I cherish memories of visiting the Festival of Lights with my family from when I was a little girl. Now, I look forward to taking my own kids every single year! There is nothing better in the world than seeing your child’s eyes light up with pure, unfiltered excitement. The Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is sure to give your kids that look of being awe-struck (basking in the glow of 2.5 million lights has that effect on you)!
Our very favorite light attraction this year was the new cinema themed Swan Lake Wild Lights Show. We loved guessing what movie each song was from, before a visual clue was given on the LED tree (a raptor claw for Jurassic Park, Darth Vader for Star Wars, etc.) It was like a movie-themed game of “named that tune” … with lights!
Other favorites we enjoyed included: making s’mores, riding the carousel and train, visiting Santa’s reindeer, and watching the Madcap puppet show. We loved the hidden mouse inside each home of the Gingerbread Village! And Frozen fans will absolutely adore the new display devoted to Anna and Elsa.
My favorite memory of the evening was with my 2-year-old and Mrs. Claus. My youngest son and I went to the gift store to stay warm for a few minutes while big brother and Dad got some snacks. We were pleased to see Mrs. Claus, and went up to say hello. My son knew the drill, to cozy up on her lap, but from there he usually gets shy and quiet. Mrs. Claus knew just what to do, she engaged in conversation with him in a quiet, sweet voice. “Do you know what Santa’s favorite drink is?” Luca looked intrigued, “No?” Mrs. Claus went on to tell that Santa loves hot chocolate and that he stirs it with a peppermint stick. She let him touch her pretty jingle bell bracelet, and talked (and sang!) with him for a few more minutes. It was such a kind moment that makes me believe she might just be the real Mrs. Claus!
On top of all the lights, attractions, characters and yummy food, you will also enjoy seeing the zoo animals at night! The elephants were happily playing with barrels filled with hay and popcorn! The giraffes were indoors enjoying a late night snack. And Santa’s reindeer were keeping a watchful eye on all the boys and girls to make sure they were being nice. You may also be lucky enough to stumble upon a zoo employee with an owl or snake! It’s a great opportunity to get a closer view of some cool critters.
We had a great time during our visit to Festival of Lights! When you plan on seeing the lights yourself, try visiting on a weekday, or earlier in the evening, to avoid crowds.
If you are looking for a kid friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, I would recommend the Zoo! Happy Zoo Years includes a Madcap puppet show that is followed up with a great Rozzi’s firework show at 8:55 p.m. Plus all the lights and all the animals! What a great way to ring in the New Year.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
3400 Vine Street