The 41st Annual PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo

Posted November 29, 2023

Brighten your holiday season with 4 million lights

CINCINNATI (November 14, 2023) – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 41st annual PNC Festival of Lights opens to the public this Friday night and runs through January 7, 2024!  Bring your family and friends to Cincinnati’s favorite holiday tradition and see why it’s been voted the #1 Zoo Lights display in the country five years in a row*.

Event Photos | Video | map

“PNC Festival of Lights has brought joy to people in the tri-state area for four decades,” said Joelle Gilbert, special events manager at the Cincinnati Zoo. “People come back year after year to see the lights and spend a festive evening, or two or three, with family and friends.”

Festivalgoers can count on their traditional favorite things, like the Madcap Puppets Show sponsored by Mercy Health, being part of the event but can also expect something new every year.  This year the Zoo has added the opportunity for visitors to participate in the Wild Lights show on Swan Lake by downloading an app that syncs their phone’s flashlight to the music.  There are also 20 new, lifelike animal lanterns placed around the Zoo, and more photo opps than ever.

The four million LED lights are the main attraction during PNC Festival of Lights.  Zoo animals usually head indoors around 5pm, so visitors coming to see animals should arrive earlier in the day or visit indoor habitats such as World of the Insect, Night Hunters, Manatee Springs, Reptile House, Gorilla World, Dragons, Jungle Trails West, and Discovery Forest.

Santa will be available for visits and photos in the spectacular Santa’s Village, sponsored by Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Honda Dealers, starting at 4 p.m daily. As part of the Zoo’s Access for All program, Sensory-Friendly Santa visits, sponsored by Macy’s, are being offered at specific times (reservations required) and social narratives are available. The popular, all electric, North Polar Express Train, sponsored by Huntington Bank, will start running at 2:30 p.m. daily.  It will chug through a longer-than-ever light tunnel to make your ride extra bright!

Pose for Instagram-worthy photos at Elfie Selfie Stations, sponsored by Delta Dental, light tunnels, and holiday backdrops set up throughout the Zoo.  Find them using the Zoo’s interactive map app (no download required)!  Share your #PNCFestivalOfLights pictures on your social channels using #cincyzoopic for a chance to be featured in future Zoo marketing materials.

Save time and money by purchasing tickets online before you visit.  Prices for traditionally lower traffic nights, such as Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, will be as much as half less than those purchased for the most popular nights.  Prices will go up based on demand for certain nights, so buy early to get the best rate. Memberships are on sale now and are a great value if you want to enjoy the Zoo year-round or visit PNC Festival of Lights more than once.

A variety of holiday treats are available, including loaded funnel fries, s’mores, deep-fried Oreos, and the new Hot Hippo Drink!

“We are excited to continue our signature support of this unique Cincinnati holiday tradition,” said Warren Weber, PNC regional president for Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.  “PNC has a longstanding commitment to our community and our incredible Cincinnati Zoo. This is PNC’s 29th year of our sponsorship of the PNC Festival of Lights!!”

Zoo Hours November 17 – January 7:

  • Sunday – Thursday: 10am – 9pm
  • Friday – Saturday – 10am – 10pm

Schedule at a Glance:

  • Zoo opens daily at 10am
  • Come early to see animals outside, weather permitting
  • Find the 5 Fiona fairies in Fairyland – any time!
  • North Polar Express train ride begins at 2:30pm
  • Activities, including visits with Santa, begin daily at 4pm
  • 23rd is the last night to visit with Santa
  • PNC Festival of Lights is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas

PNC Festival of Lights is included in Zoo admission. For more event information, visit

*VOTE for PNC Festival of Lights! USA Today readers have voted PNC Festival of Lights #1 in the Best Zoo Lights category for the last 5 years and it is nominated again this year – vote here! Help Cincinnati Zoo top the list 5 years in a row!

pnc festival of lights logo
jellyfish lanterns
orangutan animal lantern in front of trees with white christmas lights around it