LA Zoo Lights

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    LA Zoo Lights

    Zoo Lights at the Los Angeles Zoo
    ••• Zoo Lights at the Los Angeles Zoo. Courtesy of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association

    While most of the living animals at the L.A. Zoo sleep the night away, mischief happens every Christmas season when the zoo is open after dark. But it's not for visitors to see the animals. At LA Zoo Lights, electrified, glowing animal displays take over the grounds.

    Visitors walk past impressive 3D projections, lasers and lights as the entire zoo becomes a glowing, cheerful exhibit, complete with a water show and music.

    The light show starts with a troop of LED-bedecked monkeys who need to find a power source for a holiday tree. They swing through the entry plaza toward an oversized electrical outlet, to plug their lights in. After that, guests follow the monkeys as they meet up with illuminated critters of all kinds.

    L.A. Zoo Lights pays homage to its predecessor the DWP Holiday Light Festival. You'll see some classic elements from that, especially in the ZOOray for Hollywood section, including the Hollywood sign, the downtown LA skyline, and the Hollywood Bowl. Unless you have...MORE an Indiana Jones-level fear of slithering creatures, you'll also like  the giant, illuminated snake that sits on top of the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles)

    There's a lot of great techno wizardry going on, too. The show was designed by Gregg Lacy and Bionic League, a live event design company known for their spectacular light shows. Among the most enjoyable effects is a three-minute-long projection show that features a handful of engaging elephants whose skins keep changing.

    You may be at the zoo, but the only live animals you'll see awake are real reindeer. Santa Claus appears on selected nights.

    Zoo Lights are popping up all over the place these days, but this show is one of the best. According to USA Today, it's one of the top 10 zoo lights in the country and the only top 10 display in California. They cite its "impressive 3D projections, lasers, and lights... the entire zoo is transformed into a glowing, cheerful exhibit, complete with a water show and music."

    Perhaps because Los Angeles residents are constantly entertained with the most cutting-edge entertainment imaginable, some online reviewers seem underwhelmed. Others give it the highest ratings. Read a few of their reviews for yourself to decide whether it's for you or not.

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  • 02 of 03

    What You Need to Know About LA Zoo Lights

    LA Zoo Lights
    ••• LA Zoo Lights. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    The event runs from mid-December through early January, except on holidays. They also have a New Year's Eve option and a package especially for families that includes celebrating the New Year on East Coast time, early enough to get everyone to bed on time.

    Tickets for LA Zoo Lights

    Tickets are sold for specific entry times, once per hour. If you get there 15 to 20 minutes ahead of your scheduled entry, you'll spend less time waiting to get in.

    You can get tickets at a discount - and hurry before they sell out - if you buy them ahead of time at the Zoo Lights website. Zoo members get ticket discounts. After Christmas, you may find discounted tickets on Groupon or Goldstar. Here's how to use Goldstar to get discounts on tickets, events and sometimes even sightseeing.

    AAA members can save on tickets when they show their AAA membership card at the box office, or when they buy online with a promotion code available on the AAA website. ​

    L.A. Zoo Lights is an ideal family outing, date...MORE night or meet-up with friends. For many LA residents, it will become a family tradition and for visitors, a cherished holiday memory. Anytime, children under two get in free, and strollers are permitted.

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  • 03 of 03

    More Holiday Activities in Griffith Park and Los Angeles

    Display at LA Zoo Lights
    ••• Display at LA Zoo Lights. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Besides the light display, you can also take a Christmas train ride from Travel Town to Santa's Village on weekends starting in late November and every night from mid-December until December 23. Order train tickets ahead of time on their website to prevent disappointment.

    You'll find even more holiday activities in the Guide to LA at Christmas — and don't overlook nearby Orange County for Christmas, which has some of the most enjoyable holiday activities anywhere.