News & Politics

ZooLights Will Cost $6 This Year

It costs a lot to put on the wildly popular holiday show, the zoo says.

Photograph by Smithsonian's National Zoo/Flickr.

The popular holiday exhibition ZooLights will return to Smithsonian’s National Zoo this year—but unlike in its previous editions, anyone over 2 years old will have to pay to get in.

The new $6 fee, the zoo says in a press release, “is needed to offset the significant increase in costs associated with running this event.” You might think the park is talking about its electric bills: It promises more than 500,000 lights as well as “130 lanterns depicting ocean, desert, grassland, rainforest and polar habitats, and the animals that call them home.” (That sounds positively illuminating!) Actually, the zoo says proceeds will go toward “animal care and conservation science at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.”

The event will run on 23 nights beginning on November 24 and ending on December 30. There will be music, shopping, food, and holiday goodies available, as well as a carousel that costs an additional $4 per spin. Parking will cost $30. Passes go on sale October 26, and the zoo advises booking early.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.