LA Zoo Lights

  • 01 of 03

    LA Zoo Lights

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

    A holiday trip to see the Griffith Park Lights is a long-time favorite of locals and visitors alike. You may have heard about a drive-through light experience in Griffith Park, but that’s old news. That cute but gas-guzzling show has now been replaced by Zoo Lights at the Los Angeles Zoo. 

    L.A. Zoo Lights is an ideal family outing, date night or meet-up with friends. For many LA residents, it's a family tradition, and for visitors, it can be a cherished holiday memory. 

    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.

    L.A. Zoo Lights pays homage to its predecessor the DWP Holiday Light Festival. You'll see some classic elements from that, including the Hollywood sign, the downtown LA skyline, and the Hollywood Bowl. Unless you have 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) building.

    There's a lot of 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 on their list that is 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. To decide whether it's for you or not, read a few of their reviews for yourself.  

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  • 02 of 03

    What You Need to Know About 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. Get there 15 to 20 minutes ahead of your scheduled entry, and you'll spend less time waiting to get in.

    You can get tickets at a discount if you buy them ahead of time at the Zoo Lights website. Zoo members also get ticket discounts. For dates after December 25, you may find discounted tickets on Groupon or Goldstar. Here's how to use Goldstar to get discounts on tickets and events.

    You may also find other discounts when you buy online at the zoo website. 

    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
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Besides the light display, you'll find more holiday activities in Griffth Park. You can 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.