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Wild animals plus millions of lights makes visit to zoo merry, bright


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is making the holiday season even brighter this year with its “green” Wildlights display, running now through early January. It’s one of the best ways for central Ohio families to spend a holiday evening if it’s not raining or too frigid outside.

The two million shiny lights in this years’ display illuminate more and use less electricity than traditional bulbs because they’re LEDs (light-emitting diodes). They also last longer.

But nevermind the technical stuff. The zoo’s annual holiday display wows visitors with its fun animal shapes, musical choreography and intensity. The lights are strung among the zoo’s eight geographic regions, where more than 5,000 animals are housed.

It’s a pleasure to walk through this light show, not drive by it or through it. The grandest display is around the zoo’s pond. The lights reflect upon the water, creating a brilliant scene. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a late autumn snowfall, which no doubt would yield a magical backdrop.

The zoo also is planning special activities in conjunction with the lights display such as Santa’s Reindeer Corral, where guests can meet four of Santa’s reindeer friends that reside at the zoo, and Animals on Safari, an energetic animal show with performing dogs, cats and other creatures. Kids also can decorate a cookie in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and get their photos taken with Santa.

If you’re chilly, there are plenty of indoor exhibits to duck into. We enjoyed visiting the elephants.

The Columbus Zoo is a wonderful place to visit because of encounters such as these. Recently the USA Travel Guide named it the No. 1 zoo in the country. A lot of the publicity comes courtesy of Jungle Jack Hanna, the director emeritus whose many public appearances through the years have propelled the zoo into the national spotlight.

The zoo is located just north of Columbus in Powell at 4850 W. Powell Rd. Wildlights hours are 5-9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 5-9 p.m., Sunday. The zoo will be closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

For more information, visit www.colszoo.org.

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Pause at tiger exhibit while prowling around Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


Chimpanzees have always been my favorite attraction at the zoo because their humanlike qualities make me contemplate life as we know it. Recently, though, I’ve become captivated by tigers – Amur tigers to be exact.

Three of them are on display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium near the suburb of Dublin, and I’ve gotten to know them better thanks to a family zoo pass that we purchased. Our family has visited the zoo several times this year, giving us varying views of the tigers. Each time these prowling felines put on an amazing show, simply by being themselves, with a beauty and grace not seen in most other animals.

In February, we saw one tiger peacefully lying atop its cement cave during a snowstorm. Another time we watched one pace about its enclosure through a pane of glass. Its massive body slinked by us, a hands-length away. It looked me in the eye, sending a chill up my spine.

The Columbus Zoo is a great place to visit because of encounters such as these. Recently the USA Travel Guide named it the No. 1 zoo in the country. A lot of the publicity comes courtesy of Jungle Jack Hanna, the director emeritus whose many public appearances through the years have propelled the zoo into the national spotlight.

But let’s not forget the animals.

The Columbus Zoo has one male tiger, named Foli, and two females, named Kisa and Irisa. Foli is Kisa’s brother, and he’s been at the zoo since the Asia Quest exhibit opened in 2006. The males can weigh up to 800 pounds, making them the largest tigers in the world.

Amur tigers come from the forests of Eastern Russia, northeastern China and the northern regions of North Korea.

“These forests can look like jungles in the summer, but they become very cold and snowy in the winter,” says Patty Peters, who works in promotions at the zoo. “Its large paws help it cross the snow, as though it’s wearing snowshoes.”

Whether rain, shine or snow, I like to think that these tigers and I are becoming fast friends.

For more information, visit www.colszoo.org.

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