On Black Friday, I try to stay away from the crowds and this year I went into the wild searching for reindeer. Woodland Park Zoo is transformed from November 25th - January 1 into the bright and holiday themed Wild Lights. The trek into the wild night was going to be 2 hours of walking, so supplies and food were needed. The Rainforest Cafe is closed in the evening so my hope of finding a hot meal was looking grim until I saw a campfire outside Pizza Corner. There were families huddled around the fire enjoying pizza, chowder, coffee, beer and waffle fries. Since this was my first trip to Wild Lights the server suggested a beer and a fresh s'mores kit for the fire. After cooking two perfect s'mores I was on my way to Wild Lights.

Leaving the warm fire and steaming food behind, I was guided by well-lit paths towards the seasonal home of Santa’s herd. Making my way towards Santa’s home for assistance in my search, I spotted a LED Monkey swinging in the tree tops while keeping an eye on the friendly looking lighted tiger stalking the bushes next to me. There was a spirited game of foam snowball fights inside Zoomazium, but after a quick peek inside, I moved on. I have been to the Woodland Park Zoo during the day before and one of my favorite stops is the Adaptations house lair of the mighty komodo dragon and humble meerkats. After the digital lighted animal creations, it was fun to see real animals as an unexpected treat on our way to visit Santa. The home and photo opportunity for Woodland Park’s Santa is Pacific Northwest themed and well guided to make your Christmas wish with Santa without waiting in a long line. 

Santa had reindeer, but I was informed of an area where young reindeer in training had a home all their own, so my wild holiday adventure was far from over. The patch was watched over by a family of lighted animated eagles soaring overhead and the animated grizzly fishing for salmon, but just past the warm cheerful glow of the lights, real predators still stalked in the shadows. A pack of wolves howled just out of sight to add realism to my experience. Feeling a little spooked by the wolves, I revived my holiday cheer at the carousel while eating fresh popcorn. My next animated encounter was a trio of elephants in the North Meadow. After watching the LED family return into the trees, I finally saw the home of real reindeer eating hay while waiting for Santa’s sleigh training. 

My adventure and much needed family night out to usher in the holidays was coming to an end but just like any successful animal sighting in travel, souvenirs are wanted for memories or stocking stuffer ideas, so the gift shop is open late as well. We had a magical night that was well worth the admission and I have some new holiday photos for the scrapbook!

Michael Dean