I’m always on the lookout for new things to do during Christmas in Philly, so when I got invited for the grand opening of LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo, I was excited to check out this brand new attraction.
The Philadelphia Zoo is a fantastic spot to visit in Pennsylvania if you love animals. While the zoo is normally only open during the day, their newest seasonal exhibit, LumiNature, allows visitors to explore the grounds of the zoo in a unique way after dark from mid-November through early January.
This light display leads visitors on a magical walk through the grounds of the zoo. There are more than 600,000 lights divided into 12 different experience zones.
It’s worth noting that even though this is a holiday-season attraction, most of the displays have no connection to the holiday season. Instead, they celebrate the zoo, as well as wildlife and nature in general.
However, there are several holiday spots in the display, including a 25-foot Christmas tree made out of 1,500 pink plastic flamingos.
It’s also worth noting that the animals aren’t roaming around their enclosures during the event. While we did see two alpacas, don’t come expecting to enjoy the zoo’s animals during your time at LumiNature.
That being said, despite the lack of holiday cheer throughout most of the display and the inability to see the zoo’s animals, this really is a neat spot to visit.
The lights for LumiNature start even before you go through the entrance into the Philly Zoo. In the plaza in front of the gates and in the area around the ticket window, there are lighted trees and other neat displays that give you a taste of what you’ll see once you enter the zoo.
Once inside the gates, there are 12 different display areas scattered along a roughly 0.75-mile walking path through the zoo.
Dubbed “experience zones,” these areas are themed around different animals and an incredibly imaginative and fun to explore.
Probably my favorite zone is the Northern Lights which features a six-minute light show every 30 minutes.
Before the show started, I assumed that it was going to be a holiday-themed show set to Christmas music. However, it instead focuses on nature and our relationship with it through visuals, lights, narration, and beautiful music.
The centerpiece of the show is a 35-foot polar bear on which many of the visuals are projected. Believe it or not, this towering polar bear is made from 100 reused car hoods.
Having seen many light shows in the past, I’d definitely say that this is one of the best I’ve ever seen, even if I was expecting a holiday-show.
Another area that I really enjoyed was Seasonbration Here, a large sphere showcases a series of images that talk about nature and the weather throughout all four seasons. The program seems to run fairly regularly and is really well done.
Other than the main show at Bird Lake, my favorite spot was probably Flamingo Fancy. Here, a series of abstract flamingos line the path and lead up to the 25-foot Christmas tree made entirely out of 1,500 pink lawn flamingos.
This is a really creatively done spot and, for those looking for a perfect photo, one of the best spots to get one.
In addition to the displays, one thing I loved about LumiNature was the roving animal characters. I saw people dressed up as a lion, a giraffe (using stilts), and more. These characters interacted with visitors and were a huge hit with my kids (especially the lion).
As I said at the beginning of the article, LumiNature was very different from what I expected. If you are looking for festive holiday lights, you might be better off heading to spots like The Miracle on South 13th Street, Longwood Gardens, or Philly’s Christmas Markets.
However, that’s not to say that LumiNature at the Philly Zoo isn’t worth seeing. The combination of beautiful lights and creative displays make this a really special event that’s worth taking the time to see and explore. I hope this is an event that becomes a holiday season tradition for years to come.
Note: My visit to LumiNature was hosted by the Philadelphia Zoo. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Looking for more places to visit during the holiday season in PA? Check out our favorite things to do in Bethlehem at Christmas, holiday attractions in Lancaster, and Christmas things to do in Pittsburgh.
Hours: Open November 20, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Cost: Adults: $24, Children: $19
Address: 3400 W Girard Ave