Oregon Zoo Lights: Fun for the Whole Family

I have lived in the Portland metro are almost my entire life and this year was the first year that I have ever visited the Oregon Zoo during the holidays to see the wonder of Zoo Lights.

With this being our first year, we did not know what to expect or what to bring but we had a wonderful time and our daughter enjoyed ever last light.

Enjoy some of my favorite pictures of the night and tips for making your first Zoo Lights experience one to remember.

1. Bundle Up: I watched the weather report for days before our trip and while it said it would be dry, it was also going to be chilly so I packed gloves, hats, and spare jackets for everyone in a duffel bag and tossed it in the trunk.  Good thing I did, my daughter is going through a phase where she hates her winter coat because one kid at school said she didn’t like it but I packed it anyway and about 10 minutes into the evening she was freezing.

2. Pack Snacks: There are a couple of snack stations, the restaurants are open and there is an elephant ear stand but still be prepared with a few snacks that are easy to eat even with gloves on.

3. Take a stroller: If you are visiting zoo lights with small children, our daughter is almost 4, take a compact stroller even if they say they will walk.  You will need it and it will save your back if you bring it.  If you do not need it, you can use it to carry the extra stuff you packed.  Our is small and has a carry strap so we can throw it over a shoulder when not in use.

4. Go Early: I had to work the day we went so we did not arrive until just after 6:00.  Zoo Lights is open from 5:00 – 8:00 or 8:30 (on Friday and Saturday) and guests can remain on the property for one hour past these gate closing times.  The later it gets, the harder it is to find parking, so arrive early to get a good spot.  You will also want to arrive early so you have time to see it all, it is easy to lose track of time.  We checked out the lights for a while, rode the train, grabbed a bite to eat and then checked out more lights and before we knew it, it was after 8:30 and we had a tired little one on our hands.

5. Check The performance Schedule: They have a great stage set up for entertainment. Watching the performances is a great way to rest your tired feet and take a break while enjoying some holiday music.


6. Get the package Deal: With the package deal you get admission and a ticket to ride the train.  By getting the package deal at the main gate, you will save a dollar and also save a wait in another potentially long line at the train station. The train was my daughters favorite part, she loved riding by all the lights and exclaimed with delight (I am sure the other passengers appreciated it) “mom, did you see that one!” or “Dad, that was awesome”.  Little one wanted to ride the train over and over and was disappointed when we only let her ride once.



7. Thrill Ride: The thrill ride is not for the really young children.  My daughter met the height minimum and selected the Robot Mars option but freaked out the minute the doors closed and the motion started.  She was not a fan of the loud noises and movement.  I think she might have been a little better with the ocean option.  It is fun but not for those that do not do well with motion rides or get motion sick.

8. FUDGE!: Visit the gift shop on your way out to get some souvenirs and FUDGE. I love fudge and the fudge at the Oregon Zoo is not to be missed.  Let the kiddos get a zoo reminder and pick up a piece of fudge or two (OK more like 5 or 6) for yourself.

 I hope you enjoy Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo as much as we did, it was our first time seeing the lights and will not be our last (might not even be the last this season!). With over 1 million LED lights to see, I am sure we missed something and I bet my little one would love the chance to ride the train one more time.

ZooLights schedule

  • Sunday-Thursday hours: ZooLights gates are open from 5-8 p.m. Guests may stay on grounds until 9 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday hours: ZooLights gates are open from 5-8:30 p.m. Guests may stay on grounds until 9:30 p.m.
  • Train: Train will begin running around 5:15 p.m.
  • Dark: There will be no ZooLights on Monday, Dec. 24. The Zoo is closed on Tuesday, Dec. 25.


 ** Special thank you to the Oregon Zoo for inviting my family to your media night**



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