Metro Weekly

Spotlight: ZooLights at the National Zoo

Luminous lanterns and a "wheatfield of light" are new additions to ZooLights this year

zoolights, christmas, zoo

Zoo Lights — Photo: Hanart Culture, LLC

More than 500,000 colorful Christmas lights illuminate life-sized animal silhouettes, trees, buildings, and walkways, plus a light show set to music, during ZooLights, the annual holiday event at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The dazzling display is made even more impressive by the addition this year of “Entre Les Rangs,” which transforms the hill adjacent to the Zoo’s lion and tiger exhibit into a walkable “wheatfield of light.” Stroll through hundreds of crystalline reflectors as they sway and respond to wind, movement, and light.

Also new this year, an art installation featuring 25 large, luminous animal lanterns, several of which have moving parts, stationed throughout the park. Everything from lions and tigers to elephants and iguanas to some rather flamboyant pink flamingos are on display. Even if you’ve been to Zoolights in the past, both of the new additions bring a whole new sense of awe and wonder to the dazzling annual event. Still, we can’t get over the light-bound trees, featuring thousands of multicolored, twinkling holiday bulbs.

ZooLights, powered by Pepco, runs every night (except Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Dec. 31) through Jan. 1, 2020, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. Call 202-633-4800 or visit

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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