Bronx Zoo reignites its Holiday Lights after a 10-year absence

For the first time in over a decade, the Wildlife Conservation Society is hosting a holiday lights show at the Bronx Zoo. Photo Credit: WCS

“It’s going to be bigger, brighter and greener.”

For the first time in over a decade, the Wildlife Conservation Society is hosting a holiday lights show at the Bronx Zoo.
For the first time in over a decade, the Wildlife Conservation Society is hosting a holiday lights show at the Bronx Zoo. Photo Credit: Newsday / John H. Cornell Jr.

The holiday light show that enchanted families for more than a decade at the Bronx Zoo is coming back.

Officials at the Wildlife Conservation Society said they have figured out a way to create a new display that will be both eye-popping and environmentally friendly.

In 2008, the nonprofit pulled the plug on the popular attraction because it didn’t fit into its mission of conservation.

“We stopped it for all the right reasons,” said John Calvelli, executive vice-president of the WCS, which operates the Bronx Zoo and three other wildlife parks in the city as well as the New York Aquarium. “But now LED technology has reached such a point that we can do this.”

The new show, which will open Nov. 21 and run through Jan. 5, 2020, includes wildlife-themed displays and animated lights along with ice-carving demonstrations, food, music and other performances. 
The new show, which will open Nov. 21 and run through Jan. 5, 2020, includes wildlife-themed displays and animated lights along with ice-carving demonstrations, food, music and other performances.  Photo Credit: WCS

“It’s going to be bigger, brighter and greener,” he added.

The walk-through light show drew visitors from all over with illuminated figures of animals, trains and other holiday-themed images. In addition, the display highlighted the zoo’s historic Astor Court architecture with a dramatic nighttime glow.

The new show, which will open Nov. 21 and run through Jan. 5, includes wildlife-themed displays and animated lights along with ice-carving demonstrations, food, music and other performances. A kiddie train designed for the youngest of visitors also will circle through Astor Court.

Calvelli said they estimate the total power needed for the sprawling light display is comparable to the power used to operate an air conditioning unit.

“What is most important is that we live by our mission and we are respectful of our mission,” he said.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he was “thrilled” to hear the zoo’s holiday lights show was being revived, pointing out it also draws tourists to the area.

“This has always been a beloved attraction during the holiday season, and (it) draws visitors from all over the region to check out the beautiful display and the nearby restaurants and other attractions,” Diaz said in a statement.

The lights show also serves as an important reminder to the public that the zoo is a place where they can come year-round and learn about nature, Calvelli said.

The 265-acre site boasts over 6,000 animals of more than 700 species. It is also the subject of a television series on Animal Planet titled “The Zoo,” which provides a behind-the-scenes view of its residents and staff.

"The holiday lights gives us an opportunity to tell the holiday story themed around wildlife and animals," Calvelli said. "(But) the zoo experience doesn’t end in September or October." 

Lisa L. Colangelo