Over Thanksgiving break our family had the opportunity to visit the new Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital. We were excited to check out this brand new Christmas lights display in New Orleans.
We arrived a little after 5:30 not knowing how bad the crowds would be and if parking would be a hassle. We pulled right up to the front and easily found a parking spot near the entrance. Tip: print your tickets out and bring them with you. They can look your tickets up at the entrance, but that line was long. We waltzed right in with our pre-printed tickets.
As we walked in, we were taken aback. The zoo was lit up like a Christmas tree. Everything was so beautiful. There were lighted sculptures all down the entrance path, colored lights projected into the palms, and even people walking around with lighted costumes. Our first stop was the Polar Pics display in the Frog House. It was decorated up like a fun, polar scene with reindeer, polar bears, and penguins. And it even smelled like marshmallows as you walked in. At the end of the Polar Pics display Santa was waiting for photos. There was a photographer onsite taking photos with Santa for purchase or you could also snap your own.
We ventured down to the fountain and through the lighted oaks by the Zoofari Cafe. The large oaks were beautifully wrapped with twinkle lights and icicle lights. One of the fun things about the Zoo Lights was they had “Selfie Spots” set up all over the zoo for areas with fun photo ops. My kids loved looking for the selfie peppermint lollipops.
The open park near the sea lions’ enclosure and reptile house was full of huge, lighted silk animals. It was fun to each find our favorite animal and stop and grab a picture. Further down the path there was an “Elves Workshop” tent set up for the kids. They had tables set up with little bins filled with paper, stickers, stamps, colors, and markers for children to color pictures and write letters to Santa. You could even decorate a note for a child in the hospital and drop it at the tent for delivery. For Santa letters, there was a huge mailbox in the park to personally mail your letters to Santa.
See a list of other light displays within driving distance of the Northshore right here.
As you follow the sidewalk down, you enter the Peppermint Path. This adorable area was filled with over-sized candy and confectionary displays, swirling peppermint lights, and lighted Santa and reindeer. There were even fun gingerbread man and snowman props for photo ops (another “Selfie Spot”).
After the Peppermint Path, we stopped at the main stage to sit and grab a funnel cake and gingerbread man cookies from the food tents. There was an assortment of food available at the tents (hot dogs, mac & cheese, chicken strips, etc.) and the cafes were open for food purchase as well. They even had a Beer Garden across the park for adults. They were just starting a game of Christmas Bingo at the main stage so we jumped in on the fun. The main stage entertainment was very lively. They were playing games, dancing, and giving away fun prizes all night.
Our next stops were a fun, family picture behind a streetcar prop then on to the zoo education area where we learned about polar bears and armadillos. There were several hands-on things at the tent for the kids to touch and pick up. They even had a rabbit you could gently pet.
We couldn’t leave the zoo without riding the carousel. It’s my boys’ favorite part. The train was not running during the event but the carousel was decorated and available to ride. You still have to purchase tickets to ride so be prepared to bring some money. After riding several times we decided to call it a night.
They had little kiosks set up in front of the gift shop with lighted Christmas themed toys for the event. The toys were very reasonable compared to other lighted events I’ve been to at different parks. We walked away with a bubble gingerbread man and a lightup sword without breaking the bank. The gift shops are open during the event for shopping too.
All in all, we were there 3 hours. I honestly didn’t think we would be there that long, but there was just so much to see and do for both kids and adults. We thoroughly loved the event!
As an added note, you can bring any unwanted holiday string lights for recycling. They have a Lights for Lions donation box at the front gates. Proceeds benefit the Ruaha Carnivore Project. You can also purchase a gift at the Audubon Zoo Marketplace to be delivered to the patients at Children’s Hospital.
For more information and ticket purchase click here.
Zoo Lights Dates:
November: 23-25, 29-30
December: 1-2, 6-7, 9, 13-23, 26-30
5:30pm – 9:30pm
$10.00 Audubon Member
$15.00 General Admission
Children under 2 years are admitted free.