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The Oregon Zoo’s annual winter display of more than 1.5 million lights is back and will continue through January 10, 2021 (except Christmas Day). The 2020 version of ZooLights is offered entirely as a drive-through event. The new experience was designed with pandemic-related safety precautions in mind.

(AR Photo/Jody Lim)

(AR Photo/Jody Lim)

(Route map courtesy of the Oregon Zoo)

From The Asian Reporter, V30, #13 (December 7, 2020), page 10.

ZooLights returns as drive-through experience amid global pandemic

By Jody Lim

The Asian Reporter

The Oregon Zoo’s annual winter light display is back — with some changes. After originally planning to hold its typical walk-through event alongside a new drive-through option available two nights during the week, the worsening pandemic resulted in ZooLights being offered entirely as a drive-through event.

From the warmth of one’s car, a winter wonderland of more than 1.5 million brightly colored lights is now on view for holiday-goers.

As a regular ZooLights attendee over the years, the idea of driving through the zoo grounds in a vehicle was intriguing. I wondered how the route would be set up in addition to the order in which the one-way path might take us. Little did I know, we were also treated to a small tour of areas not typically available to zoo guests.

Light aficionados need to plan in advance to see this year’s light display, as a limited number of timed tickets are available every 20 minutes and must be purchased online in advance.

Upon arriving to the zoo, guests should drive up to Parking Lot C (past the Washington Park MAX station), then follow the signs. You’ll first have your ticket scanned, pick up any pre-purchased gifts, beverages, and food (such as elephant ears!), then follow the queue through the main parking lot to the entrance.

The drive begins near the Insect Garden, which features a colorful peacock, a 35-foot-long Chinese dragon display, and more, before heading toward Fantasy Lane, the Seaside Mural, Swimming Penguins, and the Rainforest Mural.

After passing through the Under the Ice display, a mini behind-the-scenes tour begins. While driving by the many life-size animal silhouettes, ZooLights participants pass by the back side of the new Polar Passage exhibit as well as Elephant Lands, including Forest Hall and the Elephant Building.

ZooLighters then drive through the Galactic Tunnel before experiencing the Glowing Grove and Light Tree Lane, as well as decorated trees and buildings — and more illuminated animals.

Several "Washed Ashore" art pieces are also visible during ZooLights.

To enhance the light show, the playing of seasonal or other music in your car is suggested. For Christmas songs, the zoo recommends tuning to 97.1 FM or 103.3 FM.

ZooLights opens nightly at 5:00pm (except Christmas Day). Ticket slots are offered every 20 minutes until 9:00pm. Visit <> to make a reservation. (Tickets are available up to seven days in advance; early time slots sell out quickly.)

To help ensure a safe experience for everyone, pandemic-related and other safety measures have been put in place. Some include: 1) All transactions are cashless (online pre-purchase is required). 2) All vehicle doors, hatchbacks, and tailgates must remain closed at all times (riding in the back of a pickup truck is not permitted). 3) Face coverings are required during check-in and other interactions with ZooLights staff. (Drive-through guests do not need to wear face coverings while enjoying the lights from inside their vehicle.) 4) Guests must remain in their vehicle during the entire tour. 5) Items such as laser pointers and flashlights are prohibited. 6) Loud noises are not permitted, including honking, loud music, and yelling. 7) Smoking and vaping are prohibited during ZooLights, including inside your vehicle.

To read the full list of safety precautions and rules, visit <>.


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