Seattle's Child

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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: 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 really is. There are so many lights! (Some 700,000, 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 worked well. We have not formed a “bubble” with these friends, so we needed to basically treat them like strangers (six feet apart!), and that was frustrating when we wanted to catch up with people we love and hadn’t seen in months. We did our best.

Point Defiance is enforcing strict capacity limits so, with a few exceptions — the rainbow tunnel, for instance — we could keep our distance from people without even giving it much thought. Zoo staff check for masks upon entrance and remind visitors to keep them on. To our chagrin, we saw at least one maskless person later. With a spread-out venue, everyone’s sort of on the honor system, so the best you can do is keep an eye out, and keep your distance.

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.
  • Beware of spacing. We found the zoo overall to be quite uncrowded, but people can’t help but gather at certain points. Be mindful.

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 the website editor for Seattle's Child. She is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 13-year-old girl.