Written by Katy Mann with updates by Sara Keller
Christmas at the Zoo
If you’re looking for a unique spin on Christmas lights and holiday fun in Indy, check out Christmas at the Zoo. This is an annual event and family favorite at the Indianapolis Zoo. Every December, we put on our winter coats and step out into the wild during the holiday season! The Indianapolis Zoo is full of sparkling, twinkling lights. It’s beautiful and magical, and the kids always have a great time!
It’s not every night that you get to race around the zoo, checking out the animals, seeing reindeer, visiting with Santa, and taking in the beautiful lights! Party with the seals and sea lions, walruses, tigers, orangutans, brown bears, and more! Warm up with some cocoa around one of the outdoor firepits or head indoors to the Oceans exhibit or the Dolphin presentation.
New This Year
The zoo’s new Indianapolis Colts Welcome Plaza allowing entry to the zoo through White River State Gardens opened in May of 2023. The beautiful formal garden provides a whole new canvas for the zoo to dress up for the holiday season. Expect to see arbors, trees, and topiaries all decked out with twinkling lights, with the glassy windows of the Hilbert Conservatory as a glimmering backdrop.
How Much is Admission to Christmas at the Zoo?
Christmas at the Zoo is free for Zoo members and included with regular Zoo admission. See more info and purchase tickets on the Indianapolis Zoo website.
2023 Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo
Reservations are recommended, to guarantee entry and to save you money! Tickets are often cheaper when purchased in advance online. Santa’s Village is a beautiful part of Christmas at the Zoo. Under the Bicentennial Pavilion, Santa’s Village is the centerpiece of all the holiday festivities. Here, you can encounter penguins and other winter animals, see Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, snap photos with your family, and stroll through the bright and breathtaking Polar Pathway. Enjoy the cheerful sounds of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir as they sing carols near the warm campfires and Hearth on select Saturday nights.
Do your kids need to visit the man in the red suit? There are now two locations — made possible by some Christmas magic — where you can meet Santa Claus. See Santa in his village under the Bicentennial Pavilion or head towards Flights of Fancy near the flamingos to visit “Vacation Santa.”
Returning to this year’s Christmas at the Zoo is the Merry and Bright Christmas Tree in front of the orangutan center. Guests can join zoo staff at 6:00 pm on select evenings for a special lighting ceremony as dusk falls across the zoo.
When is Christmas at the Zoo?
2023’s Christmas at the Zoo begins November 18 and runs through December 30. The Indianapolis Zoo opens daily at noon. Christmas at the Zoo festivities are from 5 – 9 p.m. on Sunday-Thursday and 5-10 p.m. on Friday-Saturday. The Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Make the Most of Your Visit
Planning to spend a festive holiday evening at the Indianapolis Zoo’s Christmas at the Zoo? Don’t miss out on a single moment of Christmas magic with these hints.
- While the zoo is a popular destination throughout the summer months, many of the animals like to show off even more when it gets cold outside. Stroll through the Forests exhibit to see what the bears, tigers, and red pandas are up to. Then stop by the arctic foxes’ exhibit in Flights of Fancy to admire their beautiful winter coats.
- Make it a date! When many parents are shuffling their kids home for bedtime, couples can soak up all the sparkles in a much quieter environment. Fridays and Saturdays are the perfect opportunity as the zoo stays open until 10 pm.
- Bundle up with coats, gloves, and hats. But don’t forget about the zoo’s indoor exhibits when Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose. Oceans, the Orangutan Center, Deserts, and the Dolphin Pavilion (including regularly scheduled dolphin shows) are all open during Christmas at the Zoo.
- Plan ahead to purchase tickets for Breakfast with Santa for 2024. These tickets are popular and go fast – both dates in 2023 have SOLD OUT. Kids love visiting with Santa in the Dolphin Pavilion as aquatic animal friends frolic in the background.
A membership to the Indianapolis Zoo makes a great experience gift!
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