When I first learned about Nashville Zoo’s newest Holiday attraction, Zoolumination, I asked myself, “Does Nashville really need another place to see lights this Christmas season?” After seeing it for myself last week, I can tell you that the answer is YES!

Zoolumination – Chinese Festival of Lights


Zoolumination was designed by artists from Zigong , China. This area is renowned for their lantern design and creation. The pictures we are including do not do this attraction justice. It’s definitely something you have to experience.


If you buy your tickets online, you can proceed into the Zoo without standing in line at the ticket booth. Don’t miss the small display to the right as you enter. It’s a small taste of what’s to come.

Zoolumination is separated into 2 distinct areas based on the main Zoo layout. If you have children with you and plan to visit Santa in North Pole Village, head toward the playground side of the Zoo first. Santa is available for pictures every night from 5:30PM to 8:30PM through December 23.

Visit with Santa

I have never missed an opportunity to plop my grandson in Santa’s lap for a photo but this may not be for everyone. If you have no interest in visiting Santa, you can skip it without your kids even knowing.

Santa visits are done in a barn in North Pole Village. You have to walk into the barn to even catch a glimpse of the Jolly Old Elf. If you do decide to visit Santa, I’d try to get that done first. The line moves pretty quickly but this Santa is a total pro and does spend a bit of time with each child.

The Festival Field area is the star of this show. Charm of China draws inspiration from Chinese tradition and includes a massive 200 ft dragon. It’s such a huge display and so full of light. When we turned the corner and caught a glimpse of it for the first time, my grandson exclaimed “HOLY GUACAMOLE!” I agreed.

North Pole Village

Halfway around the Festival Field is the entrance to North Pole Village. Even if you’re skipping Santa, there’s lots to explore. We were mesmerized by the huge train display and the village that’s been created behind the Croft House.

Throughout Zoolumination there are concession areas where you can purchase popcorn, funnel cakes, hot drinks, authentic Chinese food and more.

You will also find vendors selling light up toys of all sorts around every corner. I’m now the proud owner of a plastic sword because I’m a pushover Grandma. Assuming your will is stronger than mine, warn the kids beforehand and try your best to rush them past the temptations.

Animal Paradise

On the opposite side of the Zoo is Animal Paradise. Several of the Zoo’s exhibits are open during Zoolumination. Tiger Crossroads and Expedition Peru are open until 7:30PM. Flamingo Lagoon is open until 8PM and Unseen New World closes at 9PM.

If you save this part for the second half of your visit, don’t miss the Lion King display or the Mandarin Ducks. Even if you’re cold and tired, PRESS ON!

Every night at 6, 7 and 8 PM, there are live performances featuring juggling, loop twirling and Sichuan Opera Face. For the thrill seekers in your group, take a zipline through the night sky to see the lights from the air. Zipline rides are an additional $8.

Tips for Your Visit

Even if you move very fast through the exhibits, you will need at least 2 hours to experience Zoolumination. Factor that in when you’re planning. Bundle up if the weather stays chilly and consider a stroller even if you have kids big enough to walk. Tired, cold kids are no fun.

Whether you’re looking for a fun outing for the whole family or a great date night idea, Zoolumination might be the perfect choice. This attraction is open into February of 2020 so it could also be a great family gift for a post Christmas outing.

Single Day Passes are $19 for Adults and $14 for Children (2-12).

Zoolumination at Nashville Zoo

Address: 3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211

Click for Tickets

Nashville Zoo Website

Rachel Kline
About the Author: Rachel Kline

Rachel is a Middle Tennessee native, born and raised in the Nashville area and having lived in Hendersonville, Murfreesboro, and Mount Juliet. She is mom to 3, step mom to 4 and Grandma to one (so far!)

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