Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's long-running holiday lights display, Zoolights, celebrates its 25th year this season. And this year, it's upped the excitement by adding two new challenge courses with zip lines.
When my family visited on one of Zoolights' first nights, we were pleased we brought our cameras as there were many great photo opportunities, including a holiday-card-worthy giant “wreath of light” big enough for our whole group to fit into. Another unique Zoolights photo opportunity is the opportunity to ride on holiday-attired camels (!), available for an additional fee of $6 non-zoo members, $5 members.
One of our favorite light displays this year was the new 100-foot Giant Pacific Octopus light display that sits on top of the aquarium. Inside the aquarium, we enjoyed searching for the beautiful live giant octopus that lives there. If you arrive on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, plan to visit the aquarium at 6 p.m. when you can watch a scuba-diving Santa swim with the sharks.
My kids are much happier about accompanying us to holiday activities if they can bring friends and do something active. So we were happy about the addition this year of Zoom, two new climbing and obstacle challenge and zip line courses in a wooded area adjacent to the zoo. The Discovery course is for adults and kids ages eight and older. A smaller, lower to the ground, Super Kid course is available to kids ages six and up. My son and his friend whooped with joy as they rode the Discovery Course’s fast zip lines and pronounced the course to be “epic fun.”
The courses consist of “challenges” testing climbing and balance skills, and zip line rides. Participants move through the course while attached to safety lines with metal carabiners and a safety harness. They start off on a short, low-to-the-ground “training course” with instructors. Then they start the main Discovery course by climbing a steep wall up high to a perch attached to a tree, then make their way over several challenges that test balance and coordination including a high wire line, cargo net and a series of swaying boards. The course provides a real workout; my son stopped a few times to catch his breath and recover his balance.
It takes about an hour to navigate the Discovery Course and all that climbing and zipping builds up an appetite. When you finish you can head to the zoo’s café adjacent to an antique carousel. Carousel rides are just $1 and a great way to finish a magical evening at the zoo.
If you go …
When: Zoolights runs Nov. 23– Jan. 1, from 5-9 p.m. each night (closed December 24).
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at a discount in advance for $7.25 at Fred Meyer stores or online. You’ll pay $4.75 at the gate if you are a zoo member, $8.50 if not. Kids age two and under are free. If you wish to come before 5 pm and also enjoy visiting the zoo, tickets are $15.75 for adults, $14.75 for youth ages seven to 12 and $12.75 for kids ages 3–4.
Zoom: The two new zip line/challenge courses are open Monday through Thursday, 5–8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 9:30 a.m.–8 p.m. The attraction will be available year round at the zoo. The Super Kid course is $19.95 and the Discovery Course is $29.95, both in addition to zoo admission. Kids under 18 must have an accompanying adult sign a waiver and closed shoes are required and long pants recommended.
Tips: The exhibit is outside and spread out so bring strollers if your child tires easily and dress warmly and bring gloves and hats and an umbrella if it is raining.
Warm up: If it is raining or super cold, you can warm up inside the Aquarium, the zoo’s café or the indoor carousel building.
Parking: There is lots of free parking in a lot close to the entrance.
Eats: The Plaza Café, adjacent to the carousel, is open during Zoolights and offers a variety of hot entrees, snacks, beverages and ice cream.
More lights: See our round-up of great holiday light displays around the Sound.
About the author: Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.