Checking out the various holiday light displays in local neighborhoods has become a time-honored tradition in the Motor City, but there are, perhaps, no lights more magical than those at the Detroit Zoo.
Just outside of the city in Royal Oak, the Detroit Zoo lights display is fabulous and has become an annual pastime for many local families, as well as a must-attend event for visitors during the winter.
Known as Wild Lights, the Detroit Zoo’s holiday light display includes thousands upon thousands of twinkling colored lights, innovative displays, and sparkling lighted vignettes.
About Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo
Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo is a seasonal holiday lighting event that has been taking place annually for nearly a decade.
During this event, which generally starts in mid-November and lasts until early January, you can stroll through the zoo after dark to experience the beauty of millions of twinkling lights.
Along the way, you’ll walk through lighted tunnels, experience large lighted animal statues and displays, and witness the beauty of lighted holiday scenes.
It’s worth noting that the Wild Lights event takes place after hours in the front portion of the zoo. This outdoor event is held regardless of the weather, so if you plan to go, you will want to prepare for the elements.
Things to Do at the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights
On the surface, it seems like strolling through the zoo grounds and admiring the lights is the only thing to do at Wild Lights.
While this it’s one of the best things to do at the event, many other elements make it an enjoyable night for people of all ages. These are the top things to do at the Detroit Zoo lights.
Visit Toyland and the Wishing Tree
Toyland and the Wishing Tree is a highlight for many of the families who visit the holiday lights at the Detroit Zoo. The Wishing Tree is a larger-than-life lighted tree that is perfect for making holiday wishes.
Toyland is best known for its 40-foot-long lighted train, which ends up being one of the best spots in the zoo to grab a family photograph. In addition, it’s home to dozens of lighted toy sculptures, allowing the young and the young at heart to immerse themselves in a magical, dreamlike setting.
Experience the Enchanted Trail
The Enchanted Trail is the newest addition to the Wild Lights lineup. Described as an immersive experience that incorporates both sound and light, it is sure to become a favorite for all of the visitors who go to the event.
Guests who walk through will be able to hear the sounds of the season all around them as they admire the towering trees that are strung with glittering lights all around them. The Enchanted Trail is included as part of the Wild Lights admission.
Enjoy “The Polar Express” 4D Theater Experience
“The Polar” Express is a classic holiday story and film that has delighted generations of people. At Wild Lights, guests are invited to enjoy an innovative 4D version of the film. Additional fees apply for this experience, but interested guests can purchase it as part of a ticket package in advance.
FAQs About Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo
Will I be able to visit the animal exhibits during the Wild Lights event?
Most animal habitats will be closed and inaccessible during the Detroit Zoo lights event. However, you can see both the otter and beaver exhibits on the stroll through the lighted path, which is located in the front portion of the zoo.
How much do Detroit Zoo lights tickets cost?
The cost of Detroit Zoo lights tickets varies based on the night that you choose to attend when you purchase your tickets and which package you get.
Generally speaking, tickets cost less when purchased in advance online. Also, the cost varies depending on demand for that particular date. No membership discounts are available for Detroit Zoo members.
Are food or beverages available for purchase at Wild Lights?
Yes, there are many food and beverage stations throughout the Wild Lights experience, allowing patrons to find the types of food and beverages that they prefer to enjoy.
While limited locations serve alcoholic beverages on site, you are not permitted to bring your own alcoholic beverages to Wild Lights.
Where do I park for Detroit Zoo lights?
Parking is available on site for the Detroit Zoo, which guests are invited to use for the Wild Lights event. The cost is the same for members and non-members at the zoo.
How long does it take to experience the Detroit Zoo lights?
There are many events and activities to enjoy, so you can extend your experience for as long as you wish throughout the evening.
However, if you plan to stick to the stroll on the designated path, it takes about one hour to complete.
Are Detroit Zoo lights tickets refundable?
The Wild Lights event programming is held regardless of weather conditions, including rain and snow. As a result, tickets that are purchased in advance for Wild Lights are non-refundable.
More Things to Do at the Detroit Zoo Lights
The Detroit Zoo lights display is a dynamic experience that is designed to be a family-friendly event that still appeals to people of all ages.
While many holiday events in Detroit are geared toward families with young children who are soaking up the magic of Christmas, the Wild Lights event includes elements that appeal to a vast range of people. Here are a few more things to do at the Wild Lights annual holiday display.
Explore the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit is an international exhibit that was created by the Natural History Museum in London England.
This exhibit has been celebrated by wildlife enthusiasts and passionate photographers around the world, and it makes its debut in the United States at the Wild Lights event. All guests who purchase tickets to Wild Lights can view and experience this exhibit as part of the general admission ticket.
Warm Up at the Wild Lights Lodge
The Wild Lights Lodge is yet another element that has been incorporated into this traditional holiday event. Inside the warm and cozy lodge, you will find a welcoming reprieve from the winter weather in Michigan.
The lodge is covered from top to bottom in festive holiday decor, and you can purchase your favorite adult beverage or indulge in a delightful s’more. Live music and entertainment are scheduled throughout the season inside the Wild Lights Lodge.
Entrance to the lodge is included as part of admission, but snacks and beverages inside the lodge are available for purchase.
Lodging Near Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo
From locally-owned hotels to nearby short-term rentals, there are many lodging options near the Detroit Zoo to consider. These are a couple of our favorite options.
Hotel Royal Oak
Hotel Royal Oak is described as a social boutique hotel, and it is designed to appeal to modern travelers who want to be in the center of the city’s art and entertainment scene. It is the closest hotel to the Detroit Zoo, making it the best option if you want to be close to the Wild Lights event.
There are a variety of room styles to choose from, yet every room features bright colors and eclectic designs. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience in a truly unique city and is one of the best places to experience the authentic culture of Royal Oak.
Downtown Luxury Apartment Rentals
Another option if you are looking to stay near the Detroit Zoo to experience Wild Lights is short-term vacation rentals. Throughout Royal Oak, many downtown lofts and luxury apartments are available for rent on VRBO and Airbnb.
Whether you want a studio apartment within walking distance of the best restaurants in the city or a luxury loft designed to accommodate an entire family, you will likely be able to find the rental that you need for a great price.
Plan Your Detroit Zoo Lights Experience
Going to Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo is just one way that you can make the most of the merriest season of the year. Many other festive events in Metro Detroit throughout November, December, and January allow you to have fun with your family while soaking up the sights and sounds of the city too.