“2020-2021 Christmastime Events at Lincoln Park Zoo”

ZooLights is well-known to Chicagoans as a nighttime Thanksgiving/Advent/Christmastime/New Year’s Eve festival at Lincoln Park Zoo, but this year there are some changes to the program.  Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo, so for over twenty years ZooLights was free and one just has to pay to participate in certain activities (or to buy a gift or snack), but this year, the Lincoln Park Zoological Society (L.P.Z.S.) is charging $5 on most nights. Please note that all visitors need tickets, even babies.  In a press release, the L.P.Z. stated, “Due to financial challenges presented by the pandemic, the zoo has made the difficult decision, after more than 20 years, to return to ZoolIghts being a ticketed event.”  ZooLights, presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ, runs from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  

For Lincoln Park Zoo Members, tickets went on sale on Thursday, September 24, A.D. 2020.  Tickets went on sale for the public at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 1, A.D. 2020 via EventBrite.

It began on Saturday, November 21, A.D. 2020.  This month, it ran the third and fourth weekends (from the 21st to the 25th of November, and from the 27th to the 30th of November, so every day in November from the 21st onward except Thanksgiving Thursday).  It will resume on Wednesday, December 2, A.D. 2020.  Thereafter, it will run from the 4th to the 8th of December; from the 11th to the 16th of December; from the 18th to the 20th of December; on the 22nd and 23rd of December; from the 26th to the 28th of December (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Days of Christmas); the 30th and 31st of December (the 6th and 7th Days of Christmas); and from the 1st to the 3rd of January (the 8th Day of Christmas/New Year’s Day, 9th Day of Christmas, and the 10th Day of Christmas).


NovemberSaturday, November 21, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, November 22, A.D. 2020  

Monday, November 23, A.D. 2020  

Tuesday, November 24, A.D. 2020  

Wednesday, November 25, A.D. 2020  

Friday, November 27, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, November 28, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, November 29, A.D. 2020  

Monday, November 30, A.D. 2020  
DecemberWednesday, December 2, A.D. 2020

Friday, December 4, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 5, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 6, A.D. 2020 (Feast of Saint Nicholas)  

Monday, December 7, A.D. 2020  

Tuesday, December 8, A.D. 2020 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)  

Friday, December 11, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 12, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 13, A.D. 2020  

Monday, December 14, A.D. 2020  

Tuesday, December 15, A.D. 2020  

Wednesday, December 16, A.D. 2020  

Friday, December 18, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 19, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 20, A.D. 2020  

Tuesday, December 22, A.D. 2020  

Wednesday, December 23, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 26, A.D. 2020 (2nd Day of Christmas)  

Sunday, December 27, A.D. 2020 (3rd Day of Christmas)  

Monday, December 28, A.D. 2020 (4th Day of Christmas)  

Wednesday, December 30, A.D. 2020 (6th Day of Christmas)  

Thursday, December 31, A.D. 2020 (7th Day of Christmas/New Year’s Eve)  

Friday, January 1, A.D. 2020 (8th Day of Christmas/New Year’s Day)  

Saturday, January 2, A.D. 2020 (9th Day of Christmas)  

Sunday, January 3, A.D. 2020 (10th Day of Christmas)

Zoolights was free on the 24th of November and it will be free on the 9th, 17th, 21st, and 29th of December.  Reservations are necessary to attend these free nights.  Reservations will be released the Sunday prior to the event date at 4:00 p.m. via EventBrite.  All regular ZooLights hours and activities apply.


NovemberTuesday, November 24, A.D. 2020
DecemberWednesday, December 9, A.D. 2020  

Thursday, December 17, A.D. 2020  

Monday, December 21, A.D. 2020  

Tuesday, December 29, A.D. 2020 (5th Day of Christmas)  

“Despite the loss of revenue this year brought on by the pandemic, we couldn’t fathom a Chicago winter without the joy of ZooLights,” stated Megan Ross, Ph.D., Zoo Director.  “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 without some public investment.  We are charging a nominal admission in order to help us break even and still bring this beloved holiday tradition to the zoo.”

Dr. Ross continued, “The zoo values being free to all when we can, and we understand many Chicagoans are facing financial difficulties as well.  As such, five nights of ZooLights will remain free to the public to attend.”

Special events include Free Members-Only Nights (November 20th and December 1st), Virtual ZooLights Challenge (which started on November 27th), Adults Night Out: Holidaze! (December 10th), and the concert Chris White Trio Tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (on December 13th).  To become a Lincoln Park Zoo Member, go to https://www.lpzoo.org/membership.

A full of schedule of what the L.P.Z.S. calls “holiday happenings” is available online at https://www.lpzoo.org/calendar-events/.  Please note that all “holiday happenings” will have limited reservations or tickets available in accordance with guidelines issued by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Paid Experiences

There are three special activities that are happening on the grounds of Lincoln Park Zoo, exclusively during ZooLights: Light Maze, Enchanted Forest, and Snowy’s Spirits & S’more.  For each of these three activities, tickets are $3 per guest.  Every guest will receive special 3D Holospex® Glasses at each activity to enhance his or her viewing of the lights.

Light Maze Presented by Invesco QQQ comes back to the Lincoln Park Zoo for a fourth year in a row.  According to the L.P.Z., “Twist and turn through this year’s dazzling Light Maze, a beautifully lit path sure to rouse holiday spirits.”

This year, for the first time, the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo transforms into the Enchanted Forest.  According to the L.P.Z., “This limited-capacity experience features whimsical atmosphere, made complete by music, smoke machines, twinkle lights, and mirrors.”

Snowy’s Spirits & S’more is back for a second year.  The L.P.Z. described it as a “holiday-themed pop up bar” where customers “sip on festive cocktails and hot drinks, as well as devour sweet treats of all kinds.”  Customers can warm up by a fire and purchase a s’more kit to toast their own snacks.

Additional Ticketed “Holiday Happenings”

The 6th Annual Adults Night Out: Holidaze! will take place on Thursday, December 10, A.D. 2020 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  This is a chance for adults (eighteen-years-of-age-and-over) to gain exclusive entry to the zoo grounds (without minors).  Tickets start at $15 (10% off for L.P.Z. Members).  Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

The Chris White Trio Tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas jazz concert is back on Sunday, December 13, A.D. 2020.[1]  The concert will start at 7:00 p.m.  Tickets are $35 and include one complimentary drink or $15 for virtual admission (10% off for L.P.Z. Members).

The L.P.Z. stated, “New this year, stay active this winter with Zoolights Virtual Challenge.  This fun, virtual activity challenges families and friends to choose from four virtual distances: Ultra Marathon (52.4 miles), Marathon (26.2 miles), Half Marathon (13.1 miles), or Kids’ distance (2.62 miles).  From Nov. 27-Ja. 3, complete the distance of your choice at your own pace.  Participant swag varies by registration package.”

BrewLights Presented by Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. and hosted by the L.P.Z. Auxiliary Board will return on Thursday, December 3, A.D. 2020, but in virtual format.  The L.P.Z. will announce details for the new format via https://www.lpzoo.org/events.

Marriage Proposals and Private Events

If you are thinking of popping the question or would like to rest space at the Lincoln Park Zoo to host a private event such as a Christmas party – the L.P.Z. calls it a “holiday celebration” – for a group of fifty or fewer people, the L.P.Z. states it “offers unforgettable holiday packages for those looking for a unique and intimate way to celebrate the season with indoor/outdoor access, built-in safety infrastructure, and festive fun for corporate or social groups.”  E-mail the Private Events Department at groupsales@lpzoo.org to find out more.   

The L.P.Z. stated, “Proceeds from ZoolIghts and accompanying holiday happenings will benefit Lincoln Park Zoo’s world-class animal care, innovtaive loearning programs, and worldwide conservation initiatives, as well as help keep the zoo free and open throughout the year.”

Figure 1 Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture was taken on November 29, A.D. 2019.

Figure 2 Credit: Christopher Bijalba, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture was taken on November 23, A.D. 2018.

Figure 3 Credit: Phil Parcellano, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture was taken on November 29, A.D. 2018.

Figure 4 Credit: Phil Parcellano, Christopher Bijalba, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture was taken on November 29, A.D. 2018.

Figure 5 Credit: Phil Parcellano, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This festive display of a Christmas tree and snowflakes made of lights are part of ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Figure 6 Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This playful display that includes an image of one seal taking a dive while another seal eats fish is at Kovler Seal Pool, which is home to grey seals and harbor seals, as part of ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Note that while the Lincoln Park Zoo in Lincoln Park on the North Side of Chicago and Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois remain open, the John G. Shedd Aquarium is closed.  However, one must make a free reservation in advance to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo and purchase tickets in advance to visit the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo.[2]  According to W.T.T.W., Chicago’s largest P.B.S. television station, next year, though, the Lincoln Park Zoo plans to be closed from the 4th of January through the 4th of March and Brookfield Zoo will be closed from the 1st of January through the 28th of February.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is located in the middle of the Chicago Park District’s vast Lincoln Park on the lakeshore of Lake Michigan.  Lincoln Park Zoo is free and open 365 days a year.  Founded in 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018.  Approximately 200 animal species are represented at the zoo.  It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

The address of Lincoln Park Zoo is 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614.  The phone number is (312) 742-2000. The Website is https://lpzoo.org.

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[1] Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) composed the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and many other “Charlie Brown” television speciels.

[2] Tuesdays and Thursdays in November and Mondays and Tuesdays in December through Tuesday, December 22, A.D. 2020 are free at the Brookfield Zoo thanks to xfinity, but one must still reserve tickets in advance.

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