Bronx Zoo holiday lights illuminate Belmont brighter than ever

From Nov. 18 to Jan. 8, enjoy an immersive light display with custom-designed animal lanterns at The Bronx Zoo.
Photo courtesy of Julie Larsen Maher

Perhaps the Bronx’s brightest tradition has returned greater and more illuminated than ever this month.

The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, a spectacular array that illuminates much more than lions and tigers and bears, will be opening to the public on Friday as this year’s physical expansion literally shines on more of the wildlife center.

From lifelike animal lanterns, to strings of enchanting overhead lights which gleam over the many festive walkways set to the playing of holiday music — plus the zoo’s safely created indoor and covered special exhibits — it’s challenging to not be smiling cheek to cheek behind one’s mask in Belmont this fall and winter.

Julie Larsen Maher

Featuring dozens more festive lanterns than last year, there are five unique safaris representing different global regions and their respective species on display at the Bronx Zoo now.

Out of those five, the aquatic themed safari is arguably the most fun for guests to dive into, as one truly feels submerged in a coral reef perched along the East Australian Current for some very enjoyable minutes.

Another new addition to the Bronx Zoo lights is the indoor Luminous Garden, which gives zoo-goers an ant’s perspective on life inside the blossoming ecosystem of flowers, mushrooms, butterflies and even some bugs.

Alex Mitchell

That garden was a favorite for visitors Robyn, Austin and baby Liam from White Plains, who were all quite excited to be in the Bronx Zoo at night for their first time.

The three were also quite pleased with the zoo’s social distancing protocol, which came, in part, as polite reminders from staff.

For Bronx Zoo regulars Alan and Joanne Lehman of Riverdale, they were delighted to see the light’s expansion, and said that this year’s display is better than it was in 2019.

“It cheers you up during a tough year,” Alan said, noting that he and his wife will surely be returning in weeks to come.

Almost just as heart warming as the senior couple’s night out are the zoo’s dozens of fire pits for socially distant s’mores — something the Bronx Zoo has even held competitions for in the past.

For those not up to the scorching task of assembling the tasty treats themselves, visitors can also order the winning desserts from prior competitions.

Other forms of entertainment at the Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights include ice carving demonstrations, some costumed characters and critters, stilt walkers, souvenirs and seasonal treats in addition to the s’mores.

Alex Mitchell

All guests over three-years-old are required to socially distance and wear face coverings. Date-specific tickets for the lights must be purchased in advance and are now available online through Sunday, Jan. 10.