Roger Williams Park Zoo Offers a Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular

The zoo has decked out its woodland trails and paths with more than 1.5 million illuminated lights in an effort to help support the wildlife.
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Snowflakes at Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Holiday Lights Spectacular. Photo by Jamie Coelho.

This article was created in collaboration with Rhode Island Commerce.

If you love Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, then you’re in for an extra special holiday treat. The zoo has decked out its woodland trails and paths with more than 1.5 million illuminated lights for the Holiday Lights Spectacular drive-through display that weaves throughout the zoo, and it will remain open to experience through January 10. It’s all in an effort to help support the wildlife during a trying time for the facility that is home to more than 160 species of animals including zebras, red pandas, African elephants, Masai giraffes, snow leopards and more.

Last week for the sneak preview, I loaded my two kiddos up in the car and drove to the zoo for a surprise visit. Upon arrival, we followed the directions of the zoo staff and pulled into a parking spot before we headed down the lighted paths. I wore my face mask while following driving directions delivered by staff. Guests have an option to purchase snacks and drinks from their cars before driving through the display, including hot chocolate, sprinkle doughnuts, cotton candy, cookies and more, plus flashing light-up toys and other souvenirs presented on a cart at the driver’s side window.

Once we were told to drive forward, we turned our headlights off and tuned the radio to 102.9 FM to hear some holiday music as we drove through the zoo. We didn’t see the real life animals as most were in for the night, but we did see lights in the form of animals like monkeys, reindeer, penguins, a dinosaur and more. There are highlights including passing through a bridge of flashing lights and a canopy of twinkling snowflakes. The whole drive takes about twenty minutes but you can take your time to snap some photos from within your car. Guests are not allowed to get out of their cars, but you can see everything perfectly from the passenger windows.

My kids really enjoyed the zoo’s drive-through Holiday Lights Spectacular. I hope this will become an annual tradition even though the idea for it came out of a crisis.

Tickets are online sales only and sold for each half hour (time slots are your arrival window to the zoo). The display is open nightly from 5–9:30 p.m. Last car is admitted at 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $25 per car or $20 for zoo members. There may be an average thirty to sixty-minute wait time before entry and tickets are rain or shine and non-refundable.

Please see the zoo’s rules and frequently asked questions here before you enter.

 

The Holiday Light Spectacular was made possible by Rhode Island Commerce’s Rhode Island HArT Grant Program. The Zoo is offering free tickets to the event on a first-come, first-serve basis when booking an overnight visit at partnering hotel locations.

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