Each year, the holidays descend on the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium during Wildlights. Millions of twinkling LED lights dust the trees throughout the zoo making for a stunning winter wonderland for the whole family. 

Want to make the most out of your trip? Here’s what you need to know about Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo.

Before you go, please review the safety guidelines and precautions set but the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, here. Please note: Per CDC guidance, it is strongly encouraged that everyone wears a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Also, for the health and safety of the animals, some designated tours will require masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Father holiding daughter looking at the light display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

When to Visit

Wildlights run from November 19 – January 2. Their hours are Sunday - Thursday, 5 - 9 p.m., and Friday - Saturday, 5 - 10 p.m. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Pro Tip: Get free admission when you bring 6 canned goods for the “Stuff the Truck” event on December 3.

Things to See

The Sparkling Spruce - There’s no better way to be greeted than by a giant Christmas Tree for the holidays. Snap a picture in front of the famous Sparkling Spruce located just inside the gates and stick around for its special lights show.

Wildlights Sparkling Spruce

Meet & Greets - The kiddos will love a Meet and Greet with characters like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Herme the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman. Don’t forget your camera for the perfect selfie! Also, stop by the 4-D theatre just outside the aquarium for a showing of The Polar Express. 

Santa Experience -  Enjoy the ability to speak with Santa, as well as take part in a safe and fun photo opportunity. Please see the “Know Before You Go” section below for more information. Additional fees may apply. Please note that Santa will not be available after December 23 due to other obligations. 

The Polar Express™ 4D Experience® - Guests are invited on an extraordinary 4D adventure this holiday season on THE POLAR EXPRESS™! When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ 4D Experience® is based on the inspiring and beloved Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Additional fees may apply.

Cold Weather-Loving Animals - Take this opportunity to see the animals that thrive in these cooler temperatures including the sea lions at Adventure Cove and, of course, the reindeer—will be outside during the festivities.

reindeer - zoo

Animated Lights Show - Ready your dance moves! The Animated Lights Shows surrounding the pond near the entrance feature your favorite holiday tunes. Don’t worry if you miss it coming in – shows begin every 30 minutes.

Holiday light display on the lake at the Columbus Zoo

Carousel - It’s the merriest time of year to hop on the Merry-Go-Round. Located just past the Aquarium, your little ones can hop on the Carousel for a spinning good time. 48” or taller can ride without a parent which means more hot cocoa for you! Other Wildlights rides include the Polar Bear Express train ride and camel rides. 

S'mores Experience - New last year and back by popular demand, this socially-distanced activity provides guests with the opportunity to gather around a glowing fire to roast their own giant marshmallow. Additional fees apply.


The Columbus Zoo is located in Powell, just north of Dublin. If you are coming from out of town, click here for our suggestions on places to stay. Don’t forget $10 for parking!

Grab the family and get in the spirit of the season at Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Share your memories with us using #SoDublin

Find a map of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium here.

Find more holiday happenings in Dublin here.