About the Festival
Tampa Zoo Lights Festival is a dreamy night-time journey through the Tampa Zoo where visitors walk amidst breathtaking displays of lights, wildlife-inspired installations, and a sea of twinkling bulbs that bring the zoo to life in the winter months. Beyond being just a visual spectacle, it celebrates nature, wildlife, and the festive season.
Mark your calendars, lighting enthusiasts! The Tampa Zoo Lights Festival will dazzle visitors from the end of November 2023 to the being of January (Exact dates will be updated soon). And just a heads up: the zoo goes dark on Christmas Day to give our animal friends a break.
Festival Whereabouts and Getting There
Nestled at the heart of Florida’s sun-soaked coastline, the Tampa Zoo is at 1101 W Sligh Ave, Tampa, FL 33604, USA.
By Bus: Tampa’s public transportation system, HART, offers several bus routes including numbers 9, 39, and 45, which will drop you near the entrance.
By Train: Tampa’s Amtrak station is conveniently situated just a few miles away. From there, either grab a cab or use the local bus service.
By Car: Tampa is well-connected by highways. Just pop the address into your GPS and follow the glowing reviews!
The animals might be nocturnal, but we’re not! The magic begins each evening at 6:00 PM and dances on until 10:00 PM. We recommend arriving early – the lights won’t wait!
Tickets to the Tampa zoo lights
- Adults: $29.95
- Children (3-12 years): $18
- Under 3 years: Enter for free! (They’re still perfecting their light appreciation skills.)
Dress for the Occasion (Or, Weather Forecast Time!)
In the balmy month of December in Tampa, daytime temperatures hover around the mid-20s C (mid-70s F) while evenings cool down to the mid-10s C (mid-60s F). Pack:
- Light jackets or sweaters
- Comfy walking shoes
- Maybe an umbrella (it’s Florida, after all)
Rest Those Dazzled Eyes: Hotels Nearby
After a mesmerizing evening wandering amidst the radiant displays of the Tampa Zoo Lights, there’s nothing better than retiring to a cozy room nearby. We’ve selected some top accommodations, ensuring your night is as luminous as your day.
1. Hilton Tampa Downtown
- About: A touch of class in the heart of Tampa, this hotel offers elegant rooms, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant.
- Rating: 4.5/5
- Reviews: Guests praise the attentive staff, spacious rooms, and unbeatable location. A few have even witnessed the glow of the Tampa Zoo Lights from their windows!
2. Tampa Marriott Water Street
- About: Featuring views that can steal your heart, Tampa Marriott Water Street has state-of-the-art amenities like a spa, outdoor pool, and several dining options, and is a short walk from the zoo.
- Rating: 4.6/5
- Reviews: Travelers love the vibrant atmosphere, the delicious food at the in-house restaurants, and the waterfront vistas that make each sunrise and sunset special.
3. The Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk
- About: Artistic décor meets modern amenities at The Barrymore. The hotel offers a unique Tampa experience with a riverside pool, business center, and proximity to cultural attractions.
- Rating: 4.2/5
- Reviews: Guests appreciate the affordable luxury, convenient location, and artsy touch that sets the hotel apart.
4. Aloft Tampa Downtown
- About: Targeted at the millennial traveler, Aloft offers an eclectic experience with an outdoor splash pool, a 24/7 pantry, and pet-friendly rooms.
- Rating: 4.3/5
- Reviews: A hit among younger crowds, this hotel gets kudos for its trendy design, lively bar, and fun atmosphere that matches the buzz of the Zoo Lights.
5. Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Convention Center
- About: Ideal for families, this hotel offers spacious two-room suites, complimentary breakfast, and an inviting pool. It’s a home away from home.
- Rating: 4.4/5
- Reviews: Families rave about the room sizes, breakfast variety, and warm, welcoming staff. It’s the comfort of outdoor lighting at home but with a vacation twist!
There you have it. A cozy nest to rest, a hub to refuel, or a place to dance under the indoor stars – Tampa’s hotels near the zoo offer it all. If you’re visiting the Zoo Lights, you’ll have a place to continue the magic every night!
Hunger Pangs? We Got You
When the glow of the lights has kindled your appetite, you won’t have to wander far. Dive into the culinary delights of Tampa, handpicked to complement your enchanting experience at the festival.
- Cuisine Type: Local fare with a focus on open-fire grilling and Native American inspiration.
- Atmosphere: Authentic and romantic, highlighting the deep history of the region.
- Menu Highlights: The charbroiled oysters and the house-specialty barbecues are among the must-tries.
2. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
- Cuisine Type: Fresh seafood and high-quality steaks.
- Atmosphere: Sophisticated yet relaxing, complemented by smooth jazz tunes.
- Menu Highlights: Their signature Angus steaks and the daily fresh fish offerings.
3. The Columbia Restaurant
- Cuisine Type: Spanish-Cuban cuisine.
- Atmosphere: Rich in history with a festive Spanish vibe.
- Menu Highlights: The traditional paella and the famous “1905” salad.
4. Oxford Exchange
- Cuisine Type: American with global influences.
- Atmosphere: Bohemian; it’s a blend of a bookstore, cafe, and restaurant.
- Menu Highlights: The Codfish sandwich and their unique Irish tea.
5. Armature Works
- Cuisine Type: Gourmet food market offering a variety of cuisines.
- Atmosphere: Casual, modern, with a lively food-market vibe.
- Menu Highlights: A wide selection of stalls that serve dishes from all over the world.
When you’re in the area, make sure to check out one of these restaurants. Each offers a unique experience that will surely leave you craving for more!
More Glow in the Surroundings: Things to Do
Once you’ve marveled at the brilliance of Tampa Zoo Lights, the allure doesn’t stop. Delve deeper into the city’s offerings, from cozy stays to tantalizing bites, and discover the richness of Tampa beyond its glowing festival.
- The Florida Aquarium – Dive into the marine life without getting wet.
- Busch Gardens – Thrills and wildlife in one place.
- Tampa Theatre – A cinematic jewel of the city.
- Ybor City – A historic neighborhood with a rich culture.
- Tampa Riverwalk – Stroll, dine, and shop along the scenic Hillsborough River.
1. The Florida Aquarium
Located in the heart of downtown Tampa, The Florida Aquarium offers a spectacular journey through unique aquatic habitats, from the wetlands of Florida to the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Not only is this a delightful place for families, but it also provides an educational experience.
- Highlight: Dive with Sharks! For those daring enough, the aquarium provides a rare opportunity to dive with the majestic sand tiger sharks.
- Tip: Be sure to catch the daily penguin encounter, where visitors can get up close and personal with these charming birds.
2. Tampa Riverwalk
Stretching for 2.6 miles along the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk offers a scenic route dotted with parks, restaurants, and public art. Whether you’re into jogging, cycling, or simply taking a leisurely stroll, the Riverwalk provides a picturesque setting.
- Highlight: Take a water taxi along the river for a different perspective on Tampa’s beautiful skyline.
- Tip: Don’t miss the historical monuments and statues along the way, shedding light on Tampa’s rich history.
3. Busch Gardens
This African-themed amusement park and zoo has something for everyone. From heart-pounding roller coasters like SheiKra and Cheetah Hunt to animal encounters that transport you to the heart of Africa, it’s a day of adventure and thrills.
- Highlight: Try the Serengeti Safari experience where you can feed a giraffe out of your hand.
- Tip: Visit during the week to avoid large crowds and longer wait times.
4. Ybor City
Known for its rich Cuban heritage, Ybor City is a vibrant neighborhood filled with eclectic shops, vintage boutiques, and tantalizing eateries. The area comes alive at night with numerous bars, clubs, and live-music venues.
- Highlight: Take a guided tour of the Ybor City Museum State Park to delve deep into the area’s storied past.
- Tip: Make sure to try a freshly hand-rolled cigar from one of the local artisans, a nod to Ybor’s history as the “Cigar Capital of the World.”
5. Henry B. Plant Museum
Housed in the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, this museum transports visitors back to the Gilded Age, showcasing the opulence of the era and the fascinating history of this national historic landmark.
- Highlight: The Moorish Revival architecture is a sight in itself, with silver minarets, domes, and ornate detailing.
- Tip: Attend one of the live music sessions in the afternoons for a more immersive experience.
When visiting the Tampa area for the Zoo Lights, we suggest making the most of your trip by indulging in these mesmerizing local attractions. Not only will you be enchanted by the shimmering lights of the festival, but you’ll also be captivated by the vibrant culture and history of this gem on Florida’s west coast. Enjoy your radiant adventures!
The Luminous Magic of Tampa’s Zoo Lights – a little bit about the lights display
Every winter, Tampa’s zoological garden transforms into a mesmerizing wonderland of lights, enchanting visitors from near and far. But what makes Tampa Zoo Lights so special? Let’s journey back and explore the radiant allure of this festive event.
A Symphony of Lights
Our experience of Tampa’s Zoo Lights has always been marked by its awe-inspiring lights display. Every corner of the zoo gets bedecked in twinkling lights, creating a visual spectacle that can rival any storybook illustration.
Over the years, the displays have often been themed, creating narratives out of lights. From rainforest canopies illuminated in a soft green hue to the African savannah glowing under a golden light, these themes have allowed visitors to embark on a worldwide journey, all while staying within the confines of the zoo.
Another highlight that has consistently captured our imagination is the interactive light zones. Here, visitors have the chance to become part of the display, with lights reacting to their movements or sounds. These zones have added a touch of magic, ensuring that every visit is unique.
The creativity showcased in the lights display is genuinely commendable. The meticulous attention to detail, the delicate interplay of colors, and the strategic placement of every bulb ensure that the entire zoo is bathed in a soft, enchanting glow. There’s no corner left untouched – even the ponds and trees reflect the shimmering lights, creating mirror images that double the beauty.
A Sensory Feast
But the Tampa Zoo Lights experience isn’t just visual. Over the years, we’ve noticed how the event orchestrates a multisensory experience. The soft hum of festive tunes in the background complements the visual display, creating an atmosphere that’s both cheerful and soothing. The aroma of festive treats wafts through the air, tantalizing our senses and adding another layer of depth to our experience.
Illuminating the Way Forward: A Final Note
In the tapestry of festive events across the globe, Tampa’s Zoo Lights shines bright, both literally and metaphorically. This annual spectacle isn’t merely a display of twinkling bulbs; it’s a showcase of creativity, a convergence of sensory experiences, and a reflection of the universal love for light and joy.
While Tampa’s luminous magic is undeniably enchanting, if you find yourself with an insatiable desire for more radiant nights, we recommend venturing to the Festival of Lights in Lyon, France, another beacon of artistic brilliance and festive spirit. Lighting up your winters has never been this delightful.
Q: How accessible is Tampa Zoo for visitors with disabilities during the Zoo Lights event?
A: Tampa Zoo is dedicated to providing a comfortable experience for all visitors. During the Zoo Lights event, pathways remain well-lit and clearly marked, and the facility ensures wheelchair accessibility. Additionally, there are dedicated staff and volunteers on hand to assist.
Q: Is there a special rate for group bookings or school trips?
A: Yes, Tampa Zoo typically offers special rates for larger groups and school excursions. We recommend contacting the zoo’s administrative office in advance for group pricing and reservations.
Q: Can I purchase tickets for Zoo Lights at the gate, or is it better to book in advance?
A: While tickets are available at the gate, due to the popularity of the event, we strongly suggest booking in advance to guarantee entry, especially on peak nights.
Q: Are pets allowed during the Zoo Lights event?
A: For the safety of both the zoo animals and visitors’ pets, pets are not permitted during the Zoo Lights. Service animals, however, are allowed.
Q: Will all zoo exhibits be open during the Zoo Lights?
A: While the primary attraction during Zoo Lights is the light display, not all regular zoo exhibits are accessible at night. However, there are often special exhibits and activities tailored to the event.
Q: Can I bring my own food and beverages to the event?
A: Generally, outside food and beverages are not permitted in the zoo. However, there are multiple dining options available within the premises to satisfy your hunger.
Q: Is there a designated smoking area within the Tampa Zoo during the Zoo Lights event?
A: Yes, Tampa Zoo recognizes the needs of all its visitors. There are designated smoking areas within the zoo premises. However, smoking is strictly prohibited outside these zones, especially during the Zoo Lights event, to ensure a pleasant experience for all attendees.
Q: Can I use electronic cigarettes or vaping devices in the zoo?
A: Similar to traditional cigarettes, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices is restricted to designated smoking areas. They are not permitted in any other parts of the zoo, including indoor spaces and exhibit areas.
Q: How does parking work during the Zoo Lights event? Is there an additional fee?
A: The Tampa Zoo has parking facilities that can accommodate a large number of vehicles. However, due to the popularity of the Zoo Lights event, parking can fill up quickly.
It’s advisable to arrive early or consider alternative transportation methods. As for fees, there may be a nominal parking charge, but it’s always best to check the zoo’s official website for the most up-to-date information.
Q: Are there any parking accommodations for visitors with disabilities?
A: Absolutely. Tampa Zoo ensures that there are ample parking spaces reserved for visitors with disabilities, providing easy access to the entrance. If you have specific requirements or need assistance, it’s advised to contact the zoo ahead of your visit.
We hope these questions and answers provide further clarity for anyone considering a visit to the magical Zoo Lights event in Tampa!