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“FREE EVERY NIGHT: ZooLights Opens Today!”

Photo by Hanart Culture

From the National Zoo:

“Visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for its annual holiday lights festival, ZooLights, powered by Pepco. For this free event, half-a-million environmentally friendly LED lights will illuminate the Zoo for 31 nights–Nov. 29 through Jan. 1, 2020–from 5 to 9 p.m.

This year, guests can expect dazzling new attractions, including dozens of large animal lanterns all crafted in China. Pandas, monkeys, zebras, elephants and more will be beautifully lit from within. Also new is a dreamy art installation, Entre Les Rangs, from Montreal. Walk through this award-winning exhibit, a beautiful field of lights.

Photo by Hanart Culture

“Pepco is proud to once again support ZooLights, marking more than a decade of bringing holiday cheer to thousands of district residents and countless visitors during extended hours from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.,” said Mellanie Lassiter, senior manager of Corporate Relations at Pepco. “This year, we will be sponsoring Pepco Pop-Up Fridays each week at the National Zoo’s Conservation Pavilion, where guests can interact with exciting displays and learn more about innovative technologies, energy efficiency programs, or take a commemorative photo at our photo booth.”

Have the holiday blues after giant panda Bei Bei’s recent departure to China? On select nights, guests can buy tickets for “Pandamonium: A Virtual Experience” at the National Zoo Theater. With the aid of a VR headset, visitors will get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the world of the Zoo’s famous giant pandas: Bei Bei, Bao Bao, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.

Guests can board the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Choo-Choo for a journey around the Kids’ Farm, or head over to Lion-Tiger Hill to ride the ZooTubes, sponsored by GEICO.

Each night of ZooLights will also boast a live music or dance performance in the Great Meadow beneath a light canopy that responds to sound. Visitors will be able to enjoy special winter treats, including holiday cookies, funnel cakes, crepes and other sweets. Coffee will be available, as will hot spiced cider, mulled wine and hot chocolate, along with a selection of seasonal spirits.


  • ZooLights is hosting its annual GRUMP holiday market–a European-style outdoor market featuring the work of local artisans–Dec. 6, 7 and 8 from 5 to 9 p.m.
  • ZooLights will also feature a microbrew and craft beer event, BrewLights, on Dec. 12. To purchase tickets for this special event, go to Friends of the National Zoo members get a discount on tickets.
  • During Member Week, Dec. 1 through Dec. 8, FONZ members will receive a free gift, a punch card to enjoy 10 free rides/attractions, and BOGO animal crackers in gift shops when they present their membership card and photo ID. Members enjoy exclusive free parking during this week of ZooLights.
  • Military Night, presented by Bank of America, is on Dec. 17, and will provide special offers and activities for military members, including complementary ride punch cards, hot chocolate provided by USO-Metro and discounts on parking, retail, membership and concessions. The public is invited to make a card for the troops in Conservation Pavilion and take a commemorative photo in the photo booth.
  • Enjoy Pepco Pop-Up Fridays each Friday of ZooLights in Conservation Pavilion. This is an interactive experience for all ages.

ZooLights does not feature the Zoo’s animals–all indoor animal exhibits will be closed to allow animals to get a full night’s rest. Visitors will be able to warm up in the Zoo’s Visitor Center, Panda Plaza Gift Shop, Mane Grill and Great Cats Gift Shop.

Admission to ZooLights is free. A flat-rate parking fee of $25 will apply. Proceeds from ZooLights concessions and parking will benefit animal care and conservation science at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

ZooLights will not be held Dec. 24, 25 and 31. For more information about the event, go to”

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