Chicagoland's Largest Lights Show Sure to Dazzle

December 2, 2011 4:06:57 AM PST
This year, Brookfield Zoo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Holiday Magic, presented by ComEd, a tradition for families throughout the Chicago area.

The festival, which is sure to be a jolly good time for all, is Chicagoland's largest lights festival. Featuring more than one million twinkling lights, animated light sculptures and a laser show, the event will warm even the grinchiest of hearts.

The 11 enchanted evenings also include, ice-carving demonstrations, singing to the animals, live music and entertainment, magicians, a train display, and of course, indoor and outdoor exhibits where guests can see some of their favorite animals. The festival takes place from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. on three magical weekends, December 3-4, 10-11, and 17-18 (Saturdays-Sundays), and the week of December 26-31 (Monday-Saturday). Holiday Magic's opening ceremony will take place on Saturday, December 3, at 5:00 p.m., at the North Gate entrance.

Strolling along the walkways on the malls zoogoers can view hundreds of trees decorated with handmade ornaments by local communities. Surrounding Roosevelt Fountain adorned and lit trees will "magically" dance to music in a continual nightly show. And, on the West Mall, guests can view an enchanting light display of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" featuring 40 animated characters and narrated by the legendary Bing Crosby. Also, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Holiday Magic, guests can enjoy the return of a 10-minute spectacular laser light show displayed on a 20-foot by 30-foot screen on the zoo's East Mall. The show begins at 5:30 p.m. each night and repeats every half hour with the last show at 8:30 p.m.

Guests of all ages can spread holiday cheer to the animals during nightly serenades. The singing to the animals takes place with the tigers at 5:30 p.m., farm animals in Children's Zoo at 6:30 p.m., and the bears at 7:30 p.m. Additionally, staff will host special holiday Zoo Chats about many of the zoo's animals throughout each evening. Animal exhibits that will be open on select evenings include Australia Zoo, Pachyderm House, The Fragile Kingdom, The Living Coast, The Swamp, Seven Seas Underwater Viewing Gallery, and Tropic World (with Tropic World open until 7:30 p.m.). A special 6:30 p.m. dolphin presentation will take place each night of the festival. While at Children's Zoo, guests can stop by the Big Barn to have their photos taken with one of the animals, including a reindeer.

At the Holly Jolly Theater, located in the Swan Pavilion, guests can warm up and enjoy live entertainment featuring local dance troupes, choirs, and musicians (see the complete list of entertainment below) Adjacent to the Holly Jolly Theater in the Dolphin Pavilion, guests can be wowed as they watch professional sculptors carve 400-pound blocks of ice into beautiful works of frozen art courtesy of Lang Ice. At BZ Red Hots and the Bison Pavilion, guests are sure to be amazed by the impressive antics of magicians Terry Murphy and Matt Scherer. And, in the Riverside Room, which is located in the lower level of BZ Red Hots, train enthusiasts of all ages can view a 41-foot by 25-foot model railroad display featuring nearly 50 animal species among 13 trains that can run simultaneously, courtesy of LGB Model Railroad Club

Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit from the North Pole and make a stop in the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing Gallery so Santa can hear children's wish lists (through December 18). Also greeting guests will be the zoo's array of animal costumed characters, including BZ Bear, as well as the ever-popular Talking Tree, located at the North Gate.

The zoo's restaurants and food stands will be open with full menus and holiday treats such as cookies, hot chocolate, hot cider, cappuccino, and soup. Gift shops also will be open and will have hundreds of unique items available, including one-of-a-kind stocking stuffers for those hard-to-shop-for loved ones.

On December 31, zoogoers can celebrate an early countdown to 2012 at Brookfield Zoo's annual Zoo Year's Eve celebration. The fun-filled event will include an arts-and-crafts activity, for which children can make their own noise makers, and then join in one of the Play Zoo parades happening at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. There will also be festive music, games, and prizes, as well as an early countdown to the New Year at 8:00 p.m. in the Holly Jolly Theater and Hamill Family Play Zoo.

During Holiday Magic, guests should park in Brookfield Zoo's main parking lot (First Avenue and 31st Street). Activities are free (with the exception of rides, photo opportunities, and dolphin presentation) with paid admission of $13.50 for adults and $9.50 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Children 2 and under are free. Car parking is $9.00; bus parking is $12.00. Holiday Magic is sponsored in part by American Airlines. For up-to-date information on scheduled entertainment and activities, go online to or call (708) 688-8000. Guests will also receive a schedule of events when they arrive.

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.

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