Event HighLIGHTs

Dates and Times

Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022

Zoo Hours during PNC Festival of Lights: 10:00am – 9:00pm

  • Festival of Lights activities begin at 4pm
  • No additional charge. This event is included with Zoo Admission.  Visit the Zoo early for more animals and stay for the lights!

Santa’s Village

Visit with Santa in Santa’s Village nightly at 4pm!

Sponsored by:

MadCap Winter Wonders

Don’t miss nightly performances at 6:30pm, 7:30pm, and 8:30pm at the  Amphitheater

North Polar Express Train Tunnel

The North Polar Express Train will be equipped with a longer-than-ever light tunnel to make your ride extra bright! North Polar Express train ride begins at 2:30pm. (Additional charges apply for non-members)

Sponsored by:



Roast a marshmallow over an open fire.

Sponsored by:

  • Wonder at the 4 million LED lights throughout the Zoo
  • Roaming Holly Jolly Elves, courtesy of Lachey Arts beginning at 5pm nightly
  • Santa & Mrs. Claus & All other character visits begin at 4pm
  • Families will enjoy searching for Fiona fairy statues in Fiona’s Fairyland
  • Guests will enjoy the new immersive “Under the Sea” area.
  • 27 larger than life Animal Lanterns located throughout the Zoo
  • Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake
  • Meet costume characters beginning at 4pm
  • Ride the North Polar Express Train Ride daily starting at 2:30pm (additional charges apply)
  • Roast Smore’s at the Smore’s Stations
  • Enjoy freshly roasted nuts and other holiday treats
  • See animals inside multiple indoor heated buildings
  • Happy Zoo Year celebration on Dec 31
  • Share your PNC Festival of Lights pictures on social media using #cincyzoopic for a chance to be featured in future Zoo marketing material!

Please note: The Zoo is closed on Christmas Eve (December 24th), and Christmas Day (December 25th).

Photo Opp Spots & Elfie Selfies

Pose for Instagram-worthy photos in front of our many photo opp areas including:

  • Let it Snow – Snowflakes at Eagle Overlook
  • Ride Along – Santa’s sleigh at Base Camp Cafe deck
  • Candy Cane Lane – Gorilla World
  • Ornament Photo Opp – White lion viewing
  • Under the Sea – Cat Canyon exit
  • Polar Chair – Wings of the World
  • & more selfie spots!

Sponsored by:



Bright Tips

These tips will help you maximize your holiday experience!

Visit Early to See Animals

To avoid crowds, we recommend visitng weeknights!

PNC Festival of Lights is all about… the LIGHTS! Our Zoo animals usually head indoors around 5pm or sooner so make sure to come early and stay for the lights if you’re hoping to see animals!

Reptile House, Manatee Springs, World of Insect, Jungle Trails West, Dragons, Night Hunters, and Education will be open during PNC Festival of Lights.

Wings of the World, indoor elephant habitat, Jungle Trails East will be closed during PNC Festival of Lights.

Special Animal Encounters during PNC Festival of Lights*

  • Roo Valley: 12:00pm-4:30pm
  • Goat Yard: 1:00pm-6:30pm
  • Meet-A-Creature Stations (Education & Manatee Springs): 5:00pm-9:00pm
  • Insect Attendant in Insect House: 2:30pm-9:00pm
  • Giraffe Chat at Giraffe Ridge: 4:30pm and 7:00pm
  • Leaf Cutter Ant Chat at World of the Insect: 5:30pm
  • Sifaka Chat in Jungle Trails: 6:00pm
  • Burmese Python Chat in Manatee Springs: 6:30pm
  • Vampire Bat Chat in Night Hunters: 7:30pm

See more details about what is going on during your Zoo visit.

*weather permitting 

Sensory Santa

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Zoo Access for All program is designed to encourage families and individuals of all backgrounds to visit our world-class organization to build lifelong and multi-generational memories.

Please contact [email protected] for more information about Sensory Santa. Registration closes at 9am the day of visit.

PNC Festival of Lights Social Narrative

Sensory Santa Social Narrative

Sensory Santa Sponsored by:

Dress for Cold Weather & Bring a Blanket

Dress warm! You can always shed a layer!

Know How to Get to the Zoo

Our street address is: 3400 Vine Street Cincinnati, OH 45220. Directions > 

Memberships make Great Gifts

Give the gift that keeps giving! Renew, purchase or gift a membership! The holidays are a peak time for membership gifts and renewals!

Membership Information

Zoo Parking


The main Zoo lot is open!

Visitors may enter the Zoo using the Pavilion Entry Building from the Main Parking Lot, equipped with stairs & elevators to get to bridge level.

Additional parking can be found on the corner of Erkenbrecher Ave and Vine St. with the Erkenbrecher walk-in entrance.


Zoo Map

2021 Scavenger Hunt

Looking for another fun way to enjoy #PNCFestivalofLights? Test your knowledge during the new scavenger hunt. Make your way through the Zoo to solve these festive riddles and heat things up with a little friendly competition! Share your scavenger hunt pictures on social media using #cincyzoopic for a chance to be featured in future Zoo marketing material.

Scavenger Hunt

Food & Drink

Warm-up with a variety of holiday treats available throughout the park!

Food Options

Warm-up with a variety of holiday treats available throughout the park!

Hops: Located in the Vine Street Village, near Roo Valley. Loaded Funnel Fries with seasonal toppings and dipping sauces. Come for the sweets, stay for the craft beers on tap!

Sweet RetreatLocated in The Grove.  Funnel cakes, pretzels, ann S’mores Kits to roast by The Grove fire pit!

The CoopLocated in The Grove. Try our delicious Chicken Poutine or hand-breaded chicken tenders.

S’mores N’ MoreLocated in Vine Street Entry Village. Feel the warmth over an open fire while roasting marshmallows. Purchase a single s’more or a family pack of s’mores (feeds a family of 4), hot chocolate, and caramel corn. Presented by WellNow Urgent Care

Taco CajaThis stand will be transformed into Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, a wintery snack haven including deep-fried PB&Js and deep-fried Oreos!

Wild Burger:  Located in The Grove. Grab dinner at Wild Burger with offerings like our Smash Burger, mini corn dogs, or try the vegetarian-friendly Wild Wild West Burger.  Loaded fries are also available here with toppings of bacon, cheddar, and ranch.

LaRosa’s:  Support our local pizzeria and order cheese or pepperoni pizza, garlic & cheese breadsticks, fresh fountain soda, and hot chocolate.

Canopy Canteen: A delightful oasis next to LaRosa’s, Canopy Canteen is the place to get your soft serve fix, whether it is as a sundae or in one of our gourmet cones! Also available: Canned beer, Icees and Icee Floats, soft pretzels, and fountain soda

Cup + ConeLocated inside Mai Thai’s Market. Feeling too warm? Cool off with a scoop or two of ice cream. Choose from twelve of Graeter’s most popular flavors and plenty of toppings to go along with it. Enjoy hot chocolate, espresso drinks, traditional or loaded beignets, cinnamon roasted almonds, caramel corn, or cookies and other seasonal favorites.

TuskersLocated across from the Base Camp Café. Enjoy sweet cinnamon sugar pretzels or hot chocolate and add some “Holiday Cheer”.  Or pick up a delicious Funnel Cake loaded with wonderful toppings!

Base Camp CaféWant to skip the line?  Base Camp Café will be available for mobile ordering each night till 8pm. Order online or in person from a selection of great dinner options including LaRosa’s Pizza, Chicken Tenders, Burgers, Salads, and more.

Candy Cane CottageLocated next to the Base Camp Café. Get warmed up with gourmet hot chocolates, beignets, and cinnamon roasted almonds.

Twisted Tracks:  Located next to the train station, Twisted Tracks is a great place for an icy cold beer, Icees, or a delicious soft pretzel – cinnamon sugar, salted or our seasonal Nutella Cherry Bites!

Outpost Cafe in Mai Thai’s MarketplaceStop in at the new Outpost Café for lunch with some of the classic Cincinnati Flavors.