LA Zoo Lights: See Them Roar



Photo/All Photos: Jack Burke

For the second year in a row, holiday light seekers can enjoy a zoo-lightful extravaganza with L.A. Zoo Lights.  This is the replacement for the DWP Holiday Light Festival, an iconic drive-through light show that closed in 2009 – and it’s oh-so-much better.


The color palette thrills with purples, pinks, greens, blues and reds in vibrant LED lights.


There’s a rain forest themed laser light show…

Rain Forest Canopy - literally a canopy...
Rain Forest Canopy – literally a canopy…


Silver birds fly over purple lights and disco balls, a stunning green cactus garden draws oohs and awes, prancing illuminated bison and flamingos dance, and glowing meerkats shine near their living counterparts enclosures. It’s all as enthralling for adults as it is for little ones.


There’s also Santa, and live reindeer.


No place else in Los Angeles has live reindeer, and they’re extremely cool creatures. Overheard “Look mommy, a unicorn.” Not quite.

But there COULD be unicorns – there’s just about every other animal represented in the dazzling self-guided zoo walk-through, which takes about two hours to explore at a leisurely pace – longer if you stop as we did for churros and hot chocolate. On-site bar vendors also offer infusions to that cocoa or separate cocktails.


The exhibition has been expanded this year to include a water and light show, and access to the reptiles and insects of LAIR, an indoor exhibit topped by a giant illuminated snake, and perfect for warming up on a chilly night as well as for admiring cold blooded creatures who thrive in the heat. What else is aglow?


Painted palms…


Christmas ornaments shining…


Rhinos, alligators, and Christmas trees…oh my…

Guests will be charmed as they stroll through the zoo, enjoying a rainbow of animal figures, ribbiting and lit bull frogs sculpted from 3,750 water bottles, an illuminated animal riff on a Hollywood red carpet scene, and tunnels of sparkling lights.

Walking the red carpet
Walking the red carpet…


Strolling the glittering tunnels…


Elephant Parade…

Returning in a new spot this year are the fabulously cool 3D projections on elephant statues which morph between elephants strung with holiday lights, wearing sweaters, or covered with holiday wrapping paper.



The technology behind this fabulous light show was created by art director Gregg Lacy and Bionic League, well known for creating light shows for artists including Kanye West and Daft Punk.


Should you go? A resounding yes. It’s the perfect event for the holiday season in Los Angeles. While earlier in the evening, small tykes and strollers abound, by 8 p.m. the crowd skews older. There’s plenty of room at all times to see the light shows and stroll the paths.

L.A. Zoo Lights runs 7 days a week through January 3rd from 6 to 10 p.m. , closed December 24 and 25. More details and tickets can be found here. The L.A. Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Dr. in Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; all photos:  Jack Burke