Phoenix Zoolights – A Holiday Tradition

Phoenix, Arizona.

For some 27 years, the Phoenix Zoo has been open during holiday evenings with a spectacular lighting display known as Zoolights. Every year, a small cadre of staff put design and install the sculptures in light, the total of which amounts to north of 1.5 million tiny bulbs.

As you wander through the park, you’ll hear plenty of the sounds of Christmas and on the lake, an animated lightshow pulsates in time to the holiday themes.

This was our first trip to the zoo, but we’d been warned not to expect to see many of the zoo’s inhabitants. At night, it’s all about the lights. This year, though, they are featuring Snowflake, the reindeer pictured above, and a few other caribou. The star of the exhibit is an unnamed newborn that is currently the subject of a contest to name the baby reindeer. Though the newborn was on display, the light there was very dim and even my Sony’s f/1.8 lens was not enough to provide a clear image.

Expect to take a couple of hours to explore the many lighted paths, more if you have youngsters in tow. The carousel and other attractions are open as well. The cost of admission is reasonable, an online ticket can be purchased in 2018 for $18 USD, a $2 savings from purchasing at the gate. Not only do you save a couple bucks, you avoid waiting in a line to purchase tickets at the gate. You can even save a couple of extra dollars by purchasing Value Night tickets. Those nights are typically mid-week evenings, but check their website for specific dates. Don’t show up on the wrong night with a Value Night ticket, it will not let you in. Zoo members get an even bigger discount.

The zoo reopens for patrons of Zoolights at 5:30 PM, shortly after they clear the zoo of their day visitors. Never knowing what to expect of traffic on the I-10 from Buckeye to Phoenix, we opted to leave home at 4 PM. As luck would have it, the trip was uneventful and we arrived in the parking lot at around 4:40 PM. That was plenty early enough to find the parking lot quite empty. Most of the people there were waiting in line at the closed ticket windows or simply wandering around awaiting sunset and the opening of the park. Eventually we wandered to the main gate, tickets printed at home in hand and lined up behind the one family that started the line moments before we did. The view of the impending sunset from the bridge in front of the main gate was a pleasant diversion as we awaited the opening of the gates.

Even shortly after sunset, the displays were bright enough to see, though they are best viewed in the dark, obviously. The benefit we found of coming early is that the crowd was light, even on the Saturday immediately after Thanksgiving. The display of over a million and a half lights is open nightly through January 13, 2019.  Details on the event are provided on their webpage here.

I decided to take my Sony RX-100-V camera as it has the fastest lens I own. Even so, the images I captured were not noise-free, though the details were visible. I submit for your review a small gallery of images captured on our visit to Phoenix Zoolights. In most browsers, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

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