Photo: Oregon Zoo
A Northwest holiday tradition is back! ZooLights, presented by U.S. Bank, runs through Jan. 9 at the Oregon Zoo, showcasing a winter wonderland of more than 1.5 million brightly colored lights.
This year marks the 34th ZooLights for guest services manager Ivan Ratcliff, who started working at the zoo in 1982 and has been involved with the light display since its inception. We checked in with him and gleaned these six tips to save money, avoid lines and get the most enjoyment out of your ZooLights experience.
1. Tickets are only available online so plan ahead.
“We have timed ticketing with capacity restrictions so you need to make reservations online, for a specific date and time,” Ratcliff said. “I can’t stress this enough: ZooLights tickets are not available at the gate. Most nights will sell out so it’s best to purchase tickets for your desired night well in advance.”
2. Ride MAX to the zoo.
“MAX is a great way to get here,” Ratcliff said. “The Washington Park stop lets you off just in front of the zoo entrance, and you don’t have to deal with traffic or parking.” For additional transportation info, go to gettingtozoolights.com.
3. Get in the holiday spirit early.
“Typically, the most popular ZooLights nights are on Fridays, Saturdays and the two weeks when school’s out,” Ratcliff said. “But if you come on Sundays and Mondays early in the season, you can avoid the big crowds and save money.”
4. Keep your face warm with a mask.
“Face masks are required all times — outdoors and indoors — for all guests 5 years and older, except when actively eating or drinking,” Ratcliff said. Drive-through guests do not need to wear masks while inside their vehicles but do need them during check-in and other interactions with ZooLights staff.
5. Leave your studded tires at home.
“On drive-through nights, remember not to bring a vehicle with studded tires or chains,” Ratcliff said. “Our pathways are not equipped to handle them.”
6. Pre-order some hot chocolate and elephant ears.
“For drive-through guests, elephant ears, hot chocolate and other zoo favorites are only available when purchasing your tickets online,” Ratcliff said. “Make sure to pre-order so you don’t miss out.”
ZooLights is a special event and is not included with regular daytime admission. To prepare grounds for the drive-through experience, the zoo will remain closed during regular daytime hours on Tuesdays through Thursdays beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 23 (except during Portland Public Schools’ winter break). This temporary daytime schedule will continue through Feb. 17, allowing the zoo to conduct maintenance work during some of its lightest attended days of the year.
Source: Oregon Zoo