One of the city’s most beloved, and long lasting winter traditions returned on Friday.
The Calgary Zoo celebrated 25 years of Zoolights this year, after a quarter century of using the annual event as a fundraiser for animal conservation activities.
New this year to the Christmas light extravaganza are a tribute to O Canada, polar wonderland-themed lights, and a brand new tunnel of light to replace the zoo’s aging tunnel of love.
“The team, every year, starts meeting on it, believe it or not, at the end of January to see what they’re going to do for the following year,” said Alison Archambault, director of brand and engagement for the Calgary Zoo.
“Knowing that it was the 25th anniversary, they have a bunch of the favorites and a bunch of new things,” she said.
And for the first time in Zoolights history, patrons will be able to walk through a specially lit display the zoo is calling Dinos in the Dark.
“Last night, we had a donor sneak peek and the kids’ faces were worth every amount of work that the team has done— big eyes and mouths wide open—it’s pretty spectacular,” said Archambault.
The Zoo partnered with local audiovisual experience company Orange Frog Productions to light up the dinosaur park for a self-guided tour featuring lighting and sounds.
Visitors looking to see the animated dinosaurs in action will have to wait for warmer weather, however.
“We had to actually turn off the dinos a bit earlier than we’d even hoped because the outer layer on some of them were cracking from the cold weather,” she said.
Returning favourites and a new indoor experience
Some of the fan favorites from years past have returned. Staples such as ice skating, fire pits, and hot chocolate are back, as are ax throwing and the Zoolights market.
Even the venerable Dinny the Dinosaur, made for the Zoo in 1935, is getting lit up this year and will be visible from the 12 Street SE bridge leading into Inglewood.
The Zoolights experience also extends indoors into the Enmax Conservatory this year, with new Nutcracker-themed lights, ornaments, and a sleigh-ride selfie and photo station in the butterfly garden.
“The hanging candles with the sleigh in the butterfly garden is my absolute favorite,” said Archambault.
What has remained constant for both old and new is the use of over two million lights to light up the park.
Conserving more than just biodiversity this year
This year the Zoo is looking for the support of past visitors to Zoolights in the form of photos.
The Zoo is looking for any photos that Calgarians might have from the past 25 years of the event, especially ones that go back to the early days.
“We’re continuing to look for those photos—25 years of memories is a long time, and we’ve been part of first Christmases, marriage proposals, and family traditions,” said Archambault.
The Zoo is looking to build a larger memento piece to the memories of Calgarians through those photos.
“We’re hoping folks with share those with us,” she said.
Located west of the new tunnel of light, located in the Dorothy Harvie Gardens, is the memory lane display.
On now until January 2, 2022
Tickets can be purchased online for Zoolights from the Calgary Zoo website.
Doors open nightly from 5 p.m., and it runs until 9 p.m. Plan for approximately one and a half hours to see all of the displays.
Zoolights is also offering an adults-only night on Nov. 23.
Tickets are $21.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids aged three through 15. Under threes are free.
The Calgary Zoo is operating under the province’s Restriction Exemption Program. Effective from Nov. 15, proof of double vaccination with a government-issued QR code is required for entry.