The lights are starting to appear on houses all over the area. The Alum Creek State Park Fantasy of Lights started a ten days ago. Tom, Jackie, John and I went to see Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. Christmas lights are a wonderful way to start getting in the spirit of the season.
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo is included in most lists of best displays of Christmas lights in Ohio. Jackie has wanted to go for a while, so we took advantage of the “free” admission on opening night. On the first night, November 18, you can get in free if you bring five non-perishable food items for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. It is called “Stuff the Truck” and we were four among thousands of people that helped to stuff two semi trucks and then fill dozens of pallets with food for the food bank.
We arrived around 6 pm and drove straight up to one of the semis where volunteers were collecting and packing the food. We gave them our donation and received our four tickets for admission. Then we parked and headed up to the entrance. Compared to the last time we were at the Zoo, the parking lot felt full, but we didn’t know how full it was going to get!
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo is a gorgeous display of lights. Every tree was draped with lights, every trunk covered in lights. There were a few animal light displays, but the real showcase was the lake in the center of the Zoo that had a light program coordinated with music. Every 15 minutes the program would begin again and people would crowd around the shore of the lake to watch.
We walked around all the open parts of the Zoo hoping to see some animals, but most of them were (wisely) asleep. We did see some reindeer and a cougar who were awake. We also saw a sleeping rhinoceros and several sleeping bears. In the Asia exhibit, a volunteer pointed out the red pandas asleep in the treetops.
The Zoo was dark except for the Christmas lights, but there were so many lights that it wasn’t hard to see. As we went into the Zoo, we could pick up a list of nocturnal animals we might see. But, as the evening went on, the Zoo got more and more crowded. By 7:30 we were so packed in that it felt like we could hardly move. There were families with strollers and wagons everywhere and kids playing on every surface. We went to the Aquarium but couldn’t get through it because of the number of people, and there were huge lines outside the manatee exhibit. We all agreed that, although the lights were beautiful, it was time to leave.
When we walked back out to the car, we could see that the parking lots now looked full with lines of cars still coming in. The full semi-trucks had left and volunteers were placing the food donations on pallets. We exited via Riverside Drive and there were cars lined up for miles to get into the Zoo for Wildlights.
We enjoyed seeing the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. If you want to see them, I would suggest you skip opening night unless that free admission is the only way you will go. Also, whenever you go, go early when it is less crowded. Of course, the weather might have had something to do with the nearly 30,000 people who attended the first night: the temperature was a mild 50 degrees.
The Wildlights are certainly worth seeing. They were beautiful and are certainly an act of love by all the volunteers who spent hours putting them up. I’m sure the Mid-Ohio Food Bank was pleased with the first night’s attendance and all the food they collected.