Home / Local Stories  / Play: Things to do with your kids  / Seasonal Things To Do  / Holiday Fun  / Philadelphia Zoo Shines Bright with LumiNature

Philadelphia Zoo Shines Bright with LumiNature

A wild new holiday lights experience comes to the Philadelphia Zoo this season!

New for this year, the Philadelphia Zoo presents a nighttime multimedia holiday spectacle the likes of which you have never seen. Throughout the zoo, giant animal-themed installations will glow, Evergreen trees will talk, and you’ll be surrounded by pure fantasy. Seasonal fare, strolling performers, hot chocolate (and adult beverages) add to the festiveness. This display has been years in the making, and involves more than 600,000 lights animating everything from a 35-foot polar bear to 200 little penguins to a 25-foot pink tree made of lawn flamingos! Here’s what you can expect at LumiNature.


To call this simply a light display is understating it, as sounds and other media effects add to the immersive experience. For example, in the Frog Fantastical section, frog croaks join with the music, and the arched lighting effects mimic a frog leaping across a pond while water-like images appear on the path. Meanwhile, the main entrance’s fountain has been transformed into The Dreamery, where guests are invited to think about their dreams, and with a wave of the hand, bubbles, lights, and steam send their wishes out into the night.



Stroll through 12 different illuminated experience zones—each with a unique theme and surprise. A giant pink tree, upon closer inspection, is made entirely of lawn flamingos, while the giant polar bear Polaris is made of white recycled car doors! Trees sing, the Earth experiences all four seasons, and a giant snake slithers above and around you. And as you finish your journey, hundreds of illuminated penguins leave you with a message of peace.


In addition to the installations, be sure to visit Bird Lake to see the Northern Lights light show every half hour. With programmed, illuminated icebergs and dancing lights, 35-foot polar bear Polaris will be a centerpiece of each evening’s experience, which features projection mapping, a message of conservation, and swelling music like “Colors of the Wind” and “What a Wonderful World.”


And be sure to stop in the jewel-toned Peacock Spectacular section for a one-of-a-kind family photo in front of giant, lit peacock feathers!



Of course, your experience isn’t complete without buying one of the many light-up wands or other toys from the various vendors stationed around the zoo. Also available for purchase: food, treats, and adult beverages! You’ll find stands around the zoo selling winter essentials like hot cocoa, and happily, the new Urban Green also stays open with food trucks, warming lamps, and a rainbow of enchanted Christmas trees.


Now for a few tips. You may want to prepare your kids in advance that, though you are going to the zoo, you aren’t going to see animals. Small children who are used to being there in the daytime hear “going to the zoo,” and assume what that means; so just explain the animals are sleeping, and that should clear it up. Having the discussion in advance might preempt some disappointment or confusion. It is also very, very dark at parts, so bring (or buy) those glow wands, and be sure to keep the map handy because even the most seasoned zoo visitors will need it to make sure they don’t miss a section!


LumiNature can be found at the Philadelphia Zoo, located at 3400 W. Girard Avenue in Fairmount Park. It runs from November 20, 2019 through January 5, 2020. From November 20 through December 15, it will run Wednesdays through Sundays. Then, starting on December 18, it will be open every night. The zoo (and exhibit) are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day; but are open for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!


Guarantee your preferred time by purchasing tickets online in advance—tickets are sold for a specific date and time, and entrance times are every half hour. Time slots run from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm. LumiNature tickets are non-refundable (except for closure due to weather). If you’re going on the weekend, you can ride the PHLASH evening service for just $2 roundtrip (kids under 4, seniors, and SEPTA pass and Key card holders ride for free!), which will be having special holiday hours from 6–1o pm. 


Tickets are $24 for adults and $19 for kids. During the first four weeks of LumiNature, the zoo is offering Value Nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays, where adults can visit for $20 and kids’ admission drops to $16. For both regular pricing and Value Nights, zoo members get 20 percent off tickets and free parking. And don’t forget: Supporting Members get 15 percent off membership at the Philadelphia Zoo (along with many other discounts around town!), so you can return again and again to see these fun additions to the zoo!


Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer