Phoenix Zoo Reimagines Annual ZooLights Display During Coronavirus Pandemic

Sam EllefsonNovember 25, 2020
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The Phoenix Zoo has garnered a reputation over the years for providing families with a holiday experience like no other with its annual ZooLights show. This year, the largest privately owned, nonprofit zoo in the country is expanding its ZooLights trails, implementing new safety precautions and adding a new drive-through experience.

The new drive-through option will only be available on certain evenings, and there will be no walking allowed on those nights. Tickets to see ZooLights’ 2.5 million Christmas lights can only be purchased online through the zoo’s website.

ZooLights opened on November 7, earlier than in previous years in an effort to mitigate crowds, and will remain open to the public until the end of January. Masks will be required any time visitors are in a line, interacting with staff or other guests or when social distancing is not possible in outdoor spaces, says Justin Davis, the ZooLights supervisor.

“This year, we’ve expanded our trail to our outer tropics trail … to try and help with spreading people out when they come,” Davis says. “On the drive nights, that’s another way (we’re increasing safety). So what you do is you come in, you’re going to do the same zoo lights trail, minus the Arizona trail, and you’ll be able to be in your vehicle so you can stay with your family and still be able to enjoy ZooLights with that extra feeling of safety.”

There are still 21 “cruise ZooLights” opportunities available before the end of the ZooLights season; you can find more information on specific drive-through dates and ticketing options here.

Guests can look forward to strolling through the “Polar Paradise” at ZooLights this year, Davis says, which features Santa’s workshop, a reindeer barn, a toy museum and more. “After New Year’s, it’s going to become what we call our ‘Polar Paradise Inn’ where it’s polar bears and penguins and elves kind of on vacation because now everything’s over,” Davis says. “We still, on walk nights, will be doing our Music in Motion show, which is the show around our lake, that the trees and our globe on the lake all dance to a song. And that will not be available on drive nights, only on walk nights.”

Davis says that the decision to implement the new drive-through nights was made to decrease the risk of getting sick while still being able to partake in what is a long-held holiday tradition.

“ZooLights is a very big family tradition,” Davis says. “So a lot of families come year-in and year-out, and if you were to come this year you’ll notice that we did have the additional trail open that really opens things up, and it’s going to make it a different show for you if you do come.”

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