ZooLights: Take a drive on the wild side

ZooMontana celebrates holidays in December with illuminated tours and events

New & Notable

Take a drive on the wild side during ZooLights, ZooMontana’s annual holiday lighting extravaganza. Visitors cruise through the zoo in cars, trucks, vans or buses and enjoy the festive light display and listening to holiday music on the ZooRadio station, sponsored by Billings Kiwanis. ZooLights is open 6-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6-14, and nightly, Dec. 18-24.

“ZooLights is a family tradition for many in our community,” said Jeff Ewelt, executive director of ZooMontana. “The funds raised through ZooLights allow us to continue to provide quality animal care, aid in our conservation efforts and bolster our educational programming.”

Admission to ZooLights is $10 per car, $15 per van and $20 per bus; ZooMembers receive $2 off.

For those who want to view ZooLights a little differently, guests can bundle up and enjoy a wagon ride, pulled by a team of working draft horses. The rides are approximately 30 minutes long and will be held every night of ZooLights except for Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). The rates are $12.95 for adults, $6.95 for children under 12, and free for kids 2 and under. Reservations are recommended and can be made at elkriveroutfitters.com.

The Zoo Owl inspects ZooLights, open 6-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6-14, and nightly, Dec. 18-24.
The Zoo Owl inspects ZooLights, open 6-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 6-14, and nightly, Dec. 18-24.

Stop by the Wild Side Gift Shop at ZooMontana Dec. 6-7 and visit Santa (free pictures by Vande’ Studios) during HoliZoo Nights. In addition, kids can stamp a holiday card or gift bag and decorate a cookie while parents take in some special holiday sales in the Wild Side Gift Shop.

Other special events include Breakfast with the Animals, 9 a.m. Dec. 14.

Wrap up the year with Zoo Year, A Noon New Year’s Eve Celebration, noon-1 p.m. Dec. 31. The event includes crafts for kids (inside) and a ball dropping, replete with a celebratory toast of apple juice or ginger ale at noon under the ZooPavilion. Enjoy the last day of 2019 with the animals from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

ZooMontana was established in 1984 and is the only true zoological and botanical park within a 500-mile radius of Billings, occupying a 70-acre complex off Interstate 90 at Zoo Drive on the west side of town.

In September of 2019, ZooMontana received a coveted accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, making it one of the top zoos in the world.

The zoological/botanical garden, accredited arboretum and educational facility are dedicated to the conservation of wildlife throughout Montana and the 45th parallel. Its 80 inhabitants represent 56 different species, including Amur tigers, grizzly bears, wolverines, river otters and lynx, most of which are rescues.

ZooMontana is dedicated to the mantra “quality over quantity,” meaning the organization’s focus is not on how many animals the zoo has, but how well those animals are cared for. ZooMontana raises necessary operating funds through admissions, memberships, events and private contributions.

Learn more at www.zoomontana.org.