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One of the most popular things to do in DC around the December holidays is Zoolights at the Smithsonian Zoo.

Zoolights is back for 2022 running Friday, November 25, 2022 to Friday, December 30, 2022 | 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Tickets are required for entry!

Come and enjoy a truly magical and FREE holiday attraction.

ZooLights Washington DC at the Smithsonian National Zoo welcomes visitors with illuminated trees and animal silhouettes as well as musical light shows and much more.

For more holiday events and attractions, visit our post on visiting Washington DC for Christmas and the Holidays

Top Things To Do at Zoolights

You'll find your Zoo-magination with their train display that chugs its way through a land of Legos.

On Lion/Tiger Hill, there is a 150' snow tubing slide to complete your visit to a winter wonderland.

The tube tracks are ready to whisk you down with or without a seasonal snowstorm but expect a line and a $3 fee to ride.

Just make sure someone is ready to hold your hot chocolate for you.

Visiting at night means you get to experience a different side of the zoo: nocturnal animals! 

The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids' Farm will be open every night.

Glow Zone | Every night: A free, glow-in-the-dark play zone for children features light-up LED games and activities located in the Zoo's Great Meadow.


Want to ride a tortoise?

The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel is powered by solar energy ready to take you and your family on a whirlwind tour of the Zoo's conservation and endangered species success stories.

You are no longer allowed to ride the live tortoises (you used to be able to!) but each seat on the Carousel is one of 58 animals you can ride. This is $3 a ride.

Hours & Admission

WEEK 1 | Nov. 25, 26, 27 | Friday to Sunday

WEEK 2 | Dec. 2, 3, 4 | Friday to Sunday

WEEK 3 | Dec. 9, 10, 11 | Friday to Sunday

WEEK 4 & 5 | Dec. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 | Friday to Friday

WEEK 6 | Dec. 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 | Monday to Friday

5:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Admission to ZooLights is free, but a special entry pass separate from a daily Zoo pass will be required. You can get tickets to Zoolights here. Passes open for reservation on a rolling basis, 4 weeks in advance

There is a flat-rate parking fee of $30. Daytime parking tickets are not valid for ZooLights parking.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: November 18th, 2022
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