Visiting Portland’s ‘Zoo Lights’ at the Oregon Zoo

*Disclosure: Our family received complimentary admission to Zoo Lights as part of Media Appreciation nights at the Oregon Zoo. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.

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Last Sunday night, our family hopped on a MAX train and headed for Portland’s Oregon Zoo.

kids waiting at the Max station

We were off to see Zoo Lights, a local tradition of Christmas light displays at the Oregon Zoo. We hadn’t visited since before our move to Texas, so we were really looking forward to it.

Zoo Lights entrance sign

Despite the cold and rain, we were excited to get out and marvel at the more than 1 million LED lights fashioned into everything from a huge dragon to a school of fish, a spider in its web to swans in a lake.

displays at Oregon Zoo Lights

This year the train is not running – the Oregon Zoo is in the process of laying a new track system for a better viewing experience in the future. We took the train the last time we visited, and honestly, I did not miss it this year. This was a much more immersive experience, allowing us to get closer to the displays, and increasing the festive spirit we felt there because we were constantly interacting with other guests and the Zoo staff.

immersive experience at Oregon Zoo Lights


Although many of the animals are asleep during the Zoo Lights’ nighttime hours, we did get to see a handful of residents – including elephants Rose and Lily, the stellar sea lion, the bats, and a tiger. Zoo staff were on hand to answer any questions, give directions, and basically just spread holiday cheer. We also noticed many of the food and gift locations were open, and we even took a spin on the zoo’s “Thrill Ride,” a 3D simulator in which you can choose the story (we opted for a season-appropriate sledding ride).

We had a wonderful time at Zoo Lights and really appreciated the time together as a family. Although it was cold and wet, we were bundled up and hardly bothered by it. There were still lots of people out, music playing in the background, and lots of things to see and do. I’m happy to be back in Portland, and look forward to making Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo part of our holiday traditions again.

Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo is running now through Sunday, January 5. Check out their Zoo Lights page for information on hours and ticket prices.

Oregon Zoo Zoo Lights