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Northwest's Beloved Holiday Tradition Dazzles with Color and Wonder

December 1, 2014

Zoolights 2014 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is brilliant in many ways.

The lights shine brightly, of course. The displays are awesome. And now, Zoolights’ 575,000-plus lights are 100 percent, energy-saving LEDs.

The colorful displays of zoo animals and local landmarks will be lighted from 5 to 9 pm through Jan. 4, except for a one-night closure on Dec. 24.

Old favorites like the 30,030-light green-and-purple Flame Tree, the twin Narrows Bridges, and the tiger, dolphin and llama pulling Santa’s sleigh are back.

Dazzlers such as the 15.5-foot-tall Mount Rainier, polar bear family atop an ice floe and 100-foot-wide pink octopus are back, too. So is the 12th Man Seahawks tree in a colorful sea of green-and-blue.

And new or reimagined this year:

  • 12th man tree at zoolightsMister shark chases a school of fish across the top of the South Pacific Aquarium in a 60-foot-long animated scene.
  • Mama bear spies a salmon in a stream, goes after it, pounces and snares it in its mouth, then takes it off to a waiting cub.
  • Swinging siamangs dance across the darkness in a completely redone, whimsical tableau.
  • Cheshire Cat grins wider and shines more brightly.
  • Sequential, LED sea lions chase their prey.
  • Chameleon changes his dazzling colors before visitors’ very eyes.

Besides all of that, mischievous meerkats and other small animals can be seen in Kids’ Zone; an antique carousel awaits visitors with a collection of colorfully carved zoo animals; and camels are back for another season of riders.

There’s a gift shop full of toys to light up the night, as well as amazing gifts for every person on the list. The café menu is chock full of items like hot chocolate, coffee and treats that will take the chill off of any cold night.

And there will be huge smiles on the faces of zoo workers, who are justifiably proud this year of the final conversion to 100 percent LEDs.

Visitors, of course, will note that the reds, greens, blues, purples, pinks, oranges, yellows and other colors are more dazzling than ever.

zoolights polar bear and mtnPerhaps nowhere is that more evident than on Rainbow Row, where a land of intensely colored shrubs veritably “swallows” visitors as they walk along the colorful pathway, a variegated arch soaring majestically overhead.

Zoolights crew members point out the bright colors are just one part of the achievement.

“LEDs draw far less power than the old incandescent bulbs,” Assistant Operations Manager Scott Clarke said. “Reaching this milestone of 100 percent LEDs with more than 575,000 lights is an accomplishment that’s squarely in keeping with our conservation mission at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.”

“This conversion also lets visitors know that they, too, can decorate with LEDs in an environmentally friendly way,” he added.

“We’re pleased to bring another edition of Zoolights to the residents of Tacoma and visitors who come from across Puget Sound and around the state,” zoo Deputy Director John Houck said. “We know a visit to Zoolights is a family tradition for many, a treat for young couples and a delight for visitors of all ages. Our zoo family welcomes everyonePoint Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Logo for another ZOO-MAZING year.”

Zoolights is presented by Fred Meyer with support from Church’s Chicken, Delta Air Lines, Tacoma Power, KING 5 television and WARM 106.9 radio.

For more information, visit

Zoolights 2014

When: Nov. 28-Jan. 4; 5 to 9 pm
Where: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma.

General Admission prices

  • Online at  $7.50
  • At Fred Meyer stores: $7.50
  • At the gate Nov. 28-Jan. 4: $9

Zoo Member prices:

  • Online: $4.50
  • At the gate: $4.50

Children 2 and under are admitted free

Parking: Free