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Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

ZooLights will still illuminate Lincoln Park this year, but you’ll have to pay admission to get in

The lights aren't going out at this much-loved holiday tradition.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

ZooLights, the long-running and beloved annual holiday installation at Lincoln Park Zoo, will return this year—but for the first time in more than 20 years, you'll have to pay for a ticket to get in.

Zoo reps cited financial straits due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the new ticket charge, which will be $5 per person for entry.

"Unfortunately we are not in a position to staff and operate the extended hours with the limited capacity of visitors required based on state guidelines without some public investment," zoo director Megan Ross wrote in a press release. "We are charging a nominal admission in order to help us break even and still bring this beloved holiday tradition to the zoo."

Each year, ZooLights brings millions of LED bulbs to the sprawling grounds of Lincoln Park Zoo for a twinkling after-hours display, plus other holiday-related events like carolers, Santa meet-and-greets and ice-carving demonstrations. This year's exhibit will open on November 20 and run through January 3. In addition to the regular ZooLights admission, guests will also be able to snag tickets for an adults-only night out (complete with mulled wine and hot chocolate) and A Charlie Brown Christmas tribute concert from the Chris White Trio. 

Tickets for ZooLights will go on sale for zoo members on September 24; they'll open to the general public on October 1. The zoo will also host five free nights (November 24 and December 9, 17, 21 and 29), which will still require an online reservation.

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