News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Young Life: Bask in the holiday glow
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Children wishing that the magical glow of Christmas could continue just a little longer are in luck! The folks at the National Zoo have extended their annual ZooLights celebration for the longest time in its six-year history, and families will be able to explore the sparkling wonderland through Jan. 1.
The lighting display incorporates 500,000 LED lights in flashing sculptures, including leaping frogs, dashing cheetahs, roaming elephants, and even naked mole rats! This year more trees and plants than ever will be wrapped in lights for an awe-inspiring glittering display as they twinkle and change colors in synchronization with holiday music.
The dazzling exhibit can be explored either on foot or aboard the National Zoo Choo Choo, a trackless train that will carry guests along the Great Cats exhibit trail.
The Visitor Center will give guests an opportunity not only to “thaw their paws” but also to explore two longstanding special holiday features of the zoo: the train show and Gin-GRR-Bread Habitat contest and exhibit.
This year’s train exhibit will be the largest ever, featuring train layouts on three levels—a Wildlife Train Park featuring hand-carved figurines depicting animals from both traditional and modern stories and fables; a LEGO® Village, complete with trains, boats and planes; and a LEGO® 12-foot scale model of the Smithsonian Castle composed of 45,000 toy bricks.
The theme of this year’s Gin-GRR-Bread display is “A Winter’s Tail on American Trail,” featuring creative scenarios with animals of the North American species that live in the environs of zoo’s newest exhibit. The innovative edible dioramas of the habitats of playful otters, beavers, and slippery sea lions are sure to elicit smiles and chuckles and, if they spark a desire to see the zoo’s animals, visitors are, again, in luck.
The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank and Kids’ Farm will all be open to the public every night, with periodic special demonstrations and talks by the zoo’s experts.
Once again, a longstanding favorite of the event, Panda Claws, will be performing in his giant snow globe and will be mingling with guests at the Mane Restaurant for unique holiday photo ops.
In addition to the traditional attractions of the ZooLights celebration, this year will unveil two special features. On Lion and Tiger Hill, guests will have an opportunity to take an exhilarating Snowless Tubing ride down one of two 150-foot “snow-tubing” tracks.
Meanwhile, visitors young and old will delight in the zoo’s newest permanent feature—the Conservation Carousel. One of the few solar-powered carousels in the world, the merry-go-round is composed of 58 deftly handcrafted rideable figures, ranging from king penguins, flamingos, and crocodiles to cuttlefish!
The ZooLights celebration has become a holiday tradition for many families and attracted more than 130,000 visitors last year.
“It’s a great family fun activity,” said zoo spokesperson Devin Murphy. “It’s easy to do, it’s free, and there is something enchanting and magical about being able to tour the zoo at night!”
What: ZooLights Light Display and Celebration
Where:The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington
When: Now through Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 31) 5–9 p.m. Daytime hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Animal Houses and exhibits).
Cost: Admission is free. (Carousel, Snowless Tubing, and Zoo Choo Choo $3)
Info: 202/633-2614; national zoo.si.edu
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.