Saturday, November 29, 2014

Houston Zoo Lights

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!  Our bellies were satisfied and we got a jump start on our Christmas shopping from the comfort of our home thanks to the masses of sales online and Amazon!  Now that Thanksgiving has been celebrated, we are getting into full on Christmas mode!  A mode that I love to be in!!

One of the activities we were excited about doing this year was Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo.  We figured it was going to be a win-win adventure because it coupled Christmas lights with animals, two of Winston's favorite things!  On a whim, we decided to go on Black Friday purchasing our tickets online before the window of opportunity closed.  We figured it was one of the last warm nights before the cold sets in for the winter and we knew we'd have good weather.   

Winston woke up from a three hour nap, we ate dinner and headed down to the zoo in order to be there as close to when it opened at 6 PM as possible.  As we turned the car onto Hermann Park Drive and were greeted by a parade of red brake lights as cars were already stacked up to turn into the parking lot!  Benjamin did a U-turn and we parked along the street.  Winston loves riding in his wagon when we go to the zoo, so we bundled him up with his giraffe hat, puffy vest and Olaf blanket and away we went!

Y'all let me tell you, it was a blessing that we purchased our tickets online because the line to purchase tickets at the gate was all the way from the main entrance to the corner of Hermann Park Drive!!  We overheard a Zoo staff member that they were expecting 10,000 visitors that night!!  We veered through the crowd to the Members Entrance making our wait to enter minimal.  
This was our first year to participate in Zoo Lights.  We figured that Winston was still too wee to really enjoy it last year and having been through it I'm glad we waited until this year.  
My favorite light display was near the front of the zoo.  It was set up with a watering hole with all the animals that one might see there.  We got our lookers out and saw giraffes, elephants, hippos, gorillas and monkeys!  Winston was enthralled and probably could have stood there all night if we would have let him.
All of the trees lining the Reflection Pool were decked out in lights synced up to Christmas music.  It was fun to watch the trees blinking in time with the classics!  We walked along the pathway and we saw a few elephants walking around and doing some back scratching in the dark of the night.  It is important to know that none of the outdoor animal habitats are lit up and that most of the animals cannot be seen.  A few of the giraffes were out and the lights are on inside the Giraffe Barn making them easy to each through the picture window.  

Y'all there are many things I enjoy in life.  Two of them are funnel cakes and wassail.  Both of those things were ours for enjoying at the zoo!  And because my husband knows I love a good souvenir mug, he delivered my wassail in a Zoo Lights cup!  
The wassail was delicious and the funnel cake was everything I hoped it would be!  Even little buddy enjoyed the treat!
We stopped to eat at the first major dining place along the path.  A Zoo employee told Benjamin that the dining stop at the end of the path tends to be busier than the one at the beginning.  The Zoo also has a fire pit set up to make s'mores on between the Rhino and Giraffe habitats.  I'm storing that information away for next year!  Because, well...S'mores!
Just as we figured, Winston enjoyed watching the trains go around the tracks.  Thomas and Emily were both busy on their branch lines!  

I purchased tickets for all of us to ride the Carousel by the giraffe habitat.  Winston was not quite sure that he wanted to ride it but we encouraged him saying it would be fun.  However once on the ride, he only wanted to be held by Daddy!
My View from on top of a moving Zebra.  Yes, I was the only one to actually ride an animal on the carousel!  
Since the magic of the lights tends to be lost in photos, we just enjoyed meandering along the path.  There were a few bottlenecks along the way {mainly due to the insane amount of people that were there!} and one of those was the light tunnel!  It's towards the end of the path, hence the sleepy looking Buddy.  
Benjamin and I had a wonderful time at The Zoo Lights!  And from Winston's grin above, as he took a break from chugging my wassail, you can see that he did too!  I highly recommend this family friendly activity!

Tips to Enjoying Zoo Lights
  • Purchase your tickets in advance online.  Online ticket prices for peak days are $10.95 {Members}/ $12.95 {Non-Member).  As you can see if you are a zoo member, you instantly save $2 per ticket.  If you purchase your tickets at the gate, the prices jump to $12.95/$14.95.  Off peak day prices are an additional $2 cheaper for members and non-members.
  • Plan on arriving early and be ready to go when the gates open!  Zoo Lights is open from 6 PM to 10 PM and last entry is at 9 PM.  It took us about two hours to walk through and enjoy a sweet treat!
  • Stop at the first major dining area for funnel cakes!  My wassail in the souvenir cup was $6.  Any time I take that same cup back to the Zoo at any time in the year, I can pay $2 for each refill.  A wassail without the souvenir cup was $4.
  • S'mores are available between the Rhino and Giraffe habitats.
  • Set your expectations: The Zoo Lights exhibit is just that - A Light exhibit!  The intention is to enjoy a festive walk looking at lights, listening to Christmas music and perhaps enjoying an apple cider or a wassail! {Alcohol is available.}  This really is not the opportunity to see the animals out and about at night time although the Reptile House, Bug House, and Aquarium are open.

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