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Weekend Pass

Lighting up the holidays

The Annual Zoolights show at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium now features scuba-diving Santa, giant octupus

Northwest Guardian

Published: 11:47AM December 20th, 2012
Lighting up the holidays

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

A scuba-diving Santa Claus waves to visitors while swimming with sharks during the annual Zoolights show at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.

Absorbing the wonder of the holiday season can involve many different activities, from caroling to baking to watching Christmas lights. Neighboring towns and cities offer the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community the opportunity to see impressive light displays that deliver affordable family entertainment close to home.

One of these venues is Zoolights at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma. A holiday tradition since 1988, Zoolights is celebrating its 25th anniversary with more than 80 lighted animal figurines and zoo scenes.

Zoolights runs through Jan. 1 and is open from 5 to 9 p.m. every evening except Dec. 24. Discounted tickets are available at and all Fred Meyer stores in the Puget Sound area for $7.25. There is no discount offered if tickets are purchased at the zoo’s main gate. General admission cost at the gate is $8.50.

Visitors will find their favorite light displays, like the gorgeous green-and-purple flame tree, the twin Tacoma Narrows bridges, an eagle swooping down to catch a salmon and the ice skating puffins, but there are also many new attractions at Zoolights this year.

A 24,000-light, 100-foot giant pacific octopus sits atop the North Pacific Aquarium, and there are two challenging zip line courses that opened in wooded area of the zoo. Four-month-old tiger cubs Berani and Dumai, are also on exhibit. Scuba-diving Santa is back and will be in full Santa suit as he swims with the sharks every Tuesday and Wednesday at 6 p.m. during the Zoolights run with the exception of Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

The zoo will be open for animal viewing, and visitors can see meerkats, goats and other creatures. Both aquariums will be open, showcasing a variety of marine creatures. Visitors can take a ride on the vintage carousel or a live camel, and there will be hot chocolate and a variety of other treats available for purchase.

Visitors can also get a great deal on a day and night combination ticket. Families can come and spend the day at the zoo, then enjoy Zoolights after the sun goes down. The Zoolights value pass is $15.75 for adults, $15.25 for senior citizens, $14.75 for youths from 5 to 12 and $12.75 for tots, ages 3 and 4. Visitors two and under are free and there is no fee for parking.

“There is an incredible amount to see and do at Zoolights,” zoo marketing and public relations director Whitney DalBalcon said.