ZooLights in Oregon: Why it's Better than Ever (plus a giveaway!)

Last week was our final week with a French friend--she had been living with us for three months, and without a visa to stay longer, her time in the U.S. was legally drawing to an end. As you can imagine, we had several activities that we wanted to squeeze in with her before she left. ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo was one of them. (I'm happy to give you a chance to win tickets. Just keep reading!) Here's why I think ZooLights is better this year than ever before:

Oregon Zoo Zoolights Holiday musicians breme

First, we went on a weekday before Christmas break, so there was plenty of parking. Arriving at 4:30pm meant that we skipped the crowds who might arrive after family members get off work. If you're concerned about crowds, you can print tickets at home before you arrive.

In past years, visitors have had to form long lines for the train ride. No longer! When you purchase your train tickets at the entry, you can choose a time slot, which frees you up to explore the zoo until your chosen train time. But If you miss your chosen train, no worries--you'll be admitted after your time if needed. The train ride is short--almost surprisingly so, but it can provide a brief respite from walking.

Oregon Zoo Train Christmas lights Zoolights

New this year is the carousel, which features a variety of animals. It's bright lighting makes it a good place for photos. Another great photo stop is in the tunnel of lights to the right of the Baobab tree.

Oregon Zoo Carousel Zoolights Christmas
My toddler and I

My toddler and I

What takes the ZooLights experience up a notch? To quote Tom Hanks in Polar Express, "Hot, hot, hot, hot chocolate!" The sweet folks in charge of social media at the Zoo gave my family ZooLights mugs to fill at any café kiosk. My husband and I couldn't decide which flavor was better--my peppermint hot chocolate or his original. Both were astonishingly good! But to save on costs, you can always bring mugs of hot chocolate from home, which I've done in years past.

While ZooLights is a walking experience focused on the million and a half lights on display, you may still catch a glimpse of some animals. We saw a mountain goat, seals, sea otter, fish, bats, and elephants. Not bad for a nighttime show!

Oregon Zoo lighted trees walking path Christmas Zoolights

On the night we visited, the cloud cover kept the night crisp but not cold, and we definitely were impressed by some breathtaking and vibrant light displays. If you're interested in going, Mondays through Thursdays are cheaper until Christmas break.

The Oregon Zoo kindly provided us with tickets for this event. If you'd like a chance to win 4 tickets to ZooLights this year on the night of your choice, leave a comment about a favorite family memory involving Christmas lights, or tell me about a light display near you. I'll randomly select a winner on Monday, December 12th. Bonne chance (good luck)!

And the winner is . . . Resa, with comment #14 chosen by my children in a random number drawing this morning. Congrats, Resa!