Skip to content

Zoo Lights Up With Sculptures of Animals

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park last week debuted its first-ever winter lights display, leaving the park aglow with nearly 50 light sculptures. The sculptures depict a variety of the zoo’s inhabitants, from giant pandas, Asian elephants and gibbons to a sea lion, octopus and Komodo dragon.

Alongside the bright animals, ZooLights features activities such as cookie decorating, ice sculpting, a scavenger hunt and crafts projects. There also are performances by Evergreen Theatre, puppet shows, talks by animal keepers and winter treats such as hot chocolate and kettle corn.

Friends of the National Zoo, which is hosting the display, designed it with an eye toward energy conservation. The sculptures are made of thousands of environmentally friendly light-emitting diodes.

“Everyone at the National Zoo is thrilled to launch a new winter tradition for Washington, D.C.,” said John Berry, the zoo’s director. “It gives us another wonderful opportunity to highlight our dynamic animal collection and promote sustainability through our use of LED lighting.”

According to FONZ, one of ZooLights’ largest LED sculptures — the 900-light arch featuring giant pandas (near the Small Mammal House) — is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell provided by Pepco, the lead sponsor of the exhibit. This power source combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air to provide electricity, with clean water and heat as the only byproducts.

The displays, some of which are up to 25 feet tall, also highlight animals the zoo is dedicated to protecting, including Kori bustards — large birds that live in the grasslands of eastern and southern Africa — and golden lion tamarins in addition to the giant pandas and Asian elephants.

The festivities last through Dec. 30, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. Tickets are $10. The zoo will close to non-ticket holders at 4:30 p.m. each day of the event. For more information, visit FONZ online at or call 202-633-4470.

Recent Stories

High-speed routes biggest winners in latest rail funding round

Appeals court upholds most of Trump gag order in DC case

Kevin Up — Congressional Hits and Misses

House GOP cites new Hunter Biden charges in impeachment push

Congress must protect our servicemembers by reauthorizing Section 702 

Photos of the week ending December 8, 2023