Big Tree at Lights Before Christmas

Don’t Miss Lights Before Christmas at Toledo Zoo

One of my favorite things about the holiday season are the light displays that can be found around town. Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas offers an amazing walk through display throughout the entire zoo. From the Giant Norway Spruce, which was called one of the top holiday trees in the nation by Travelocity in 2011, to the Dancing Lights near the Cheetah Valley to the holiday train ride to family activities and Santa, Lights Before Christmas is a fun night out to get in the holiday spirit (tip: take advantage of any warm, dry night to attend).

Big Tree at Lights Before Christmas

Fun Facts about Lights Before Christmas

Lights Before Christmas was started in 1986 with 50,000 lights. Today the Big Tree alone has 35,000 lights. In 2002 the Zoo began to switch their displays to energy efficient LED lights. More than half of the lights are now LED. Lights Before Christmas features over 70 miles of light strands and almost 10 miles of extension cords. A crew of 12-15 employees begin hanging lights in early August. After Lights Before Christmas it takes 2 months to remove the lights, sort them, and store them for the following season.

2015 Lights Before Christmas Logistics

The 2015 Lights Before Christmas starts on Friday, November 13 and will run through Sunday, January 3. They are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Day. Lights Before Christmas is held from 3-9p on Sundays through Thursdays and 3-10p on Fridays and Saturdays with the last entry one hour before closing.

The Ceremonial Tree Lighting of the Big Tree will be between 7 and 7:30p on Friday, November 13.


Admission to Lights Before Christmas is $15 for adults (ages 12-59) and $12 for children (ages 2-11) and seniors (ages 60+). Children under the age of 2 are admitted for free. Tickets can be bought online in advance at a $1/ticket discount. The zoo’s website says that specially labeled Pepsi and Diet Pepsi cans have an offer for a free child’s ticket with an adult ticket for Lights Before Christmas. I haven’t seen the cans in Ann Arbor, but I don’t typically drink Pepsi. Toledo Zoo Members receive unlimited weeknight (Monday through Thursday) visits and one free weekend visit (Friday through Sunday).

2015 Lights Before Christmas Festive Feast

Puzzled about where to eat before or during Lights Before Christmas? On select Mondays through Wednesdays, the Toledo Zoo is offering Festive Feast at the Lodge. There will be a buffet dinner, sweet treats, and hot chocolate. There will be children’s activities, an animal encounter, and a photo opportunity at the Monday and Tuesday night dinners. The Snow Queen and Princess Ana will be dinner on Monday, November 30 and Tuesday December 1. Ellie the Elf will be at dinner on Monday, December 7, Tuesday, December 8, Monday, December 14, and Tuesday, December 15 (already Sold Out). Wednesday nights are adults only night-out themed and will feature live entertainment and an animal encounter. The Festive Feast is $35/adults and $25/children (ages 2-11) and includes admission to Lights Before Christmas. With one of the sessions already sold out, I recommend making your reservations to attend now.

2015 Lights Before Christmas Activities

In addition to walking through the zoo looking at lights, there are a number of fun activities planned for Lights Before Christmas.


Rides – Ice Slide and Carousels

The Toledo Zoo has introduced an Ice Slide at the Amphitheatre for the holiday. The Ice Slide has 3 lanes and runs from 3p-Zoo close. It does have a minimum height of 42″. The African Animal Carousel and the Historic Carousel will both be operating during Lights Before Christmas.

Ride passes are available for $6 (3 rides) or $11 (7 rides). Individual carousel rides can also be purchased for $2 for the African Animal Carousel and $1.50 for the Historic Carousel.

The website does not mention the train operating during Lights Before Christmas. I know we rode on the train at Lights Before Christmas in the past, but do not know if it will operate this year.

Santa & Douglas the Talking Tree

Santa Claus will be in the Great Hall of the Museum of Science each day before Christmas beginning at 5p. Paid photo packages are available along with concessions and treats.

While you’re in the Museum of Science, head to the Indoor Theatre for a show with Douglas the Talking Tree. Shows run every half hour from 5-8:30p and last approximately 6 minutes.

Holiday Animal Experiences

There will be special holiday animal experiences at the Tiger Terrace. There will be Bactrian Camels and reindeer. The species will be displayed separately and there will be a short intermission.

The 2015 Lights Before Christmas event will feature more cold-weather animals than past events. You can also visit the indoor viewing areas to warm up.

Model Train Display

The Swanton Area Railroad and Model Club will have their model trains on display in the Workshop at Nature’s Neighborhood.

Live Entertainment

There will be holiday carolers most evenings (groups have the discretion to cancel in inclement weather). The full schedule of holiday Carolers can be found on the Lights Before Christmas page. Thursday nights in December will feature ice carving demonstrations in the main plaza.

2015 Lights Before Christmas

It’s been a few yeas since we have attended Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo. I will be checking our schedule (and the weather) for a good night to attend.


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