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ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo expands in its 22nd season

Written by
Jonathan Samples

For the first time in its 22-year run, ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo will cover the entire facility grounds and that means lights galore. This Chicago holiday tradition returns November 25 with an opening night celebration that includes a lighting ceremony, where staff will flip the switch and illuminate more than 2 million bulbs installed throughout the North Side zoo.

In addition to a variety of light displays, the free event includes live ice-sculpture carving demonstrations, musical light shows, 3D displays, carousel and train rides, and photos with Santa (through December 23). Guests that are 21 and over can dodge some of holiday stress and enjoy a warm spiced wine or frosty lager during their visit.

Organizers say that this year’s ZooLights will feature many of the special events Chicagoans have come to expect, as well as some new additions. Events such as Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo and BrewLights are back, while a new holiday market will give visitors the chance to cross a few names off their gift lists during a one-night only, outdoor shopping experience.

And because it continues to grow in popularity, ZooLights will have extended hours in 2016. ZooLights is free and open to the public from 4:30pm to 9pm November 25-27, December 2-4, and nightly from December 9 through January 1 (closed December 24 and 25). For an extra bit of holiday fun, you can attend one (or all) of these special events.

Opening Night Lighting Ceremony

Kick off the holiday season and help the zoo flip the switch at a lighting ceremony for the 22nd annual ZooLights.
(Nov. 25, starting at 4:25pm)

Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo

Glide by goats at the Lincoln Park Zoo farmhouse. Bring your own skates or rent a pair at the rink at the Farm-in-the-Zoo.
(Nov. 25 through Feb. 26, select dates)

Holiday Market

Forage for festive gifts at Lincoln Park Zoo’s inaugural holiday market.
(Nov. 29, 6:30pm-10pm)


Third annual BrewLights gives adults 21 and older the chance to sip on local craft, seasonal and international beers, while taking in all of the amazing light displays.
(Dec. 1, 5:30pm-9pm)

Adults Night Out at ZooLights

Leave your little animals at home and spend a special evening with people your own age at ZooLights adults-only event.
(Dec. 7, 6:30pm-10pm, 18 and older)

Members-Only Night

Lincoln Park Zoo members and their guests will have exclusive access to ZooLights activities during the fourth annual members-only night.
(Dec. 8, 4:30pm-9pm)

ZooLights Family Nights

Back for a second year, ZooLights Family Nights features all of the regular ZooLights activities, as well as free rides on the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and Lionel Train Adventure.
(Dec. 12, 19 and 26, 4:30pm-9pm)

Chris White Trio Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas

Tap your toes and sing along to the Chris White Jazz Trio’s rendition of this classic wintertime soundtrack.
(Dec. 15, 6:30pm-8pm at Café Brauer, 2021 N. Stockton Drive, all ages)

New Year’s Eve at ZooLights

Consider yourself a party animal? Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Lincoln Park Zoo during this festive ZooLights event.
(Dec. 31, 4:30pm-9pm)

Check out this video to get a sneak peek of this year's ZooLights.

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