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‘WildLights’ – a new light festival at Woodland Park Zoo

  • Written by Deborah Stone
WildLights Art Concept Todd Nordling Concept Design
Introducing Seattle’s first ever winter lights festival at the zoo. Courtesy photo.
Add Woodland Park Zoo to your list of festive attractions this holiday season.

Beginning November 23, visitors will be able to see the zoo in a whole new light.

The all-new “WildLights” will feature wild animals and wild places recreated in thousands of sparkling LED lights inspired by exotic destinations from across the globe.

According to Jim Bennett, marketing director for the zoo, WildLights will be a spectacular animated display of nature’s wonder.

“This is the first time we’re doing something like this,” he says. “We’ve been talking about it for quite a while because we have seen other zoos around the country doing it successfully for many years. It’s a good way to generate revenue during the winter when attendance is typically lower than in our peak May to September time period.

“We wanted to spread our attendance out over the year and get people excited about coming to the zoo in the quieter months.”

Zoo staff is orchestrating the project with Facilities Manager Larry Sammons at the helm.

Sammons, according to Bennett, has a background in theater and set design.

“WildLights is going to be different from your typical holiday light display,” notes Bennett. “It’s not holiday-themed. The lights will tell stories about the animals we have here at the zoo. It will be entertaining, but also educational.”

He goes on to describe one of the displays, “The Water Hole,” explaining that it will be similar to the zoo’s African Savannah exhibit and feature lighted hippos, elephants, giraffes and other creatures indicative to this environment.

“Northern Lights,” another display will have an Alaskan and Pacific Northwest focus with illuminated elks, wolves and bears.

Attractions will be concentrated in the Northwest quadrant of the zoo, near the penguins and Day Exhibit and close to the historic carousel, which will be decorated for the occasion.

There are even going to be reindeer on hand, which the zoo is bringing in for the special event. And of course, festive snacks will be available for purchase.

“Most of our live animals won’t be on view in the evenings,” comments Bennett, “but those in the Day Exhibit will be present.

“They include reptiles, amphibians and tree kangaroos.

“And we are also planning on having some of our presentation animals make an appearance from time to time.”


Based on other zoos’ attendance records for this type of event, Bennett expects 50,000 to 60,000 visitors to the zoo during WildLights.

He adds, “Our hope is that this will become an annual event for the zoo and a family tradition during the holiday season.”


What: WildLights – a unique, illuminated light display
When: November 23 – January 1, 5:30 – 8 p.m. nightly
Where: Woodland Park Zoo
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased online only by visiting www.zoo.org/wildlights
Night-of-event tickets will be for sale at the zoo’s West Entrance, if not sold out.

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