opportunity for people to line up and see this would be at 9:45.

And it’s definitely a “don’t-miss”.closeup of red, green and blue twinkling Christmas lights

The “Twinkle Tunnel” is a 100-foot tunnel, with thousands of colored lights.

During our November interview with Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) Marketing and Communications Manager Emily Marrin, Emily said the tunnel has been the site of several marriage proposals.people walk through the "Twinkle Tunnel", with thousands of colored lightsWhile we didn’t see anyone pop the question during our visit, we certainly saw a lot of smiling faces for selfies!Wild Wonderland finale signAnd this year, in addition to its other new features, L.A. Zoo Lights has an all-new Grand Finale.  But, even after that, there’s more to see.White snowflake shapes illuminated with blue light

Merry sparkly Christmas, to you and yours!  If you get a chance to see L.A. Zoo Lights, it’s well worth braving the cold.people in Santa hats near Grand Finale silhouettes of animals in "stained-glass" patterns

And be sure to say “hi” to Tinsel, Cinnamon, Elvis and Hazelnut for us.

reindeer with full antlers eats from a dish in her pen

“L.A. Zoo Lights”runs nightly (except  December 24th and December 25th) through Sunday, January 7, 2018.  Hours are 6 pm to 10 pm at the Los Angeles Zoo, 5333 Zoo Drive in Griffith Park.  Here’s the link for more information.   Plan to arrive early, as people start lining up outside the Zoo about thirty to forty-five minutes prior to admission.