About the Festival
Every winter, the Calgary Zoo is transformed into a mesmerizing festival of lights, ZOOLIGHTS, which has become an emblematic event for both locals and tourists. It’s not just about the twinkling bulbs; it’s a holistic celebration that takes visitors on a journey through the realms of wildlife, wonder, and warmth. As you navigate through the enchanting spaces, the very essence of the winter season is captured, blending the spirit of conservation with the festivity of lights.
Featured Lighting Displays:
- Twinkling Trees: Witness ordinary trees turn magical, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights that give the zoo a starlit ambience.
- Fairy Lights: Delicate strings of lights, draping from trees and structures, creating a dreamy and enchanting atmosphere.
- Drape Lights: Cascading lights that fall like illuminated waterfalls, painting the surroundings in a soft glow.
- Lighting Displays Depicting Animals: A tribute to the zoo’s residents, these displays bring animals to life in light form, from majestic lions to graceful giraffes.
- Christmas Lights: Traditional lights that embody the spirit of the holiday season, with colors and patterns invoking festive cheer.
- Tunnel of Light: Walk through an immersive tunnel where lights dance around you, making you feel like you’ve stepped into another realm.
- Light Figurines: Intricately designed figures made entirely of lights, from mythical creatures to beloved holiday symbols.
- Interactive and Choreographed Light Exhibits: Engage with displays that react to your movement, or lose yourself in synchronized light dances set to seasonal tunes.
Activities for Visitors:
- Warm Up at the Firepit: Nestle by the roaring fire, share stories and relish the warmth amidst the winter chill.
- Skating: Glide and twirl on the ice rink, surrounded by the soft glow of fairy lights.
- Themed Areas Exploration: Navigate through distinct zones, each with its own narrative and light scheme, from a winter wonderland to a fairy-tale forest.
- Selfie with Santa: Immortalize your visit with a snap alongside a statue of Santa Claus, decked out in lights and festive attire.
Not to be overshadowed by any Christmas light show, ZOOLIGHTS offers a unique blend of conservation and festivity, emphasizing the beauty of nature through lighting and drawing families closer during the chilly winter nights.
Festival Dates (2023-2024)
Mark your calendars and gear up for a radiant winter adventure, as ZOOLIGHTS at the Calgary Zoo makes its grand return! This year, the enchanting world of lights will come alive starting from November 17, 2023, casting its luminous spell throughout the holiday season. Visitors will have the opportunity to bask in this shimmering spectacle until its culmination on January 7, 2024.
Ensuring you have ample time to revel in every glowing detail, ZOOLIGHTS promises to make those wintry nights a little brighter and a lot more magical. Don’t miss out on this limited-time festival of lights and memories!
Where It’s Located and How to Get There
The enchanting world of ZOOLIGHTS unfolds within the expansive grounds of the Calgary Zoo. Located in the heart of Calgary, Alberta, this prestigious establishment isn’t just home to diverse wildlife but also serves as the stage for one of Canada’s most radiant winter spectacles. Nestled amidst nature and urban life, the Calgary Zoo has been a beacon of conservation and education. And come winter, it dons a luminous cloak, inviting visitors from all corners of the globe to partake in the ZOOLIGHTS festivities.
From the Airport to the Zoo
Calgary International Airport, serving as the primary gateway to the city, is conveniently located just about 20 minutes away from the Calgary Zoo. For those flying in, there are multiple options to journey from the airport to the shimmering grounds of ZOOLIGHTS:
- Taxis & Ride-Sharing: Both taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft operate extensively from the airport, offering direct routes to the zoo.
- Airport Shuttle: Some hotels in Calgary provide shuttle services to major attractions, including the zoo. It’s advisable to check with your accommodation in advance.
- Public Transport: The city’s transit system also connects the airport with key locales. While it might require a transfer or two, it’s an economical and environmentally friendly option.
Traveling to Calgary by Train
For those journeying to the city of Calgary from other parts of Canada by train, here’s a guideline to assist you:
- Board the VIA Rail: Canada’s primary passenger rail service, VIA Rail, connects major cities and offers routes that include stops in Alberta.
- Calgary Central Station: Once you reach Alberta, disembark at the Calgary Central Station. This station serves as a hub for regional and national rail services.
- Local Transit: From Calgary Central Station, you can easily hop onto local buses or the C-Train to reach the Calgary Zoo. Routes and schedules are available on the Calgary Transit website or mobile application.
- Car Rentals & Taxis: For those who prioritize comfort and speed, car rental services and taxis are readily available at the train station.
- Plan Ahead: Train schedules can vary, and seasonal demands might affect availability. Always book your tickets in advance and check the schedule to ensure a smooth journey.
As dusk blankets the city and the first star begins to twinkle, ZOOLIGHTS at the Calgary Zoo comes to life. Welcoming visitors with its radiant allure, the festival operates from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. These hours have been meticulously chosen, ensuring guests get the optimum experience of the luminous displays against the night sky.
Whether you’re strolling through illuminated pathways or warming up by a fire pit, these hours encapsulate the perfect window to dive deep into the heart of the ZOOLIGHTS spectacle.
Cost to Visit ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo
Experiencing the shimmering world of ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo is a ticketed affair. To ensure smooth entry and an immersive journey through the illuminated wonders, visitors are advised to purchase their tickets in advance. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the ticket prices:
- Adults (16 and above): $21.95
- Children (3 to 15 years old): $14.95
- Children under 3 years old: Free of charge
To streamline the process and to avoid the queues, we strongly recommend purchasing tickets online. Not only does it guarantee your entry, but it also offers a seamless start to your radiant adventure at ZOOLIGHTS.
For up-to-date information on ticket pricing, visit the festival’s official website.
Weather and What to Wear
Calgary’s winter climate, which spans from November to January, showcases the city in a breathtaking, snowy embrace. The ZOOLIGHTS festival at the Calgary Zoo coincides with these cooler months. Average temperatures during this period hover between -6°C (21°F) and -15°C (5°F). However, occasional cold fronts can push the mercury even lower, intensifying the winter chill. Snowfalls are frequent, blanketing the city in a pristine white layer, making the light displays even more magical against the snowy backdrop.
To ensure a cozy and comfortable experience while meandering through the illuminated pathways, we recommend the following attire:
- Thermal Layers: Start with thermal innerwear. It helps in retaining body heat, making the cold almost negligible.
- Warm Outerwear: A well-insulated jacket or coat is a must. Down jackets or parkas are especially effective against Calgary’s winter cold.
- Snow Boots: Footwear that’s both warm and waterproof will keep your feet toasty and dry, even if you decide to play in the snow!
- Gloves and Mittens: Opt for insulated gloves or mittens to keep your fingers warm, ensuring you can comfortably snap photos or hold onto a warm cup of cocoa.
- Scarves and Neck Warmers: A good scarf or neck warmer prevents the cold from sneaking in from the top of your jacket.
- Beanies or Winter Hats: A significant amount of body heat is lost through the head, so keep it covered with a cozy beanie or winter hat.
- Warm Socks: Woolen or thermal socks are ideal. Consider packing an extra pair, just in case!
- Hand and Foot Warmers: These portable heat sources can be a lifesaver, especially during particularly chilly nights.
Where to Sleep – Hotels Nearby
Choosing the right accommodation can elevate your ZOOLIGHTS experience, ensuring you’re well-rested and ready for a luminous adventure.
- Fairmont Palliser
- Address: 133 9th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 2M3
- Location: Situated in downtown Calgary, the Fairmont Palliser is conveniently located near top attractions such as the Calgary Tower and Stephen Avenue Walk.
- Description: Established in 1914, the Fairmont Palliser is a historic hotel blending old-world charm with modern luxury. With its elegant décor and timeless appeal, guests are treated to a taste of Calgary’s rich history.
- Amenities: The hotel offers a range of services including a spa, fitness center, an indoor pool, upscale dining options, and of course, complimentary Wi-Fi for guests.
- Hotel Le Germain Calgary
- Address: 899 Centre Street SW, Calgary, Alberta T2G 1B8
- Location: Located in the heart of Calgary’s city center, this hotel is steps away from arts, dining, and shopping venues.
- Description: With its sleek design and contemporary ambiance, Hotel Le Germain provides a boutique hotel experience. The rooms are crafted with luxury and comfort in mind, ensuring a memorable stay.
- Amenities: Guests can indulge in the on-site spa, fitness center, a rooftop terrace, gourmet dining at Charcut Roast House, and seamless internet connectivity with free Wi-Fi.
- The Westin Calgary
- Address: 320 4th Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 2S6
- Location: Centrally located in downtown Calgary, The Westin offers easy access to the city’s vibrant business district and local attractions.
- Description: Known for its commitment to wellness, The Westin Calgary offers a rejuvenating experience for travelers. The modern rooms provide serene retreats for guests after a busy day.
- Amenities: Among its features are an indoor heated pool, a fitness studio, multiple dining options, and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi to keep guests connected.
What to Eat
Discovering Calgary’s culinary scene is as enchanting as its light displays, offering a plethora of flavors waiting to tantalize your taste buds.
Location: Prince’s Island Park, 25 Prince’s Island Path SW, Calgary, AB T2P 0R1
Nestled in the heart of Prince’s Island Park, the River Café paints a picturesque setting with its charming rustic interiors. Serving farm-to-table Canadian cuisine, it’s renowned for dishes like Alberta beef, fresh trout, and wild game. Whether you’re sitting inside or on their scenic patio, it’s an experience both for the palate and the eyes.
Location: 924 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2T 0A2
For those seeking plant-based delights, The Coup offers contemporary vegetarian and vegan dishes with an edge. Think beyond salads; here, the menu stars dishes like tempeh shawarma, mushroom neptune, and the beloved “beetnik” burger. Eco-conscious in its approach, every meal here is a testament to sustainability meeting flavor.
Location: 306 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0A8
An eclectic blend of modern and vintage, Pigeonhole is a haven for food aficionados. Known for its shareable plates, diners are treated to a rotating menu that features international influences. From charred cabbage with Mimolette cheese to duck pancakes with hoisin, it’s a gastronomic journey that promises surprises with every bite.
More Things to Do in The Area
Beyond the radiant allure of ZOOLIGHTS, Calgary is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be uncovered.
Location: 101 9 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 1J9
Dominating the Calgary skyline, the Calgary Tower is more than just an architectural marvel. Visitors can step onto the glass floor observation deck for a heart-racing view of the city beneath their feet. Those looking for a unique dining experience can head to the revolving Sky 360 restaurant, offering panoramic views with a side of exquisite cuisine.
Heritage Park Historical Village
Location: 1900 Heritage Dr SW, Calgary, AB T2V 2X3
Step back in time at Canada’s largest living history museum. Spanning over 127 acres, the park takes you through different eras of Western Canadian history. Guests can ride an authentic steam train, visit the old town with its historic buildings, or even indulge in traditional treats from the bakery. It’s a journey through time that’s both fun and educational.
Prince’s Island Park
Location: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 5N4
An urban oasis in the heart of Calgary, Prince’s Island Park is the perfect spot for relaxation and recreation. Nestled along the Bow River, visitors can indulge in activities like paddle boating, picnicking, or simply walking along the scenic pathways. With occasional festivals and events, the park is always buzzing with energy and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
A Final Sparkle: Wrapping Up Your Unforgettable Visit to ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo
As the winter nights draw in, ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo becomes a beacon of warmth and wonder. With its enchanting displays and festive atmosphere, it promises an evening of unforgettable memories for visitors of all ages. From the shimmering fairy lights to the majestic twinkle lights trees, this festival truly captures the magic of the season. Whether you’re a local or a traveler, an adventure through this luminous wonderland is a must on any winter itinerary.
Is parking available at the Calgary Zoo during ZOOLIGHTS?
Yes, parking is available on-site. However, it’s worth noting that spaces can fill up quickly during peak festival times. We recommend arriving early or considering alternative transportation options.
Are smoking areas designated within the zoo during the festival?
For the comfort of all guests, the Calgary Zoo is a smoke-free environment. This includes vaping and e-cigarettes. If you wish to smoke, you will need to exit the premises.
Can I bring my pet to the ZOOLIGHTS festival?
For the safety and comfort of all visitors and animals at the zoo, pets are not permitted during the ZOOLIGHTS event. Service animals, however, are always welcome.
Is there a discounted rate for zoo members?
Yes, Calgary Zoo members often receive a discount on ZOOLIGHTS tickets. We recommend checking the official website or contacting the zoo directly for specific pricing details for members.
Is the event wheelchair and stroller accessible?
Absolutely! The Calgary Zoo is committed to ensuring that all visitors can enjoy the ZOOLIGHTS experience. Most pathways and exhibits are wheelchair and stroller friendly.
Can tickets be purchased at the gate or only online?
While tickets can be purchased at the gate, buying them online in advance is advised to avoid long wait times, especially during peak days.
Are there food and beverage options available during ZOOLIGHTS?
Yes, several eateries and food stands within the zoo offer a range of delicious treats and warm beverages perfect for the chilly evenings of the festival.
In case of inclement weather, will the event be canceled?
ZOOLIGHTS typically goes on, rain or shine. However, in the event of extreme weather conditions, it’s best to check the zoo’s official website or social media channels for any announcements regarding closures or schedule changes.
While this article aims to answer questions and concerns about ZOOLIGHTS at Calgary Zoo, it is always best to visit the zoo’s official website for up-to-date information.