By Maria Grund ’14

Whether for a girls night out, special date night, or just a fun way to kick off winter break after exams, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Wildlights is the perfect evening event. This is the zoo’s 24th year hosting the event, and once again they have put on a spectacular show with over 3 million LED lights placed around the park.

Wildlights has been open since Nov. 16, and will stay open through Jan. 1. On school nights (Sun-Thurs) the zoo hours go from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. and on weekends Wildlights stays open another hour so visitors have the option of staying until 10p.m. Tickets are standard zoo admission, but at $15 a person the evening can get a little pricey.

Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted with the sounds of Christmas music, a stunning display of lights, and the smell of freshly popped popcorn. There are lights hanging from every tree, turning the Zoo into a winter wonderland. The focal point of the park is the light show that takes place around the lake near the front entrance. The red, green, and white lights are synchronized with the music to flash and blink to the beat of the catchy Christmas carols.

However, entering the park poses a problem due to the zoo’s popularity. It can take up to 15 minutes simply to get through the string of cars that awaits admittance into the parking lot. Once a parking space has been found (a rare commodity) another 10 or so minutes must be spent waiting in line to purchase a ticket. Only then can visitors enter the park to see the stunning display of lights.

A large portion of the attractions are geared towards families, especially ones with younger children. A lot of the extra activities such as the train ride are meant for kids roughly between the ages of three and nine. However, there are attractions that appeal to both age groups. The light show is fun for all ages, and the wide variety of animals provides every age group with more than enough entertainment for an evening.

Be prepared to bundle up! Once the sun goes down, the park gets chilly. Luckily, there are Tim Hortons and Bob Evans stands strategically located throughout the park selling warm snacks for zoo goers to munch on. Gloves and a scarf wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The lights are set up to guide visitors to the open attractions, and steer them away from the closed ones. The African exhibit contains very few lights because many of its attractions are closed, and the animals can’t be viewed due to their sleeping schedules or the cold temperatures.

However, one benefit to the evening hours is the activity of the nocturnal animals. Creatures such as the bats are asleep during normal zoo hours, but during Wildlights they are awake and active.

Even though the lines are a hassle, Wildlights is worth the wait. The excitement of seeing the wide range of animals along with the millions of perfectly strung Christmas decorations is worth more than the cost of admission. If visitors are willing to brave the cold, Wildlights is the perfect way to relax over winter break, after all the stress of exams.