The Cincinnati Zoo is also known for its light show, which was rated the best in the country by a panel.
At Cincinnati Zoo, Christmas is a welcome time, because the animals have a special visitor in...Santa Claus! Yes, you read that right. Santa Claus is taking time off his busy schedule to pay a visit to the animals at Cincinnati Zoo and even handing them presents. His reindeers will tell you how much he loves animals and on Monday, ahead of Christmas, he handed out treats to all the animals who, of course, are on Santa's nice list. He had presents for everyone ranging from hippos and red pandas to meerkats. He even got naked mole rats some tiny clothes to get into the Christmas spirit.
“It was so thoughtful of Santa to bring clothes to the naked mole rats, but they don’t actually need any help to keep warm,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s World of the Insect team leader Mandy Pritchard. “Their habitat is kept nice and toasty since they come from the deserts of East Africa. If they do get a little chilly, they prefer to cuddle together in big piles!” Those who want to visit the animals can do so before or after Christmas, as the zoo and its Festival of Lights will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The festival will reopen on December 26 and run through January 9. "It's the most wonderful time of the year! Get into the holiday spirit at the PNC Festival of Lights! Pro-tip - come early to see more animals and stay for the lights!" read one of their posts on Instagram.
The preparations for Christmas started as early as August, with the staff needing to install 3 million lightbulbs across the zoo’s grounds. Zoo officials say their lights stretch 284 miles and installing the lights could take up to 5,000 hours. The Festival of Lights is a marvel in itself and USA TODAY’s 10 Best editors recently announced that Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s PNC Festival of Lights took the top spot in the Best Zoo Lights category.
“So much work goes into hanging 4 million lights throughout the Zoo,” said Cincinnati Zoo director, Thane Maynard. “Our core lighting team starts hanging in August and then it’s all-hands-on-deck leading up to opening night! I did a tree or two myself! We add something different each year and keep the things that bring people back again and again, like the Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake and the dazzling Rainbow Tunnel.”
The zoo employees also made headlines recently after donating to feed families in the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s neighborhood. “We joined forces with the Avondale Community Council (ACC) about ten years ago to help make Thanksgiving special, and in some cases possible, for Avondale families,” said Maynard. “In 2011, we served 7 families. Last year, we served 1,050 families! Their generous donations made it all possible for Avondale Families.”
This year's new feature is the Under the Sea section, where guests will be surrounded by lights and giant, colorful jellyfish. Visitors will also get to ride the North Polar Express train ride, view the Wild Lights show on Swan Lake, and sneak a snack at one of two S’mores-n-More stands. So why wait? Head to the Cincinnati Zoo and see what it's all about.