Christmas at the Zoo features new experiences, more lights and more nights than ever this year. The event kicks off Nov. 18 and continues daily through Dec. 30, 2023, closed only on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Day. The Zoo opens at noon and Christmas at the Zoo activities go from 5-9 p.m., extended until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Fun around Indianapolis
Nominated for USA Today’s Best Zoo Lights for the eighth straight year, the Indianapolis Zoo was the first zoo in the nation to start a holiday lights event in 1967. Now, in its remarkable 56th year, the annual event draws in more than 100,000 visitors. People from all places come to appreciate the enchanting beauty of the Zoo, making it a cherished part of their holiday season celebrations.
Santa’s Village is the largest recent addition to Christmas at the Zoo. Walking under a festive archway, visitors will feel like they’ve stepped inside a glittering snow globe as they discover the whimsical scene in the Bicentennial Pavilion. Guests can visit Santa’s Study to meet Kris Kringle or stop by Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen to see her preparing treats. And with a wild twist like only the Zoo can do, guests can interact with wintertime animals, like dogs and penguins, or meet reindeer in Santa’s Barn.
Christmas Light Displays
As the sun sets, the Zoo will transform into a winter wonderland filled with colorful Christmas lights and displays. Near the front of the Zoo, the stunning Polar Pathway has become the most photo-worthy spot after dark and leads visitors down a glittering path into the rest of the Zoo. New this year, towering trees will beam with light, creating fantasy forests visitors can explore. Guests can activate the Dancing Lights display with the sounds of their voices or stop by We Three Trees for another fun family photo op.
Fun for All Ages
While community carolers fill the night with the familiar sounds of holiday songs, visitors can chase the chill away with a cup of hot cocoa or even a seasonal cocktail. As they stroll through the Zoo, guests can warm up by the campfires and look for hidden mistletoe for a chance to win a spectacular holiday gift — an Animal Art Adventure.
Under the Bicentennial Pavilion, you’ll discover Santa’s Village featuring:
- Santa Visits: Visitors have multiple opportunities to meet Santa Claus. They can visit his Study, open from 5 PM until closing time, or they can encounter a tropical Santa at Flights of Fancy, available from 3-9 PM. Aided by his flamingo companions and holiday magic, Santa is seemingly in two places at once, reaching out to more kids this year. These meetings are available until December 23.
- White River Gardens: Brightening the holiday celebration this year, the White River Gardens are reopening, bringing an array of additional lights and sights.
- Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen: Visitors can meet Mrs. Claus in her Kitchen and engage in a fun-filled cookie decorating activity. The Kitchen is open through until December 30.
- Santa’s Barn: An attraction where guests can spot Santa’s sleigh and a handful of his reindeer, available for viewing until December 30.
Polar Pathway: A remarkable experience awaits as visitors step inside an awe-inspiring tunnel filled with sparkling lights. The entry is set up in one direction this year.
- Storytime with Sprinkles & Holly: Returning for 2023, our holiday characters, Sprinkles and Holly, and their nightly storytelling outside of Cafe on the Commons.
- Penguin Encounter: Available from 6-8 PM, attendees will get a chance to get up close to the winter-hardy birds. The encounter timings are subject to weather and animal conditions.
- Tinsel Tavern: A relaxing atmosphere where holiday-themed cocktails made with spirits from Hotel Tango and wines from Daniel’s Vineyard are offered.
- Mirror Maze: An exhilarating experience as guests navigate through the laughter-filled twists and turns of the Mirror Maze.
Download the event map and discover all that Christmas at the Zoo has to offer.
Christmas at the Zoo for Foodies
During the Christmas at the Zoo event, visitors can look forward to an array of delightful snacks and treats available at Peppermint Twist, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, and Café on the Commons. Check out the full menu here.
The list of delectable foods on offer includes:
- Cup of Cheer: Hot chocolate in a festive souvenir cup.
- Mini Donuts: Assorted freshly made mini donuts.
- Gourmet Holiday Cupcake: Decorated gourmet cupcakes.
- Decorated Cookies: Holiday-themed cookies.
- Empanadas: Cinnamon apple or raspberry and Nutella empanadas.
- Christmas Tree Treat: Rice Krispies® shaped as a Christmas tree with white chocolate and sprinkles.
- Holiday Bread Bowls: Beef barley soup or broccoli cheese soup in a sourdough bowl.
- Hot Holiday Sundae: Roast turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and fried onions.
- Gobblerito: Wrap filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and cranberry sauce topped with gravy.
- Ham & Havarti Sandwich: Bourbon-barrel ham, Havarti cheese, Dijonnaise, tomato, and arugula on sourdough bread.
- Peppermint Oreo: Double-stuffed Oreos® coated with white chocolate and crushed peppermint.
- Reindeer Chow: Chocolate Chex®, pretzels, M&Ms®, mini marshmallows, and chocolate mix.
- Kettle-Fresh Fudge: Various flavors of fresh fudge.
About the Indianapolis Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo empowers people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. Visit IndianapolisZoo.com.