Bronx Zoo holiday lights shine brighter than ever this year

An aquatic lantern display as part of the Bronx Zoo’s Holiday Lights.
Courtesy of Julie Larsen Maher

Perhaps the Bronx’s brightest tradition has returned greater and more glowing than ever.

The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, a spectacular array that illuminates much more than lions and tigers and bears will be opening to the public on Friday as this year’s expansion literally shines on more of the wildlife center through Sunday, January 10.

From lifelike animal lanterns to strings of enchanting overhead lights which gleam over the many festive walkways set to the playing of holiday music, plus the zoo’s safely created indoor and covered special exhibits, it’s challenging to not be smiling cheek to cheek behind one’s mask in Belmont this fall and winter.

Julie Larsen Maher

Featuring dozens more of those lanterns than last year, there are five unique safaris representing different global regions and their respective species on display at the Bronx Zoo now.

Out of those five, the aquatic themed safari is arguably the most fun for guests to dive into as one truly feels submerged in a coral reef perched along the East Australian Current for some very enjoyable minutes.

Another new addition to the Bronx Zoo lights is the indoor Luminous Garden, which gives zoo-goers an ant’s perspective on life inside the blossoming ecosystem of flowers, mushrooms, butterflies, and even some bugs.

Alex Mitchell

That garden was a favorite for visitors Robyn, Austin, and baby Liam from White Plains, who were all quite excited to be in the Bronx Zoo at night for their first time.

Those three were also quite pleased with the zoo’s social distancing protocol, which came in part as polite reminders from staff.

For Bronx Zoo regulars Alan and Joanne Lehman of Riverdale, they were delighted to see the light’s expansion, saying this display is better than it was in 2019.

“It cheers you up during a tough year,” Alan said, noting that he and his wife will surely be returning in weeks to come.

Almost just as heart warming as the senior couple’s night out is the zoo’s dozen of fire pits for socially distant s’mores – something the Bronx Zoo has even held competitions for in the past.

Not to worry for those not up to the scorching task of self assembly as the winning desserts from those prior competitions may also be ordered. 

Other forms of entertainment at the Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights will feature ice carving demonstrations, some costumed characters and critters plus stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats in addition to the s’mores. 

Alex Mitchell

All guests over three-years-old are required to socially distance and wear face coverings, date specific tickets for the lights must be purchased in advance and are now available online.

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