Lights Before Christmas at the Riverbanks Zoo Delights Visitors of All Ages

By:Kerry Egan


Riverbanks zoo holiday lights
Light displays honor Riverbanks' famous giraffe herd.

Is there anything more magical and mesmerizing than Christmas lights on the darkest days of November and December? And is there any place in Columbia more charming than the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden? Put the two together and you have a magical display of more than a million lights shining all throughout the holiday season.

Riverbanks Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas has been delighting children (and grownups) for more than 25 years. Opening just before Thanksgiving, and continuing until just before New Year’s Day, the Lights Before Christmas is the perfect way to usher in the holiday season with your family.

The light displays are amazing. Palm trees and live oaks are wrapped and twisted in strings of color, lighting the pathways before you. Lights drip and sway from the very tops of the trees.

Whimsical animals made of lights seem to leap, fly and dive before your eyes. Lighted flamingos fly, playful elephants spray visitors with blue-light showers of water. An entire garden full of gigantic light flowers beckons.

At the “Music in Motion Lights Spectacular,” an enormous Christmas tree seems to dance as its many different strands of lights turn on and off in sync with the music.

But there are more than just beautiful, bright lights here. Santa Claus, with a real snowy white beard, sits in his chair, ready to hear the wishes of children young and old. “Snow” made of soap suds softly floats to the ground. You can buy a ready-made s'mores kit, complete with marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, and long sticks, and roast them over a long gas fireplace. Christmas music fills the air.

As a bonus for families, Tuskers restaurant is open for dinner, making the Lights Before Christmas the perfect place to spend the whole evening, even on a work or school night.

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