The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has taken home the #1 ranking for USA Today’s 10 Best list of Best Zoo Lights in the country for the fifth straight year. The Zoo is transformed into a “Wild Wonderland” with over four million LED lights illuminating almost every surface in the park.
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of PNC Festival of Lights, so it’s especially meaningful for the event to be recognized as the best,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said.
“The secret to making the event magical year after year is to add some new things like a Fiona Nutcracker and keep the best of the best, like the Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake and the dazzling Rainbow Tunnel.”
The Travel Addict decided to brave the cold temps last week to check out the Festival of Lights for the first time. The parking was free on the night that we went to visit the Zoo but it was advertised to be $10 online. My free parking theory was that it was one of the most popular nights before the winter storm Elliott rolled into the area so they opened the parking to allow traffic to flow easily in and out of the area.
We recommend downloading the map upon arrival of the park that shows how to navigate the light displays, where to see live shows, and pickup tasty treats as you enjoy the walk through the park. There are QR codes posted to help access the map faster.
Upon entry to the Festival of Lights, festival goers are greeted with characters taking pictures with patrons in front of the giant Vine Street Village Tree.
As you walk on the guided paths you see animal sculptures in lights and you may even come across five Fiona fairies in Fairyland. Fiona is the beloved Hippo at the Zoo that became an international sensation when she was born in 2017. She is now joined by a brother Fritz who was born in August of 2022.
There are lots of Instagram worthy interactive displays throughout the park where kids of all ages can take photos with friends and family to remember their visit. A North Polar Express Train was also available for those who wanted to take an open-air ride thru the park.
Some of our highlights of the visit included the Wild Lights Show choreographed to music on Swan Lake in the middle of the park. We were able to try out some time lapse photography during the show. Hanging jellyfish along the walking path and the the Rainbow Tunnel were also favorite spots for photography during the visit.
Overall the presentation of the Festival of Lights was fun and we can see why families in the tri-state area make it a tradition to visit year after year.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opens daily at 10 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursdays and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during PNC Festival of Lights. Then new electric train starts running daily at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online for a visit to The Festival of Lights that runs now through Jan. 8.