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ZooLights will go on at Lincoln Park Zoo for the holidays in ticketed event

In the wake of financial challenges due to the pandemic, the zoo will be charging $5 per person admission for the annual holiday tradition.

Celebrate the holiday season this year at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights.
Celebrate the holiday season this year at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights.
Phil Parcellano

One of Chicago’s most beloved holiday traditions, the ZooLights festival at Lincoln Park Zoo, will return this year, but paid admission will be required.

Due to the economic hardship brought on the by COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo is requiring a $5 per person ticket (all ages, including infants) to attend. Tickets will go on sale to the public starting at 10 a.m. Oct. 1 at ZooLights runs from 4 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 21-23, 25, 27-30, Dec. 2, 4-8, 11-16, 18-20, 22-23, 26-28, 30-31, and Jan. 1-3. Admission capacity will be limited each date to comply with social distancing guidelines.

There will still be several free dates this season: Nov. 24, and Dec. 9, 17, 21 and 29; reservations are required and limited slots will be released at 4 p.m. the Sunday prior to each free date at

“The pandemic has left us financially vulnerable. We are so grateful to our sponsors, ComEd and Invesco QQQ, for helping cover the cost of producing ZooLights, but unfortunately we are not in a position to staff and operate the extended hours with the limited capacity of visitors required based on state guidelines,” said Zoo Director Megan Ross.

New to the fest is the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo Enchanted Forest, a wonderland experience boasting music, smoke machines, twinkle lights and more. An additional $3 admission ticket is required for every guest.

Returning for the second year is “Snowy’s Spirits & S’more” holiday pop-up bar, featuring seasonal cocktails, hot drinks and sweet treats. An additional $3 ticket is required per guest.

Other ZooLights programming includes free members-only nights (Nov. 20 and Dec. 1); a virtual ZooLights Challenge (starting Nov. 27); the Adults Night Out: Holidaze! (Dec. 10); and a tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by pianist Chris White (Dec. 13).

A full schedule of ZooLights holiday happenings is available at