November 21, 2011  9:17 AM

Oregon Zoo to illuminate the holidays at 23rd annual ZooLights

 
Zoo Lights train The light-bedecked Oregon steam engine chugs through a winter wonderland during ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. ZooLights, presented by Fred Meyer with support from The Boeing Company, begins Friday, Nov. 25 and runs through Jan. 1 at the zoo. Photo by Carli Davidson, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

Popular display opens Nov. 25 with more than a million colorful lights

The Oregon Zoo invites visitors to brighten their holiday nights at ZooLights, where sparkling lights and brilliant hues transform the zoo into a winter wonderland. Presented by Fred Meyer with support from Boeing Co., the traditional holiday light show begins Friday, Nov. 25, and runs through Jan. 1 at the zoo.

ZooLights has delighted visitors for more than two decades with its dazzling life-size animal silhouettes, moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and light-bedecked train. Covered in holiday finery, the zoo's famous "Oregon" steam engine takes guests on an express jaunt around the grounds to see light displays visible only from the train.

"ZooLights is a great way to start the holiday season," said zoo director Kim Smith. "We’re looking forward to unveiling some spectacular new light displays on Thanksgiving weekend."

New to ZooLights this winter are strings of lights that depict cascading snow. Visitors should also keep an eye out for silhouettes of gnomes: The fantastical garden-dwellers are part of a scavenger hunt that can win sharp-eyed visitors a prize at the Zoo Store.

Much-loved displays from previous years make an encore appearance. 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.

In keeping with the zoo’s commitment to sustainability, most of the lights displayed are light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which use only about 1 percent of the power of standard holiday lights, and about 10 percent of the power in mini-lights. LEDs don’t burn out the way traditional bulbs do, ensuring a long lasting, eco-friendly ZooLights experience.

Costumed animal mascots and elves will provide entertainment as well as fun photo opportunities, and sounds of the season will resound throughout the Elephant Plaza, with more than 100 groups performing holiday musical selections. The Tualatin Valley Model Railroad Club is continuing its popular model train exhibit in the Elephant Museum.

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 Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5 to 8:30 p.m. ZooLights will be closed Dec. 24 and 25. ZooLights package tickets, which include admission and a train ride, are $10.75 for adults (12-64), $9.25 for seniors (65 and older), $7.75 for children (3-11) and free for children 2 and under. Admission-only prices are $9 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, $6 for children and free for children 2 and under.

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