Portland Zoolights – Best Year Ever! {Sponsored}

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? [http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

I’m going to just going to get this out there fast and then let the pictures do the rest of the talking!  This year was hands-down the best experience I’ve ever had at Portland Zoolights.  The pace was slower, we enjoyed the lights more, we had time to see actual animals, and Best of All – NO TRAIN LINE!!!  (If you’ve ever attended Portland Zoolights before, you get this.)  In years past, I spent hours – HOURS – wrangling toddlers and teens and everyone in between through the twisty time-suck of a waiting line so that we could hop on the train and ride through the Zoo to see the lights from afar.  Which meant I was usually still wrangling toddlers on the train while we rode, which meant that I didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the lights.  In theory, of course, you can walk around the Zoo grounds and ride the train, but in the eight-plus years I’ve attended previously, that hasn’t been the reality, particularly when my children were very young.  Little kiddos can only take so much walking and waiting.   I’ll admit that now all of them are teens, riding the train doesn’t require me to be quite as vigilant, but after our experience this year, I realized how much I had been missing from the train.

There were so many things that I enjoyed about this year’s Zoolights.  First, just the experience of taking time.  Slowing down.  Enjoying the beauty.  Add to that all the things that I was able to appreciate more fully.  Did you know that there is a cool Wizard of OZ display up near the old entrance?  Or that over by the big cats, there is a beautiful wall display of a harbor with water that moves?  Or that the elephants are pretty darn active in the evening hours?  (We watched little Lily and her Mama in the front elephant yard cavorting like I’ve never seen before around 6:30 pm.) There are tunnels of lights and fields full of animals, and trees dripping color and light.  Stunning, and maybe a little magical too.

Next year, the new track will be all laid out and the train will be back up and running, but I don’t think I will be riding it.  I enjoy the view just fine from the ground.

Portland Zoolights run thru January 5th.  (No Zoolights Dec 24 & 25)  Be sure to check out the Zoolights discounts listed at bottom of this post.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Our little princess (incognito as a bear) posing for the camera. Again.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

No, the aliens haven’t landed – yet. That’s just me and Mr B illuminated in the green glow of the wreath-arch that graces the walk down to the main zoo. I have no idea who the little photo-bomber on the right is, but she(?) sure looks like she’s happy to be there!

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

The ZooTrain isn’t running this year – and that isn’t a bad thing! First of all – NO TRAIN LINES!!!!! Plus, you get to go up close and personal with the train and take cool pictures like this. And you appreciate the lights more from the ground (in my opinion.) Plus – NO TRAIN LINES!!!

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Because we weren’t on the train, I found that I saw MORE of the Zoolights. For example, I don’t remember ever seeing this grouping before in the (at least) eight previous times I’ve gone.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

This wall of lights has a tide that moves in and out – very cool.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

The walkway down to the AfriCafe and Elephant enclosure.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Volunteers and Zoo Keepers will be on hand in the primate center throughout Zoolights, collecting donations that will go to some of their “pet projects.”

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

The Concert Lawn  comes alive at night.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

We gave in a bought the girls an elephant ear. For blogging purposes only, of course.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Is this transparent purple rain-coated woman evidence that ghostly apparitions are taking in Zoolights? No – just a fast-walking, slightly oblivious Portlander walking through our timed exposure.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

The walkway through the African Exhibit was really beautiful. I’ve never made it up this way during Zoolights before – we were always waiting for the train!

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Mr B & me.  How romantic.

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

Before leaving the Zoo, we stopped in at the Zoo Store for a block of fudge. Did you know it’s made fresh, right across the street? We had the Heath Bar Fudge, and let me tell you, it was delicious!

Portland Zoolights 2013 | What's for Dinner, Mama? {http://thegoodheartedwoman.com]

By far my favorite image from the evening. Simply lovely.

Disclosure: As a Portland Blogger, I received free tickets for me and my family to attend the media preview of Zoolights. I received no other compensation, and all opinions offered here on this blog are one hundred percent my own. ♥ Renée

NOTE: This post marks a new direction for What’s for Dinner, Mama? – because family life isn’t all about Dinner.  Don’t worry – I’ll still be posting great recipes and ideas for feeding all those different eaters at your table, but now from time to time, I’ll also be highlighting the happenings around my favorite city in the universe.

Zoolights Discounts:

  • 2 for 1 discount – Participating Toyota dealers are proud to sponsor ZooLights and pleased to offer 2 for 1 admission discount coupon valid Monday – Thursday nights, Dec. 2-5 and Dec. 9-12. Pick up a 2 for 1 coupon at your local Toyota dealer.
  • ZooLights food and beverage – Special food offer with coupon: Buy one entrée at the Cascade Grill and get one kids meal free (beverage not included). Coupons are available at zoo entrance.
  • Second Tuesday ZooLights – On Dec. 10, 201, all admissions are buy 1-get 1 free
  • Member discounts – In addition to free admission, members receive 10% off retail and food purchases at ZooLights.
  • Trimet discount – Like every day at the zoo, visitors receive $1.50 off of admission with proof of ridership. From Dec. 20 – Jan. 5, receive a $3 discount by showing a proof of Trimet ridership
  • Groups of 20 or more get a 20% discount. Reservations are not required

Do you have a favorite family activity during the holiday season?  Share it with us in the comments!

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I'm a writer, teacher, autoharper, food & lifestyle blogger and proud Native Portlander. In my spare time, you can find me writing love songs about cowboys, exploring the moss-covered nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest, and making music with my talented singer-husband.

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