CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A holiday tradition will light up the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for the 37th annual PNC Festival of Lights.
The “Wild Wonderland” will open for Member Preview Night Friday and open to the public Saturday. The display features three million LED lights in ten different colors on 120,000 strings of lights. Workers and volunteers started transforming the zoo for Festival of Lights in August.
“I love that it's become such a family tradition,” Zoo director, Thane Maynard, said. “37 years means three generations have come to see the PNC Festival of Lights. My own kids grew up here when they were little kids and now they're grown.”
The displays will light up from five to nine p.m. Sunday through Thursday and five to ten p.m. Friday and Saturday. Festival of Lights will run through January 4th.
Santa will light the Christmas tree at Member Preview Night and will be available for visits and pictures at four p.m. each day before the rest of the festivities begin.
There are crowd favorites and magical new experiences this year.
There’s a new, immersive “Northern Lights” experience and Hippo Cove is lit up for the first time. Hippo Cove has been transformed into Fiona’s Fairyland. Families can search for Fiona fairy statues hidden in the lights and take holiday pictures in the Hippo Hut.
“It's a very whimsical, very fun area just like Fiona is and actually when we were hanging the lights, Fiona was watching us hang them so it was pretty fun for that to happen too,” Zoo spokeswoman, Angela Hatke, said.
There are new giant animal lanterns this year, including some that fit the Roo Valley theme, opening soon.
While it may be too cold for several of the animal exhibits, guests can see animals inside one of the several indoor, heated buildings.
This will be the last year for the 4D Theater and Polar Express. The space will be transformed after the Festival of Lights into a new food and retail space opening next year.
The PNC Festival of Lights was voted #1 Zoo Lights in the Country by USA Today in 2018 and is nominated for the title again. You can vote daily for the Cincinnati Zoo through this link.
There are other events to enjoy including the Madcap black-light puppet show and the Wild Lights show on Swan Lake.
People will be able to enjoy the traditional roasted almonds and hot chocolate as well as the S’mores-n-More stands. A third fire pit was added this year to Base Camp in Africa.
The Zoo’s new craft beer garden, Hops, features heat lamps to allow visitors to enjoy the lights and a beer in the cold weather.