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Posted at 10:06 AM ET, 11/29/2007

Critters Glitter at the Zoo

By Julia Beizer

Last night marked the opening of ZooLights, the National Zoo's first annual display of sculptures made out of holiday lights. The glittering walk-through display is smaller than some of its drive-through counterparts around town -- think Watkins Mill, Seneca Creek State Park and Bull Run -- but the Zoo enters the mix as a strong addition.


(Courtesy of FONZ)

First, the basics: Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) commissioned 47 light sculptures featuring animals from the zoo. Some of them stand still, like the lovely pack of elephants at right, and some of them are animated, like the eagle that flies into a perch. The display isn't huge -- it only takes up about half of the Zoo's big hill -- but it was a pleasant walk on Tuesday evening with the sculptures glittering in the chilly night air. Kids and parents gawked at the orangutan and prairie dog displays and laughed along with (mildly creepy) recorded animal noises and bird calls, some of which were recorded on site.

Since the animal sculptures are close to the main walkway (and thus the viewers), it can take a minute to decode what you're looking at -- particularly with the lumpy anteater. FONZ representative Matt Olear says that the event will continue to expand (and add more sculptures) over the next few years.

Following the hip-to-be-green trend, FONZ and Pepco (the event's main sponsor) chose to light the sculptures with LEDs, which are more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Visitors are welcome to walk into several of the Zoo's buildings during the event, which costs $10 and takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays until Dec. 30. The Zoo has packed its calendar each night with performances, keeper talks and kid-friendly events. Hot chocolate and cider are available nightly for $1.50. The zoo will close to the public at 4 p.m. each night of the event to prepare.

Metro riders, take note. If you're coming from the Red Line, the display doesn't begin until you're about halfway down the hill, at the Small Mammal House. If you're driving, I'd suggest parking in the Zoo's lower lot and walking up from the Kids' Farm.

Want a sneak peek? Take a look at this video Post photographer Joe Elbert shot about the project.

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | November 29, 2007; 10:06 AM ET
 
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Comments

How about making these suggestions e-mailable, for those of us who want to pass them along?

Posted by: DB | November 29, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget the walk-able Brookside Gardens at Wheaton Regional Park - really nice nature themed lights.

Posted by: MoCo | November 29, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey, another washingtonpost.com video clip that doesn't work. Awesome.

Posted by: John | November 30, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I had not problem viewing the vid. Glad to see this event is getting so much publicity. A slight clarification: While the animal houses will close at 4 p.m., the grounds won't close until 4:30 p.m. each night of the event. Now, I have a question for Joe Elbert. Did you take that second clip of Tai Shan on Sept 26? The one at :17. If so, I was on the upper level shooting pics. :)

Posted by: FlyingWolf | December 1, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

There is no such thing as "first annual." It is proper to say inaugural. Check your AP Style Guide, please.

Posted by: grammamy | December 2, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

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