A holiday tradition that everyone enjoys!

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A holiday tradition for your whole family

The Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas is a wonderful holiday tradition. Visitors enjoy displays containing millions of lights and many other holiday-themed attractions. Enjoy a holiday-themed Festive Feast at the Holiday Lodge, Watch the Dancing Lights display near Cheetah Valley, hear the joyous sounds of carolers on selected evenings, and of course don’t forget visits with Santa in the Museum. Our award-winning Nature’s Neighborhood is also open and buzzing with holiday activity. This year we have some new experiences that your entire family can enjoy!

What’s new in 2014?

Ice Slide and Live Reindeer at the Winter Village!

Sponsored by

Live Reindeer at the new Winter Village

Meet a live reindeer at our new Winter Village with North Pole decor, and visit the marketplace for treats, glow items, or stocking stuffers. You can also purchase food and beverages and warm up by the fire pit. The Winter Village is located at the Broadway Pavilion and opens daily from 3:00 pm until the Zoo closes.

Ice Slide:

Start your holiday season with a thrilling trip down the Ice Slide located at the Zoo Amphitheatre. The Ice Slide has three lanes and opens daily at 3:00 pm and operates until the Zoo closes.  Riders must be at least 42 inches tall.
Ride passes:
• Three-ride pass: $5
• Seven-ride pass:  $10
Ride passes are valid for all other Zoo rides until January 4, 2015

Meet players from the Toledo Walleye


On December 1, from 5pm to 7pm, you can hang out with players from the Toledo Walleye hockey team at the Zoo amphitheatre as they cruise down the ice slide and sign autographs for fans. The Toledo Zoo is also a partner for the Toledo Walleye Winterfest event from December 26 to January 4.  Visit http://www.toledowalleye.com/winterfest/winterfest-2014 for more information

Leg Lamp Photo Opportunity

Sponsored by KeyBank
The classic holiday film, A Christmas Story is the theme for a fun, new interactive display. While visiting the North Star Trading Post, visitors will have a fun opportunity to take their own free photos with an iconic leg lamp like the one featured in the film. For added fun visitors can purchase cookies in the shape of leg lamps, or even tasty fudge formed to resemble a bar of soap. Other discount promotions may be offered so be sure to stop by!


Win the Leg Lamp & a Family Zoo Membership!
Share your photo with the Leg Lamp on Twitter
Follow @KeyBank and use #KeyZooLights in your Tweet to enter

KeyBank Sweepstakes Official Rules
*Rules are also posted near the leg lamp display

Share YOUR Moments


The new Share YOUR Moments program lets you post personal messages on multiple video monitors throughout the Zoo for one full week. Personalize your visit to Lights Before Christmas with a warm holiday greeting, celebrate a milestone, or even pop the question! We have options for messages with photos, or text-only options and there are several designs to choose from.  The proceeds from Share YOUR Moments also benefit the Companies for Kids and Zoo PAL programs at the Toledo Zoo. Learn more

Even more FUN…

There is so much more to experience at Lights Before Christmas! Enjoy a Festive Feast, Visit Santa, watch the Dancing lights, listen to carolers, marvel at ice carvings, visit Nature’s Neighborhood for crafts and model trains, and more (details are available below, after the Lights Before Christmas admission and hours information). 

Lights Before Christmas admission rates:

Lights Before Christmas admission
*Rates apply at 3pm each day during the Lights. Lucas County discounts do not apply for admission to special events, including Lights Before Christmas
Adults (age 12-59): $13
Seniors (age 60+): $10
Children (age 2-11): $10
Children under age 2: free


Save $1 per ticket when you purchase your Lights Before Christmas tickets online.

Make it an outing with advance group admission rates
(Group rates apply only for groups of 20 or more that have made advance arrangements through the Group Sales department at 419.385.5721, extension 6001.)
Adults (age 12-59): $11
Seniors (age 60+): $8
Children (age 2-11): $8
Children under age 2: free

Special Admission

Active or retired military members receive free admission, and members of their group of 20 or less receive $1 off each ticket when accompanied by the military member. Discount also applies for military dependents with proof of military ID if the military member is absent during the visit. Military discounts must be purchased at the gate and can’t be combined with other discounts.

Toledo Zoo members
Members receive unlimited Monday through Thursday Lights Before Christmas visits with a valid Toledo Zoo membership card.  Be sure to bring your membership card with you when you visit – the free admission is valid only for those persons covered under your membership category and both named members are required to show a second form of identification.  Please note that you cannot substitute a friend or relative for a named cardholder if they are not able to attend.

As a member, you also receive one free weekend visit (Friday through Sunday). When you visit Friday through Sunday, all family members should attend together. If your child uses your membership card to visit on a weekend, for example, this will count as your family’s one free weekend visit, and the rest of your family will be charged if you visit again Friday through Sunday. One of the named cardholders must be present whenever guest privileges are used. If you are Family Plus level or above and bring guests, your guests privileges will be marked and documented accordingly; unlimited free admission is not valid for guests. Reciprocal memberships are not valid for Lights Before Christmas admission.

Save money on your Lights admission
Look for specially marked Pepsi and Diet Pepsi cans, with an offer to get a child’s Lights ticket free with the purchase of an adult’s Lights ticket at regular price.

2014 Lights Before Christmas hours:

November 14, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

Sunday - Thursday: 3-8pm (Zoo closes at 9pm)

Friday and Saturday: 3-9pm (Zoo closes at 10pm)

Click here for detailed driving directions and maps

Zoo gifts are the best!

Looking for the perfect gift for friends and family members? Zoo gift cards, Zoo memberships, Wine Tastings and Zoo PAL animal adoptions make wonderful presents. We even have gifts for Zoo animals through our Giving Tree program.  Click here to learn more about our Zoo Gift Ideas web page

More fun at Lights Before Christmas

Festive Feast at the Holiday Lodge


Enjoy a wonderful holiday experience at the Zoo! Meet the Winter Sisters presented by Laurel’s Princess Parties on December 1, 2, 3 or have fun with Ellie the Elf and Mrs. Claus on December 8, 9, 15, 16, 17. Enjoy a bountiful feast complete with a delicious dessert, Zoo animal encounter, holiday crafts and more. Click here for more details

Visit Santa!

Santa Claus greets visitors at the Museum’s Great Hall each day starting at 5:00 pm in front of the Fac-TOY-ry display.  Paid Santa photo packages are available, along with assorted concessions and treats. Little ones are always excited around the holidays, especially when it comes to seeing Santa, so be sure to come see him!

Ice-carving Demos

Add some artistic coolness to your Lights visit with an ice-carving demonstration. Come to the Broadway Pavilion area and watch these masterpieces take form right before your eyes every Thursday evening in December, starting at 6pm.

Model Train Display


The model trains display by the Swanton Area Railroad and Model Club is always a favorite at Lights Before Christmas. Visitors of all ages love to watch the model trains circle around a small town decked out with hundreds of lighted displays, holiday scenery and plenty of fun, intricate details to discover.

Your favorite rides are part of the fun!

Safari Railway in Africa!: $1.25 per rider
African Animal Carousel in Africa!: $2 per rider
Historic carousel: $1.50 per rider

Ride Passes
Add to the fun (and your savings) with winter ride passes! Ride passes allow you to ride the attraction of your choice, including the Zoo’s train in Africa! and either of the Zoo’s carousels or use it for a wild ride down the Ice Slide!. Operation of all rides is contingent on weather conditions. Ride passes will be available for purchase at the Safari Railway window and The African carousel window, or at the Ice Slide.
• Three-ride pass: $5
• Seven-ride pass:  $10

Summed up with yum

From handmade fudge, funnel cakes and fresh popcorn to cinnamon-glazed nuts, cinnamon pretzels and of course those holiday cookies, we’ll add a sweet touch to your evening. We’ve got hot chocolate, cappuccino, latte and more to wash it down, too, along with more substantial meals in Carnivore Cafe near Cheetah Valley and at Karoo Snacks in our Africa! exhibit.

Treat your company or organization

The Lights Before Christmas is a great way to thank your employees. For more information on group tickets (20 or more) and rental facilities, call the Group Sales Department at the Zoo at 419.385.5721, ext. 3092. We also have several great options for holiday parties at the Toledo Zoo! Click here to learn more

Toledo Zoo Giving Tree

We all love the song I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, but what about Christmas for a hippopotamus?

You can give gifts to Zoo animals (even hippos!) through our Giving Tree program. Excellent animal care is part of the Toledo Zoo’s mission, and part of that care is offering enrichment to our animals. Through the Giving Tree program, you contribute to our animal enrichment programs, by purchasing enrichment items online or visiting the Giving Tree at Nature’s Neighborhood to pick a gift for Zoo animals.  Click here to learn more Join us on December 31 for Noon Year’s Eve, when many animals will receive their Giving Tree treats while you watch!

Animals at the Lights

The main focus of the Lights is on the “electrical spectacle” Zoo-wide. But winter is also a great time to see cool-climate animals like polar bears, seals, wolves, Amur tigers and snow leopards. Many other animals, like elephants, giraffes, naked mole rats, frogs, snakes and our huge saltwater crocodile, Baru, have indoor viewing. Some animals do come off exhibit in the evenings, though, so if your goal is to see many animals and a million-plus Lights, we recommend that you arrive earlier in the day (well before 3pm) and then stay for the Lights. Your one admission covers both the Zoo and the Lights.

Fun facts about the Lights Before Christmas

• The electrical spectacle known as the Dancing Lights and the 85-foot Norway Spruce are decorated with all wide-angle LED lights.
•The Lights Before Christmas began in 1986 with 50,000 lights and an attendance of 71,000 visitors; the record attendance for a Lights season was 2012, with 179,267 visitors.
• The Toledo Zoo began using energy-efficient LED lights in 2002. Today, over half our lights are LEDs.
• A core crew of 12-15 employees from the Zoo’s Horticulture Department starts hanging lights in early August.
• There are two techniques are used to hang lights: draping and wrapping. If all the lights were strung end-to-end, they would reach nearly 70 miles.
• Nearly 50,000 feet of extension cords are used—that’s almost 10 miles!
• The Zoo makes more than 2,700 pounds of fudge during the Lights, along with about 6,800 gallons of hot chocolate, more than 6,000 cinnamon pretzels, and 3,800+ gingerbread men.
• After the Lights Before Christmas, it takes about 2 months to take down all the lights, then sort and store them for the following year.
Big Tree stats:
- In 2011, Travelocity named the Big Tree one of the top holiday trees in the nation.
- The Big Tree is a Norway spruce located near the Broadway entrance by the Conservatory.
- It’s 65-70 years old and more than 85 feet tall.
- The lowest branches from tip to tip are 50’ in diameter.
- The trunk circumference is 8 feet 7 inches and it is estimated to weigh 7 tons—about as much as the combined weight of Renee and Louie, two of our African elephants.
- More than 35,000 energy-efficient LED lights cover the Big Tree (almost 3 miles of lights).
- It takes a crew approximately one week to decorate the entire tree.

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