If you go
ZOOLIGHTS AT POINT DEFIANCE ZOO AND AQUARIUM
When: Open now-Jan. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m., except for a one-night closure Dec. 24.
Cost: Zoo members, $5 per person online or at the gate; discounted tickets at $8.50 per person, available online at pdza.org/zoolights or at Fred Meyer stores. General admission at the gate, $10 per person; children ages 2 and younger free.
Military Discount Nights: Monday, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 6, 11 and 13, $8 per person available at the gate for service members and other veterans who have served honorably in the armed forces and their family members. Proof of service is required.
Scout Discount Night, Dec. 5: $8 per person at the gate for members of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Camp Fire members in uniform or wearing their pins. Each Scout or Camp Fire member may also bring up to 20 additional non-registered youth group members at the discounted price.
To learn more: pdza.org/zoolights.
FANTASY LIGHTS AT SPANAWAY PARK
When: Now through Jan. 1 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly.
Cost: Admission is per vehicle at the gate: $14 per vehicle up to 24 passengers; $45 per bus 25 and more passengers.
Special half-price nights for 24-passenger and smaller vehicles Monday-Wednesday and Dec. 4-5.
To learn more: co.pierce.wa.us/1253/Fantasy-Lights.
A sure sign of the Christmas season around the South Sound and beyond is the addition of holiday lights to neighborhoods and tourist attractions.
Among the brightest display favorites over the past several decades are Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma and Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park.
Both activities open the night after Thanksgiving and stay lit through Jan. 1, with Zoolights closing for Christmas Eve. Zoolights is open from 5 to 9 p.m., and Fantasy Lights is from 5:30 to 9 p.m..
Lines to see Fantasy Lights are longest on the weekends, with between one and two hours wait time. Guests can consider arriving early, or attend weeknights.
One major distinction between the two huge light displays is that Zoolights is created as a walk-through experience, and Fantasy Lights is a 2-mile drive around Spanaway Park Lake. During the drive, attendees can tune to the 95.3 FM radio station, which is coordinated for guests to enjoy holiday music along the drive.
Zoolights, which features more than 650,000 energy efficient lights in whimsical and realistic shapes, allows guests to see dozens of live animals not asleep during the evening hours.
Visitors can warm up in the steamy South Pacific Aquarium while they watch 16 large sharks of five different species and an array of other fish. They also can get up-close views of dozens of sea creatures in the North Pacific Aquarium and watch the antics of meerkats in Kids’ Zone.
Fantasy Lights has its own share of animals and holiday character displays — many created by local high school and college students in welding and other related classes — designed to inspire and create a tradition of holiday magic.
Zoolights is the oldest local light display, having begun in 1988 and celebrating its 31st annual event this year. Fantasy Lights also is a multigenerational tradition for many in the area, having 23 years under its belt.
Both destinations offer an experience this year that’s bigger and better than previous light displays.
At Zoolights, guests begin their experience with animated and color changing sea creatures and view some of the animals that will be featured in the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, due to open in the summer 2018. Nonaquatic animals also will be featured this year, including some endangered species from around the world.
Local sports and icons also will be featured this year, including a 23-foot replica of Mount Rainier and a 12th Man tree in the Seahawks Zone. The event also features camel rides and an antique carousel with carved animals.
Discount tickets for Zoo Lights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium can be purchased in advance at Fred Meyer stores.
As for Fantasy Lights, it’s presented by Pierce County Parks and Recreation and is billed as the largest holiday drive-through light display in the Northwest. From a giant lit up Saint Bernard, bears flying kites, Santa and Rudolph sailing a tall ship and to penguins sliding down and igloo, guests of all ages can get into the holiday spirit.
No matter which attraction you select to attend, both offer an evening of fantastical lights, lights and more lights.