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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Toledo Zoo hosts annual Lights Before Christmas

Now that December is here, you may be looking to do something festive. The Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas display is one option available to those looking to get into the holiday spirit.

The Zoo’s lights display runs now until the end of December and features numerous lights.

“Our horticulture team does a wonderful job putting up over a million lights—we’ve stopped counting at a million, so it’s definitely more than that,” said Toledo Zoo PR and Communication Events Director Jen Brassil.

The Toledo Zoo is celebrating its 38th year of its annual light show.

However, before over a million lights can be put up, preparation starts months before.

“It takes several months—they start kind of the end of May, early June now, because of the Christmas in July events,” said Brassil. “They just continue up until that week that we light the big tree and start the lights display.”

Speaking of that big tree, it’s an 85-foot, Norway Spruce with over over 35,000 lights on it.

While the tree may be an annual staple at the Zoo, there is another area Brassil hopes to become a new favorite for many.

The Zoo revitalized its Winter Village, located in the historic amphitheater. The Village features many holiday-themed attractions, one of which is the ice slide.

“We brought back our ice slide that is a very popular staple of the event—people love that, so that’s been here for a few years,” said Brassil.

In addition, the revamped area includes a shopping booth, a place to purchase snacks, drinks and s’mores kits that can be roasted on the firepits within the area.

Brassil says there’s something for everyone in the Village.

“We hope that families, while they’re waiting for their kids to go down the ice slide can get a cocktail, warm up at the fire pits, and do some shopping, and spend some time down there,” she said.

In addition to the giant Christmas tree and dancing lights, you can meet the man in red himself in the Winter Village—Santa Claus.

She also said the Lights are a Toledo tradition and attract people from not only the Toledo area, but Michigan and Indiana as well.

Likewise, traditions are being created that will last a lifetime.

“People that came with their parents when they were little now are grandparents coming with their grandkids,” she said. “So, we really love the full circle of generations that visit the Lights Before Christmas.”

The Lights sometimes welcome upwards of 13,000 visitors in a single weekend.

After the Lights end on Dec. 31, the Zoo immediately begins taking down the lights for the next two months, in preparation for next year.

“One of the big questions we get asked from people is ‘Why don’t you just leave them up since you spend half the year putting them up and a couple months taking them down?’ We have tried that before and it just didn’t work,” said Brassil.

She attributed factors such as continued growth of the Zoo’s trees and bushes resulting in broken lights in years past, as well as some furry creatures, such as squirrels, chewing through the wires.

Despite the months-long process the Zoo Lights take to create and disassemble, Brassil said she, along with many others, are able to find joy in the season.

“I just love this time of the year, I think everybody really loves the holidays and it’s such a hectic time, and having the Zoo be one of those destinations where you can come in, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the ambiance, and enjoy the lights with your family and friends,” she said.

The Toledo Zoo is nominated for USA Today’s 10Best Holiday Zoo Lights contest. Results will be announced Dec. 8.

Tickets for the Zoo Lights are $29 for adults and $26 for children. If you would like to purchase tickets, visit





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