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Best Zoo Lights (2021)

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Each winter, zoos across the country get into the holiday spirit with their own festive seasonal displays. Once the sun sets and the animals go to bed, these 10 U.S. zoos celebrate the season with some of the best lights displays around.

  • PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo

    PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo
    Cincinnati

    During the annual PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, some four million LED lights illuminate the night. Visitors can meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, watch a Wild Lights show on Swan Lake, drool over a gingerbread village, munch on s'mores or ride the North Polar Express train. 
    Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

  • Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo

    Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo
    Toledo, Ohio

    Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo will feature more than a million-holiday lights and some 200 illuminated animal images, as well as an ice slide, photo ops with Santa and an 85-foot Norway spruce tree decorated with 35,000 LED bulbs. 
    Photo courtesy of Toledo Zoo

  • Electric Safari at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

    Electric Safari at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
    Colorado Springs

    Some 50 acres at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are illuminated with 85 light sculptures during the park's annual Electric Safari. Select animal exhibits remain open during the festivities, and warming fires spread throughout the grounds offer a place to thaw those cold fingers.
    Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

  • Christmas at the Zoo at the Indianapolis Zoo

    Christmas at the Zoo at the Indianapolis Zoo
    Indianapolis

    The Indianapolis Zoo is celebrating its 53rd year of Christmas at the Zoo in 2021. This year’s event will feature more nights and more lights. Visit Santa’s Village to see St. Nick’s sleigh and reindeer or snap a selfie in front of a Christmas tree. The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir will provide a cheerful soundtrack.
    Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Zoo

  • Philadelphia Zoo LumiNature

    Philadelphia Zoo LumiNature
    Philadelphia

    LumiNature presented by JP Morgan Chase & Company features 14 illuminated experiences, like a 21-foot tall snake, hundreds of illuminated penguins, and a 25-foot tree made of flamingo lawn ornaments. Plenty of lights, music and special effects round out the offering.
    Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo

  • U.S. Bank Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo

    U.S. Bank Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo
    St. Louis

    While enjoying over a million holiday lights, guests of the Saint Louis Zoo during its annual Wild Lights event enjoy campfire s'mores around warming fire pits, holiday carolers and plenty of holiday cheer. 
    Photo courtesy of Micah Usher/Saint Louis Zoo

  • Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

    Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
    Columbia, South Carolina

    Nearly a million dazzling lights illuminate Riverbanks Zoo during Lights Before Christmas, one of Columbia's longest running holiday events. Festivities include a Holly Jolly Christmas Parade, nightly visits with Santa, an animated story tree, a Jingle Bell Bonfire and plenty of holiday treats, like s'mores and hot cocoa.
    Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

  • Dallas Zoo Lights

    Dallas Zoo Lights
    Dallas

    The Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant will take the form of a drive-thru holiday safari featuring more than a million lights, animal lanterns and an ice palace. 
    Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo

  • Holiday Lights at California Living Museum

    Holiday Lights at California Living Museum
    Bakersfield, California

    Holiday Lights at the California Living Museum (CALM Zoo) is entering its 19th year in 2021 with three million lights and 250 animated displays, a 200-foot tunnel of light and a 30-foot-tall drive-thru Christmas tree tunnel. 
    Photo courtesy of JC Pro Visuals

  • WildLights at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

    WildLights at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
    Palm Desert, California

    The Living Desert is celebrating its 29th year of WildLights with more than a million lights decorating its pathways and life-size animal lanterns. Visitors can walk through a tunnel of lights, visit with St. Nick, get up close to Santa's reindeer, ride a carousel and participate in holiday arts and crafts.
    Photo courtesy of Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The top 10 winners in the category Best Zoo Lights are as follows:
  1. PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo - Cincinnati
  2. Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo - Toledo
  3. Electric Safari at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - Colorado Springs
  4. Christmas at the Zoo at the Indianapolis Zoo - Indianapolis
  5. Philadelphia Zoo LumiNature - Philadelphia
  6. U.S. Bank Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo - St. Louis
  7. Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden - Columbia
  8. Dallas Zoo Lights - Dallas
  9. Holiday Lights at California Living Museum - Bakersfield
  10. WildLights at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens - Palm Desert

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning zoos!

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