Free admission in exchange for canned food on first day of Columbus Zoo Wildlights

(Columbus Zoo)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is ready to open its doors after dark for the 29th season of Wildlights.

The annual holiday event, which officially starts on Friday, Nov. 17, always draws big crowds. Wildlights allows visitors to check out the animals during the day and see dazzling displays after dark.

The event runs from 5pm to 9pm Sundays through Thursdays and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays through January 1, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Tickets are $15 dollars at the gate for adult Franklin County residents. Adults from outside Franklin County pay $20. Children under three are free.

This year’s attractions include:

  • Animated light shows, located around Conservation Lake and at Shores Park.
  • Holiday Star Light Star Bright Seek-n-Find, with new winners and magical prizes each week.
  • Santa’s Holiday Home in its new location in North America at the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost! Guests can spend time with Santa and can also enjoy holiday sweets with Mrs. Claus at her kitchen in Conservation Courtyard. Please note that the Claus family will not be available after Dec. 23 due to other obligations.
  • Wildlights rides, including the Polar Bear Express, a train ride through the North America winter wonderland; camel rides located in the North America region; and the 1914 Mangels-Illions Carousel, a historic Central Ohio treasure located near the Columbus Dispatch Charities Grand Pavilion. Additional fees may apply.
  • Meet and Greets with Rudolph and Friends. Be sure to bring your camera as the most favorite reindeer of all, Rudolph, and the lovable abominable snow monster, Bumble, join us at Wildlights this year to create even more magical memories. You can also catch Rudolph and his friends on the big screen at the Shores Play Park 4-D Theater in the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4-D Theater Experience.
  • The Sparkling Spruce, and its captivating light and sound show “Candela: The Evolution of Light” located in Polar Frontier.
  • And, of course, amazing animals! Many animals will be visible from the comfort of heated, indoor shelters, including Manatee Coast, Discovery Reef, the reptile building, the habitats at Vanishing Giants, the Naomi Coyle Dempsey Quest for Enlightenment Interpretive Center in Asia Quest and the nocturnal building in the Australia and the Islands region. Others – including Santa’s favorite, the reindeer – will be outside during the festivities. Please note that the polar bear habitat, lion habitat and Congo Expedition (home of the gorillas and bonobos) will close at 4 p.m.

A preview exclusively for zoo members will be held November 16 from 5pm until 9pm.

On November 17, admission is free for zoo guests who bring five cans of non-perishable food for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. There is no limit to the number of passes per family.

In 2016, Zoo guests donated a record-breaking 103,590 pounds of food during the Stuff the Truck event. Due, in part, to the success of last year’s event, three additional donation drop-off points will be available this year throughout the Zoo parking lot. The five sites will be accessible to guests on foot or by vehicle.

The Foodbank asks visitors to bring any non-perishable donations to the drive, including peanut butter, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups and chili.

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