INDIANAPOLIS — If you're trying to make plans to fit all of the holiday festivities into the few weeks before Christmas, the Indianapolis Zoo made things a little bit easier for you this year.
For the first time ever, the Indianapolis Zoo's holiday tradition is beginning before Thanksgiving.
"Christmas at the Zoo" will kick off its 51st Season starting Saturday, November 23 and continue through December 30.
The zoo will open at noon each day and the "Christmas at the Zoo" activities will go from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The zoo will only be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day during that time.
This year will include even more light displays and additional opportunities for your child to meet Santa before Christmas, the zoo said in a press release sent out Thursday morning.
The Zoo's Christmas festivities were nominated again this year — the fifth year in a row — for USA Today's 10 Best Lights. The contest goes through December 2, so don't forget to vote!
The Indianapolis Zoo was the first zoo in the nation to start a holiday lights event back in 1967. More than 100,000 guests visit the zoo each year during the holiday season.
Read more about the event from the Indianapolis Zoo below.
Many of the Zoo’s more robust animals — tigers, red pandas, brown bears, walrus and more — will be out to enjoy the cooler weather. The Zoo’s many indoor exhibits offer a perfect place for guests to go when cheeks get rosy. Plus, visitors can learn more about their favorite animals during special chats throughout the day.
As the sun sets, the Zoo will transform into a winter wonderland filled with colorful lights and displays. Near the front of the Zoo in Santa’s Village, a stunning tunnel of lights has become the most photo-worthy spot after dark. In Flights of Fancy, We Three Trees presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers provides another fun family photo op. The new display at the Holiday Harmony Stage will dance to the sounds of voices. All the holiday LED lights are presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent.
Santa’s Village is the largest recent addition to Christmas at the Zoo. Under the Bicentennial Pavilion, the whimsical scene looks like a Christmas card come to life. Santa’s Study welcomes guests to meet the Jolly Old Elf himself. Holiday surprises hide around every corner in the Snowflakery Mirror Maze presented by Honda Manufacturing. For a special treat, children can decorate cookies in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen presented by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. And with a wild twist like only the Zoo can do, guests can also interact with animals including wintertime dogs, penguins and reindeer.
While local choirs fill the night with the familiar sounds of holiday carols, visitors can chase the chill away with a cup of hot cocoa or even a seasonal cocktail presented by Hotel Tango. As they stroll through the Zoo, guests can warm up by the campfires and look for hidden mistletoe for a chance to win a spectacular holiday gift — an Animal Art Adventure.
"Christmas at the Zoo" is free for members and is included with regular Zoo admission. Discount tickets can also be purchased at participating Donatos and Teachers Credit Union locations.
Guests can also receive $1 off admission at the gate with the donation of a new hat, scarf or gloves to benefit St. Mary's Child Center.
Visitors can also bring their old holiday lights to the Zoo's Entry Plaza for recycling.