Procrastinators take note: last weekend for ZooLights

December 28, 2012 - 10:41am

Just a few more nights to be dazzled by the lights at the Oregon Zoo

Visitors still have a few more evenings to brighten the holiday season at the Oregon Zoo. ZooLights, the zoo's winter wonderland of sparkling lights and brilliant hues runs through Monday, Dec. 31 — after that, it's lights out for another year.

ZooLights, presented by Fred Meyer with support from Toyota, has become a favorite holiday tradition for many Portland-area families over the past quarter-century. Last year, a record 193,000 visitors came to see ZooLights' life-size animal silhouettes, moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and the light-bedecked zoo train.

A new feature of ZooLights this winter is an illuminated forest, with purple rope lighting and Cool Neon tube lights lending the scene an otherworldly glow. Visitors should also keep an eye out for 3-D ladybugs: A half-dozen of the spotted beetles are part of a scavenger hunt that can win sharp-eyed visitors a prize at the Zoo Store.

Much-loved displays are also back this year. Life-size, 3-D beasts linger on the zoo's concert lawn, which is transformed into a 180-foot-long meandering river of light. Hippos graze near the water while crocodiles lie in wait, ready to snap their jaws on unsuspecting prey. Other returning favorites include leaping reindeer, trumpeting elephants, playful penguins and tobogganing polar bears. And covered in holiday finery, the famous Oregon steam engine takes guests on an express jaunt around the zoo to see light displays visible only from the train.

In keeping with the zoo's commitment to sustainability, most of the 1.3 million lights displayed are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which use only a fraction of the power of standard holiday lights. LEDs don't burn out the way traditional bulbs do, ensuring a long lasting, eco-friendly ZooLights experience. This year's display adds more than 75,000 LEDs, for a total of nearly 1 million LEDs.

Costumed animal mascots and elves will provide entertainment as well as fun photo opportunities, and groups performing holiday musical selections will play throughout the zoo's Elephant Plaza. Some of the zoo's favorite animals will be visible at night as well. Guests can visit sea otters, polar bears, penguins, mountain goats, leopards, tigers, some primates and elephants.

ZooLights hours are 5-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5-8:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday. ZooLights package tickets, which include admission and a train ride, are $12.50 for adults (12-64), $11 for seniors (65 and older), $9.50 for children (3-11) and free for children 2 and under. Admission-only prices are $10 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, $7 for children and free for children 2 and under.