Kali the polar bear looked quite cozy sleeping outside in his pen at the Saint Louis Zoo one evening last week. By contrast, families walking past him as they followed the path of the annual U.S. Bank Wild Lights display were bundled up with coats, hats and gloves to stay warm.
This time of year, the animals are not the only attraction at the Zoo. Come sundown, the grounds are transformed into an enchanting holiday wonderland with more than 1 million twinkling lights and whimsical animal-themed displays. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites in the photos here, and a photo gallery of even more is posted at www.emissourian.com.
The displays are engaging, fun and family-friendly. There are many places where you can pose for holiday photos, and there are several activities open for children, including crafts, rides on the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel and watching “The Polar Express 4D Experience” at the zoo’s 4D Theater.
Kids can collect special trading cards offered by costumed characters positioned around the path and they can visit the Den Design Zone to build their own winter bear shelter. At the Woodland Workshop, kids can make other festive crafts and write letters to Santa.
On weekend nights, there also are holiday carolers and strolling live performances.
Only two animals exhibits are open during Wild Lights hours of 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Those are at Penguin and Puffin Coast and the Monsanto Insectarium, which both have indoor facilities.
The Wild Lights path, however, does go past the bear enclosures, so people can look for them, although they aren’t likely to be very active this time of year.
With evening temperatures in the 30s or lower this month, people should dress accordingly for Wild Lights. There are several fit pits set up in two areas where people can stop to get warm and also roast marshmallows for s’mores.
Other festive food and special holiday beverages are available for purchase during Wild Lights.
If You Go . . .
Wild Lights is open select nights through Dec. 30.
This weekend, the exhibit is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7-9.
Monday, Dec. 10, is Sensory Night for individuals on the autism spectrum and others who may benefit from a sensory-friendly experience.
The exhibit is then open nightly Dec. 12-23 and Dec. 26-30.
The Zoo closes for all visitors at 4 p.m. on the days of Wild Lights. Doors reopen at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets are required for admission to Wild Lights. They can be purchased in advance online or at the door on event nights.
Prices are $8-$11, depending on the night you visit and whether or not you are a Zoo member. Children under age 2 are free.
Parking on the Zoo lots is free during event hours.
For more information people can go to stlzoo.org/wildlights.
Wild Lights is sponsored by U.S. Bank, The Boeing Company, Eaton, and Prairie Farms Dairy.