2022 Christmastime Events at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Chicago’s world-famous Lincoln Park Zoo is free to visit during the day,every day of the year,but around Christmas it has a variety of festive nighttime rides, attractions, and activities that require tickets. ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ  is a nighttime festival when colorful lights illuminate the Lincoln Park Zoo, roughly corresponding with the American holiday season running from Thanksgiving, through Advent, and climaxing in Christmastide.  This year, that holiday season began on Thursday, November 24, A.D. 2022 and will end on Friday, January 6, A.D. 2023 and 2022 ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ began on Friday, November 18, A.D. 2022 and runs through Sunday, January 1, A.D. 2023 (New Year’s Day).  This is the 28th ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (L.P.Z.).   Between the 17th of November and the 1st of January, the L.P.Z. closes at 3:00 p.m. and re-opens at 4:30 p.m.  The sponsors are ComEd (Commonwealth Edison); Invesco QQQ; UChicago [The University of Chicago] Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital; Coca-Cola; Louis Glunz Beer, Inc.; and 93.9 Lite F.M.

For ZooLights, the Lincoln Park Zoo is open from 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon to 10:00 o’clock at night.  Timed-entry tickets are required for all visitors on all dates, including free days.   The tickets are $5 for each person Tuesdays through Sundays and free on Mondays.  Thus, the remaining free nights are the 12th, 19th, and 26th of December.  All visitors must have tickets, even infants. 

To purchase tickets for ZooLights, click here, select a date, and purchase tickets through Eventbrite or click here and purchase tickets directly from Eventbrite.  To reserve tickets for free nights, click here to deal directly with Eventbrite. 

Please note that this season there were six nights when there are special events, three of which have already occurred, I will describe in detail later, and these require sperate tickets. [1]  Only people who have those tickets will be admitted.  Those six exceptions are the 18th and 29th of November, and the 1st, 14th, 15th, and 31st of December.

Through Eventbrite, you may purchase tickets for up to ten people for Tuesday through Sunday nights or reserve tickets for up to six people for free Monday nights.  If you cannot go to the L.P.Z. on the date for which you purchased or reserved a ticket or tickets, be forewarned you cannot switch to another date, you can only give the ticket or tickets to someone else. 

The general admission tickets cannot be purchased on-site, they must be purchased through Eventbrite.  Unlike with the general admission tickets that must be purchased (or reserved) in advance online, the tickets for rides and attractions can be purchased either in advance online or on site in person.

You can purchase tickets for the Light Maze Presented by Invesco QQQ, the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel, the Ferris wheel, and the Lionel Train Adventure at the Searle Visitor Center, the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel, the Gift Shop, or the Lionel Train Adventure.  The sixty-five-foot-tall Ferris wheel is back for the first time since 2019.  The Lionel Train Adventure can hold up to twenty-eight passengers.

These tickets are $4, each for the most part.  For most of the rides and attractions, the rule is one ticket per person, but for the Ferris wheel each person needs two tickets. 

 If you have little adorable people you’d like to photograph with Santa Claus, you will find him in the Helen Brach Primate House from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Friday, December 23, A.D. 2022.  Thereafter, he will be too busy at the North Pole.

Block Club Chicago’s Kelly Bauer reported in September of 2020 that the Lincoln Park Zoo would charge visitors to participate in ZooLights for the first time, except for five free nights, due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 closure.[2]  The tickets cost $5, so the ticket price has been consistent for three years.

I found when I re-read my own article covering ZooLights in 2020 that I wrote, “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.’”  

Snowy’s Spirits & S’Mores is a “holiday-themed pop-up bar,” according to a press release.[3]  Here, you can “roast s’mores over a fire pit, sip and savor on festive cocktails and hot drinks, and devour sweet treats of all kinds as you look over the light tunnel and passing crowds on [the] Main Mall—and maybe catch a glimpse of the lion pride from above.”

There are limited parking spaces in the Lincoln Park Zoo’s parking lot on Cannon Drive.  Click here to find out about the parking lot, where to get dropped off by taxicabs and so-called “rideshares,” and how to navigate Chicago’s public transportation network to reach the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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 depicting ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is from the Kovler Seal Pool, which is the habitat for two kinds of seals: grey seals and harbor seals.

Figure 3 Phil Parcellano, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture depicts a past Adults Night Out event at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Figure 4 Phil Parcellano, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture also depicts an Adults Night Out event at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This picture was taken on November 29, A.D. 2018.

Figure 5 Phil Parcellano,, Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This facsimile of a Christmas tree comprised entirely of lights is from a past ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Figure 6 Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This picture depicting ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is another view of the Kovler Seal Pool.

Please be advised that the L.P.Z. wants visitors to don face masks while in the animal habitats.  This policy comes under the argument they do not know what exposure to COVID-19 does to every animal species.

If you have a group of twenty-five or more people who would like to contract event space or are interested in catering should e-mail groupsales@lpzoo.org.  If you would like to hold a private event during ZooLights, e-mail tigerlilyevents@lpzoo.org.  If you would like to sponsor ZooLights, e-mail corporatealliances@lpzoo.org. If you have accessibility needs and need assistance buying a ticket,  e-mail accessibility@lpzoo.org.  If you have other questions, e-mail events@lpzoo.org

Special Events

Tickets are free for Members and their guests on two dates: Friday, November 18, A.D. 2022 and Wednesday, December 14, A.D. 2022.[3]  Members also must use Eventbrite to reserve tickets.

Adults Night Out: Holidaze” will take place on Thursday, December 15, A.D. 2022.  Visitors must be eighteen or older for this event, so it is an opportunity to see Lincoln Park Zoo without children.  According to a press release, “This event includes a DJ, animal chats, unlimited access to the carousel, Ferris wheel, and Light Maze Presented by Invesco QQQ!”  The thing kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and lasts until 10:00 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $40.  Click here to purchase tickets directly from the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Food and drinks will be available to purchase.

Zoo New Year’s Eve” is another event for adults, but this time you must be twenty-one-or-older to attend.  According to a press release, “At this adults-only (ages 21+) event, guests can countdown to 2023 with a DJ, games, giveaways, special animal enrichment, and much more.”  The event will begin at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 31, A.D. 2022 and run until 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 1, A.D. 2023. Tickets range from $15 to $30, but it has sold out.

More Special Events

The Chris White Trio Tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be a jazz concert that will take place at Café Brauer on Sunday, December 11, A.D. 2022.  The showtimes will be at 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $35 and include a complimentary beverage.

The Light Up the Lawn experience is returning for a second year.  In a press release, the L.P.Z. stated, “The L.P.Z. advertises this experience as a “special moment… perfect for family celebrations, birthdays, proposals, or corporate outings.”  Prices begin at $250 for a weekday night (excluding Fridays) and go up to $350 on Friday and Saturday nights.  On the Zoolights Opening Night (November 18th), tickets were $500.  For more information, e-mail events@lpzoo.org.

If you’re interested in proposing marriage or hosting a Christmas party at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the L.P.Z. offers a variety of “holiday packages.” E-mail groupsales@lpzoo.org for more information.


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Megan Ross, Ph.D., President & C.E.O. of the Lincoln Park Zoo, said, “This is our twenty-eight year of this annual holiday tradition.  We are so happy to be bringing back many of your favorites, including the Ferris wheel, visits with Santa, and the Light Maze, presented by Invesco QQQ.  There’s millions of lights and light tunnels that you can walk through on grounds.  There’s also lots of new things this year, including a dazzling light tunnel on the Main Mall of the Zoo, a Chicago skyline display, and a Candyland light show, presented by UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital. Tickets are required every night of ZooLights.  Tuesday through Sunday, they’re $5 each, and Monday they’re free.  There’s also lots of great benefits for our members, and if you haven’t joined Lincoln Park Zoo, we would love to have you join us.  We are so excited to have all of Chicago come back and enjoy this fun family tradition, and I just want to say another ‘thank you’ to our amazing partners who made this event possible, ComEd and Invesco QQQ.” 

Gil Quiniones, C.E.O. of ComEd, said, “ComEd is proud to be a long-time partner and sponsor of an event that brings so much joy to so many people.  I’d like to start by thanking Megan Ross, President & C.E.O. of the Lincoln Park Zoo; and all the staff, volunteers, and sponsors that have made this event possible.  I know what a special role Lincoln Park Zoo and ZooLIghts play in kicking off the holidays.  This is our family’s first holiday season together in Chicago, and we already feel so welcome.”

Anna Paglia, Global Head of ETFs and Investment Strategies at Invesco, said, “At Invesco QQQ, we are incredibly proud to partner with Lincoln Park Zoo and bring you ZooLight 2022.  This is such an important event for the community in Chicago and we are incredibly thankful to Lincoln Park Zoo staff, sponsors, and partners who helped us make this event a reality again.”

Timmy Knudsen, 43rd Ward Alderman, said, “We are so lucky in the 43rd Ward to be home to the Lincoln Park Zoo and its annual holiday ZoolIghts.  To me, ZooLights is a holiday tradition I share every year with my two nieces, Julia and Claire.  We thank ComEd and Invesco QQQ for their generous support in creating special memories for so many Chicagoans.”

Congressman Mike Quigley, who represents Illinois’s 5th Congressional District, said, “I’ve had the privilege of attending ZooLights nearly every holiday season.  For generations, this event has brought families from across the city and state together to celebrate the holidays and marvel at these beautiful lights.  There are hundreds of them, thousands of them.  The best part – they are all powered by renewable energy. As someone who cares deeply about our planet and the switch to green energy sources, this is just another reason to enjoy the event.  Thank you and Happy Holidays!”

Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: Meg Ross, Ph.D., President & C.E.O. of the Lincoln Park Zoo welcomes visitors to 2022 ZooLights.  The other people who give welcoming remarks are Gil Quiniones, C.E.O. of ComEd; Anna Paglia, Global Head of ETFs and Investment Strategies at Invesco; Timmy Knudsen, 43rd Ward Alderman; and Congressman Mike Quigley, who represents Illinois’s 5th Congressional District.  They are nice heartwarming messages note not one of them uses the word Christmas.

It is both one of the last free zoos in America and one of the largest free zoos in America.  The Lincoln Park Zoo traces its origins to the donation of swans by Central Park in New York City in 1868, so the L.P.Z. celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018Ronald Marlin Perkins (1905-1986) was Director of the Lincoln Park Zoo from 1945 to 1962, during which time he became a national celebrity as the host of ZooParade before he became a global celebrity as the host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Approximately 3,000,000 people per year used to visit the gorilla Bushman while he resided at the Lincoln Park Zoo until he died around the age of twenty-three in 1951, after which taxidermists at The Field Museum of Natural History prepared his remains for display there. Already a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Lincoln Park Zoo additionally received arboretum accreditation from ArbNet (hosted by The Morton Arboretum) in 2019.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is located in the middle of the Chicago Park District’s vast Lincoln Park on the lakeshore of Lake Michigan. A non-profit organization, the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, manages the Lincoln Park Zoo.  More than 85% of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s capital and operating costs are covered by contributions from visitors, members, and donors.  Click here to donate to the Lincoln Park Zoo. 

            Approximately 200 animal species are represented at the zoo.  The address is 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614.  The phone number is (312) 742-2000.


[1] Three events have already occurred as of this writing.  The first Member’s Night was November 18th, Sensory-friendly Night was on November 29th, and BrewLights Presented by Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. was on December 1st.

[2] Kelly Bauer, “Lincoln Park ZooLIghts Will Return – But Will Cost $5 Per Person This Year,” Block Club Chicago, 17 September, 2020 (https://blockclubchicago.org/2020/09/17/lincoln-park-zoolights-will-return-but-will-cost-5-per-person-this-year/) Accessed 12/08/22

[3] What holiday is that?  Some generic holiday?  Is it alternatively decorated for Christmas and Independence Day?  I doubt it.

[3] Please note that being a Member of the Lincoln Park Zoo is not the same thing as being a Member of the Lincoln Park Zoological Society.

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