- $7 for one ticket to ZOOLights (up to $10 value)
- Dates: 12/9/16–12/11/16 and 12/16/16–1/7/17 (excluding 12/25/16)
- What it is: Now in its fifth year, ZOOLights transforms Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens into a glowing winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling LED lights.
- What you’ll see: The lights illuminate a magical landscape filled with moving sculptures, animal silhouettes, and performances from local artists, including UNF students. Performances by Dalton Cyr, Leelynn Osborn, Jacksonville Children’s Choir and the Florida Ballet.
- Extras: During your visit, you can also hop aboard one the event’s lighted trains, enjoy a carousel ride, watch The Polar Express in a 4D theater, roast marshmallows, and experience warm-weather “ice” skating (extra fees apply for all of these).
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.