Zoolights remains a festive DC winter tradition

Emily Muldering

Okay, okay, I get it: NO ONE likes Zoolights. It’s cold, your hands feel like they’re going to freeze off, and who wants to walk all the way up that big hill at the end? And that’s all true… but seeing all the festive, colorful lights will never fail to put me in the holiday spirit. It’s a classic DC holiday tradition, and it’s cheap. And when you haven’t spent any money on admission, it doesn’t feel so bad to indulge in the over-priced concessions, including hot (okay, lukewarm) beverages to sip.

This year, Zoolights featured full-size animal lanterns, including flamingos, lions, and pandas—a refreshing change and nice addition to the typical light displays. The Zoo boasted another new attraction this year: “Entre Les Rangs,” which was said to be an immersive lit-up art installation, featuring color-changing lights shone on reflectors. After seeing pictures of the dazzling exhibit in other locations, I was disappointed to find it hidden at the very bottom of the Zoo, just before the exit. The artwork’s sign advertised “walk[ing] through a series of winding paths,” but there was really only one path, making it uninviting and allowing it to go completely unnoticed by anyone who wasn’t looking for it. This seemed like a missed opportunity—the artist’s work was limited by the space it was given, when the exhibit had the potential to be really cool. 

The lights themselves were pretty much the same as I remembered from past years but still an impressive feat, given the event used over 500,000 LED lights, which fully covered most trees all the way down the Zoo’s main walkway. 

So yeah, I get it, Zoolights is really not that exciting once you’re too old to ride the carousel. But it is a fun way to celebrate the holidays locally… as long as you wear warm socks.