From zoo sparkle to gaudy neighborhood displays, where to trip the holiday lights fantastic!
There's nothing like a stunning display of Christmas and holiday lights to evoke childhood memories. Treat your family to some glowing, electric, "ooh-ahh" joy this season by visiting one of the many spectacular displays lighting up zoos, gardens and neighborhoods.
WildLights. Photo credit: Ryan Hawk
WildLights, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle
WildLights Santa. Photo credit: Ryan Hawk
Woodland Park Zoo's annual holiday lights show features wild animals and exotic destination scenes illuminated by more than 600,000 LED lights. Santa will also be visiting WildLights every Friday–Sunday during the lights festival and also Monday–Thursday, Dec. 19–23; you may stop by Santa's camp to say hello and get your holiday photo (packages for purchase). There is also a holiday wine and beer garden for guests 21 and older, reindeer to visit (at the shelter near the carousel) and take a night ride on the zoo's historic decorated carousel ($2/ride). Once again, the Zoomazium becomes Snowmazium, with evening story times and "snowball" fights. Special nights this year include "Pokemon Go Night" on Nov. 30 and "Seahawks Night" on Dec. 12.
Details: Open nightly from Nov. 25–Jan. 1, from 5:30–8:30 p.m. (zoo grounds open until 9 p.m, closed Dec. 24–Dec. 25). Tickets cost $7.95–$9.95; ages 0-2 free. Buy online. There are several family-friendly eateries within walking distance of the zoo, including Zeek's Pizza and Phinney Market Pub & Eatery (with a play area!).
Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden
Bellevue Botanical Garden's annual lights show is stunning, affordable and a bit wild (don't let your toddler run too fast ahead of you on that dark garden path). Over half a million sparkling lights are twisted by volunteers into fanciful flower and critter shapes; don't miss finding Charlotte, Willie the Slug or the smoking dragon. Visit early in the evening (or very late) to avoid crowds.
Details: Open nightly Nov. 26–Dec. 31, from 4:30–9 p.m. Tickets are only $5; ages 10 and under free. Reserve tickets online to avoid long lines. Free-admission nights are Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (expect a wait). Premium parking is available for $5 in the garden lot or park for free at Wilburton Hill Park.
Photo credit: omungous, flickr cc
Ivar’s Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Memorial Park, Renton
This classic display of lights decorating dozens of trees and shrubs along a walkable one-mile path in Gene Coulon Memorial Park, at the southern tip of Lake Washington, is free of charge. The fun kicks off on Friday evening, Dec. 2 with the official lighting ceremony, complete with photo opportunities with Santa and friends (6:15–8 p.m. — bring your camera), live entertainment, the Rainier Yacht Club's Parade of Boats (7:30 p.m.) and an appearance by the Argosy Christmas Ship with a performance by the Dickens Carolers (8 p.m.). Kids will love running the boardwalk trails at the park.
Details: Open nightly from Dec. 2–Jan. 1, from 5–9 p.m. Free. If you're hungry or need a warm-up, Ivar's and Kidd Valley are right there.
Zoolights, polar bear display
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma
One of the region's most beloved displays, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's spectacular show comprises more than half a million LED lights. The scenes range from old favorites such as the green-and-purple flame tree and huge roaring tiger to newer scenes such as the 15.5-foot-tall Mount Rainier, the happy polar bear family, and the 12th Man Seahawks tree. New displays include hammerhead sharks, a giant Pacific octopus, a huge rock crab with moving pincers and a tranquil marine life scene. Kids can also see live animals including sea creatures, goats, and meerkats. And don't forget evening camel ($7) and carousel ($1.50) rides!
Details: Open nightly from Nov. 25–Jan. 1, 5–9 p.m. (closed Dec. 24). Tickets cost $8.50–$10 for non-members, $5 for members; under age 2 free. Buy online or at Fred Meyer stores for discounts and you can also purchase a combo pass at the front gates for both daytime entrance to the zoo and Zoolights. Stop by the Antique Sandwich Company (on Pearl Street) for a bite on the way, or the cafe at the zoo. If Tacoma is a trek for you, make a day of it and hit the museums in downtown Tacoma, from LeMay-America's Car Museum to the Tacoma Art Museum to the pay-as-you-can Children's Museum of Tacoma.
This two-mile display is the largest drive-through light show in the Northwest, now in its 22nd year of delighting families with hundreds of holiday scenes along the lake. Highlights include Santa and Rudolph sailing a tall ship, a reindeer leaping over your car and a giant tail-wagging dog. Tune your radio to 95.3 FM to enhance your trip with a special selection of holiday music. Tip: This popular event typically has an hour wait on Friday and Saturday nights, so try weeknights for a less crowded drive. If your family is into antique cars, consider combining it with a trip to see the nearby LeMay Family Collection at Marymount Event Center (open Tuesday–Sunday).