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ZooLights parent review

ZooLights at Point Defiance: 700,000 lights in all kinds of beautiful displays. Mask up and keep your distance. (Photos: Julie Hanson)

ZooLights at Point Defiance: An uncrowded, fresh-air festivity

Here's how our visit was different, but still fun, this year.

ZooLights parent review, updated for 2022: Say what you will about seeing Christmas lights from the comfort of your car, I’d rather be on foot and that’s why I was so happy to return to ZooLights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma.

It had been a few years since we visited, and I always forget what a lovely spectacle it is. There are so many lights! (Some 800,000, according to the website.) And such creative installations: a giant pink octupus, a stunning Mount Rainier, a bouncing kangaroo (complete with Joey), a Sasquatch, a Tacoma Narrows Bridge …

We met another family to walk through the zoo together. It’s kind of an off-and-on tradition for us. This year they’ve added an outdoor beer garden and bonfire.

One great thing is that you can keep a safe distance from other families if that is important to you.

ZooLights parent review, summing up: Go do this if you like seeing lights in the open air and don’t mind being a bit chilly. Also:

  • Buy tickets early. They are limited, and they are going fast. (Being a zoo member or BECU member gives you more options.)
  • Bundle up. These early-winter evenings can be brisk. That’s one of the things I love about a walk-through event like this, but not everyone — even in my own family — agrees with me about how wonderful it is.
  • Another option: Parent review of WildLanterns event at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.


Side note: As we were merrily driving through the park, we suddenly reached a roadblock and a zoo staffer who informed us of a detour. We needed to take the “back way” to get to the zoo because they were temporarily closing the main road to bring in a crane to move a walrus. No kidding. He assured us that everything was OK with the walrus and that this was a temporary road closure. It’s unlikely this will happen to you, but it was just too odd not to share.

This story was originally published on Dec. 14, 2020.

ZooLights parent review

Everybody wants to stop for a photo in the rainbow tunnel (and why wouldn’t you?) so be sure to keep an eye on spacing. (Photo: Julie Hanson)



About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.