Last Chance to Visit Santa at the Cincinnati Zoo

Posted December 21, 2023

See Santa this week before he leaves for the North Pole  

CINCINNATI (December 21, 2023) –   Santa is still making a list and is checking it twice before heading back to the North Pole to deliver gifts to all the nice boys and girls.  He will be available for visits at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s PNC Festival of Lights through December 23.   Mrs. Claus also departs after the 23rd.

Santa | Santa Brings Gifts to Animals 2023 Media.mp4


“Before leaving Cincinnati, Santa made several deliveries to animals that were especially good this year,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. “It’s the first holiday season for some of the animals on his list, including possum Opal, porcupette Violet, and sloth Juno. They enjoyed the treats and enrichment that Santa gave them.”

Santa also stopped by Hippo Cove to give the Zoo’s famous hippo bloat some edible gifts.  Fritz was a little shy last year when Santa stopped by but has gained a lot of confidence, and weight, since then. The hippos enjoyed their watermelons and Santa-shaped frozen treats.  Red panda Lin enjoyed treats from Santa this year including her favorite, apples, and a papier mâché enrichment giftbox!

PNC Festival of Lights, which was just voted Best Zoo Lights by USA TODAY’s readers for the sixth year in a row, will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and will reopen on Tuesday, December 26.  It runs through January 7, 2024.

“There’s still plenty to enjoy after Santa leaves,” said Maynard.  “It’s a great opportunity for those who receive memberships as a holiday gift to come out and see why PNC Festival of Lights is the best!  It’s also a great destination for families that want to ring in the New Year before midnight!”

The Zoo’s Happy Zoo Year celebration, powered by Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Honda Dealers, offers a kid-friendly, early countdown at 8 p.m. and also includes games, glow goodies, and a DJ to get people dancing.

The spectacular lights are the main attraction during PNC Festival of Lights. Visitors coming to see animals should come earlier in the day or visit indoor habitats such as World of the Insect, Manatee Springs, and Night Hunters during the evening hours.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opens daily at 10 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursdays and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during PNC Festival of Lights. The new electric train and carousel start running daily at 2:30 p.m.   For more information visit

baby sloth juno looking up at santa