ZooLights 2022: What you need to know


A local holiday tradition returns this season to the National Zoo.

ZooLights begins Friday, Nov. 25, and ends Dec. 30. (Smithsonian’s National Zoo/Jim Jenkins)

A local holiday tradition returns this season to the National Zoo.

ZooLights — which features bright, colorful displays of holiday lights and 3D glowing animal lanterns — begins Friday, Nov. 25, and ends Dec. 30. Visitors can also enjoy food and live entertainment.

The event will be held rain or shine, but please note a change of plans is possible if local COVID metrics worsen.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Q: How much does it cost?
  • The event is free, but keep in mind it does require event entry-pass reservations, which are separate from daytime entry passes to the zoo. You reserve them starting on Friday. Anyone planning to drive in for the event will need to buy a $30 parking pass.

    All proceeds from parking sales — and from concession sales — benefit animal care and conservation science at the zoo and at the zoo’s Conservation Biology Institute.

    “ZooLights free-entry passes and paid parking passes will be released on a rolling basis, starting two weeks prior to the event night,” the zoo said in a statement Wednesday.

  • Q: What’s the best way to get there?
  • D.C. traffic is what it is, so you might want to consider Metro.

    It has bus stops within walking distance of the zoo. You can also take Metrorail to either the Woodley Park-Adams Morgan/Zoo stop or the Cleveland Park stop. (Note that the former requires a walk uphill. You might want to stop at Cleveland Park on your trip to the zoo, and get back on at the Woodley Park stop for your trip home.)

  • Q: What kind of live entertainment will be a ZooLights?
  • Various singing groups, American University’s Jazz Combo and the Boyle School of Irish Dance are among the scheduled performers. Performances will be held at the Great Meadow on select evenings at 6 and 7 p.m. You can find a full list over on the zoo’s website.

  • Q: What kind of food will be available?
  • Winter treats such as popcorn, kettle corn, holiday cookies, spiced cider, hot chocolate and soft pretzels. Visitors also have the option to enjoy dinner indoors at Bootheel BBQ or at Elevation Burger at the Mane Grill. Beverages for kids and grownups are also available at Vintage Views.

  • Q: Can I ride the carousel while I’m there?
  • Yes. The Speedwell Conservation Carousel will be open to riders, weather permitting. (It shuts down if the temperature reaches 35 degrees.)

  • Q: Any other activities?
  • Yep — shopping, for starters. Visitors can shop for gifts at the Visitor Center, the Panda Plaza and the Great Cats exhibit shops. And on the evenings of Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 30 inside the Conservation Pavilion, Pepco will share information on energy assistance and on saving energy at home.

  • Q: Anything special planned for National Zoo members?
  • Yes. A special Zoo Member night is scheduled for Dec. 15. Members can enjoy free carousel rides, discounted food and shopping and complimentary refreshments. Reservations are required, though, and they’ll be available starting Dec. 1.

    Free ZooLights parking passes are also available for this member-only night by advance reservation only.

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