The Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of my favorite annual holiday events in Cincinnati.
Each holiday season the Cincinnati Zoo is transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland filled with lights.
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To say this year has been unique would be an understatement!
As a result, new adjustments and precautions have been made at the Cincinnati Zoo so that everyone can have a safe and fun experience.
No Reservation Required
Advanced reservations are NOT required for everyone this year to visit the Cincinnati Zoo for the Festival of Lights.
When is the PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo?
Festival of Lights will take place Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022.
The zoo will be closed all day Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
North Polar Express train ride begins at 2:30pm
Cincinnati Zoo Hours
Zoo Hours 10am – 9pm
What time Does the Festival of Lights Begin at the Cincinnati Zoo?
Festival of Lights admission is included with your zoo admission at no additional charge.
For the best value, visit the Zoo early and stay for the lights!
Festival of Lights activities begin at 4pm
North Polar Express train ride begins at 2:30pm
Santa Claus visits begin at 4pm thru December 23.
Are All Guests Required to Wear Masks at the Festival of Lights?
Per the CDC guidance, they strongly encourage everyone to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
For the health and safety of the animals, masks are required for some tours and in areas where humans and animals are in close proximity.
What to Expect at Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo This Year
- 3 million LED lights throughout the Zoo
- Families will enjoy searching for Fiona fairy statues in Fiona’s Fairyland
- Guests will feel like they’re blanketed by stars in the immersive “Northern Lights” light experience.
- 27 larger than life Animal Lanterns located throughout the Zoo
- Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake
- Meet one of the Royal Sisters in Frozen Wonderland
- Ride the North Polar Express Train Ride daily starting at 2:30pm
- Roast Smore’s at the Smore’s Stations
- Enjoy freshly roasted nuts and other holiday treats
- See animals inside multiple indoor heated buildings
- Play the 2020 Scavenger Hunt
New This Year at The Festival of Lights
For the first time ever, Roo Valley will be transformed into a Wintery Walkabout! Roo Valley will have kangaroo lanterns, lights, and more!
Nearby you can warm up at Hops for a cold-weather treat.
Play the 2020 Scavenger Hunt
Test your zoo knowledge during the new scavenger hunt. Make your way through the Zoo to solve these festive riddles and heat things up with a little friendly competition!
You can share your scavenger hunt pictures on social media using #cincyzoopic for a chance to be featured in future Zoo marketing material.
Strike a Pose at one of the Elfie Selfie Stations
Selfie stations are set up throughout the zoo. Find them on the Cincinnati Zoo’s interactive map app.
Santa Will Be Socially Distanced in a New Outdoor Santa’s Village
Visitors can still get photos with Santa but this year they will not be sitting on his lap.
Santa will be socially distanced in a sleigh in the new, outdoor Santa’s Village near the picnic shelters at The Grove.
Don’t forget to look for the mouse in each Gingerbread house while you are there.
Send a Letter to Santa
Kids can write a letter to Santa and bring it to the Zoo to drop in their mailbox.
The Best Time to See the Animals is Before 5pm
The Cincinnati Zoo will open at 1pm each day and close at 9pm. The best time to see animals is before 5pm.
You will want to plan accordingly if you want to see them.
I highly recommend getting there early enough to see the kangaroos in the walkabout at Roo Valley. Zoo guests walk along the path and the kangaroos roam around wherever they please within the exhibit.
We got there around 3pm and went to see them first because their exhibit closes at 5pm during the Festival of Lights.
Animal Exhibits Closed During Festival of Lights
For the safety of animals and guests, this year Elephant Reserve, Wings of the World and Jungle Trails East will be closed during PNC Festival of Lights.
See Animals and Warm Up Inside
If you start to get too cold you can warm up inside at one of the indoor animal buildings.
One of my personal favorites is Manatee Springs. I love watching the manatees swim in front of the large viewing area.
There will be six indoor animal buildings open this year during PNC Festival of Lights:
- Reptile House
- Manatee Springs
- Insect World,
- Jungle Trails West
- Night Hunters
Dress in Layers
It can get REALLY cold while you are walking around the Cincinnati Zoo during Festival of Lights. It’s important to remember that you can always take off layers if you get too warm.
There is a good chance that you will be taking LOTS of pictures and video during your visit. Make sure that you bring a portable battery charger to keep your cell phone charged throughout the night.
Where is the Cincinnati Zoo Located?
The Cincinnati Zoo is located at 3400 Vine Street Cincinnati, OH.