Zoolights at the Phoenix Zoo

Zoolights Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary And It’s Never Been Prettier

This year I realized that that the Phoenix Zoo started its Zoolights just a few years before I moved here. However, the first time I went was when my oldest kids were toddlers. Over the years, we walked through them with my parents and the kids, with my children’s (and my) friends. As they got older, my children also walked through with their friends, or on dates.

As toddlers and young children, my kids enjoyed not only the lights, but Grandmother Willow and her stories, later replaced by talking giraffes or other animals that never really cut it for them. The classical music scores played years ago with dancing lights on the trees surrounding the lake were eventually replaced by loud music and brighter lights. That’s when we stopped going for a few years. My youngest child, who plans to be a wildlife conservationist, was worried about the animals not being able to sleep. She was more frustrated by the noise and the crowds than she enjoyed the light show.

But this year was different. Much more spectacular than any of he previous years, the Zoolights were also quieter. And not only because we went on a night when it wasn’t crowded. Though featuring more lights, the music was back to playing classical scores mostly from he Nutcracker, at a lower setting. Overall, our experience was better than ever.

Zoolights. Christmas Tree
Giant Christmas tree near the entrance…

Walk-Through And Drive-Through Options

Last year, CoVid forced the Phoenix Zoo to suspend its walk-through Zoolights, so they came up with a drive-through option. This year, they kept it, but also added the traditional walk-through. The two separate options are offered on different nights. We opted for the walk-through.

animal sculpture at Zoolights

Walking through Zoolights on Their 30th Anniversary

I read that it was their 30th anniversary, so I knew they might have more lights, but the walk-through exceeded my expectations. And the low noise level, more subdued and pleasant music added to my enjoyment.

Of course it helped make our experience better the fact that we didn’t encounter crowds. Relatively early, on January 2nd, we saw few people on the trails. We even walked on several paths without meeting other visitors. So we had a better opportunity to enjoy all the different lighted animal sculptures along the trails and the Music-in-Motion-Light-Shows.

Several sculptures were set up to express movement by the way they lit up. Bears walking towards a honeypot and eating from it, bunnies and a pack of coyotes running, hummingbirds fluttering, and many more than I can’t even remember.

Colorful, lit-up trees aligned the paths on both sides, so at times we felt we walked through tunnels of light. As a bonus, we even saw the flamingos – the real ones, not sculptures – walking out into he exhibit to greet us.

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Project Holocene

This year, the Phoenix Zoo partnered with artist Russell Ronat, to present his display of illuminated painting of endangered animals. We saw several of these beautiful, large mixed media paintings along the ZooLights path.

Known as Project Holocene, the goal of these paintings is to bring awareness to wildlife conservation, something the Phoenix Zoo is already helping with. The project, a raveling art exhibit, “aims to inspire the conservation and biodiversity of wild animals.” The paintings displayed at the Phoenix Zoo represent several endangered species, an elephant, hawksbill turtle, Amur leopard, Bornean orangutan, and wolf, among others.

Zoolights Is Still Open For Another Week

Though the holiday season is over, Zoolighs is staying open til January 15th. The Holocene Project, on the other hand, is still at the Phoenix Zoo until the end of the month.

I have to admit, as much as I enjoy them, I have mixed feelings about Zoolights. As someone who loves dark skies, who feels we should leave things as natural as possible, I wish they didn’t exist. Honestly, I wish zoos didn’t exist. Theoretically.

But as a parent, I always enjoyed taking my kids to the zoo and Zoolights. There is something magical about the colorful light shows, and about seeing wild animals we normally wouldn’t be able to.

And when it comes to the Phoenix Zoo, I feel at this point in time they deserve my support. That’s because they work hard to help with conservation of both native species of Arizona, while they also fund and support global conservation.

Visiting the Phoenix Zoo, With or Without Zoolights

Visiting the Zoo in Phoenix is convenient if you are in he vicinity of the airport. Over the years, we combined a visit to the Zoo with either driving someone to the airport or picking them up. It is even a convenient place to spend time if you are stuck in town during a long layover.

Zoolights at the Phoenix Zoo. elephant

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