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A Wild Night at Wildlights

December 18, 2010

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo (A Columbus GreenSpot) is more than worth the price of admission. If you’re like me and you haven’t been to the zoo in a while, now is the perfect time to change that. The zoo at night is more beautiful and peaceful than you typically experience during the day, but yes, it is still cold so remember to bundle up.

Welcome to Wildlights

The zoo is decorated from end to end for the holiday season and each area has it’s own color scheme. The section that stood out the most to me was the oranges, reds and purples of Asia. The lights hanging in clusters from the trees were particularly eye-catching. At the center of the zoo a holiday light show begins each half hour and will bring a smile to your face.

All of the lights at the zoo are LEDs, which use 90% less energy than traditional holiday lights, and emit practically no heat so they are safer to use than traditional lights as well. Signs all over the zoo explain the facts of how energy efficient this display is and give visitors tips that can be taken home and mimicked there.

...So goes the polar bear

On the wilder side, many of the animals are indoors because it is late and also because it is cold, but not all of them. Most of those that were still outside were sleeping, which showcases the vulnerability of these massive creatures. Who wouldn’t want to curl up beside a sleeping brown bear or tiger? The polar bears were still putting on a show for the crowd of onlookers and it was hard to pull oneself away from the glass. The buildings were all still open to visitors though so you could go inside, see animals close up, and enjoy a bit of warmth. I am a huge fan of the manatees that seem to just float and dance in the water, but of course there was more to see: elephants, rhinos, goats and on and on.

Smaller footprint for the Zoo

Wandering through the zoo you are reminded of the frailty of the animals around the world that are threatened by humans and climate change alike. Some areas show darkened silhouettes of now extinct animals, while others show pictures of glaciers taken years apart depicting the losses. Amongst these signs though were others that highlighted the projects that the zoo has taken on to limit the harm it does to the environment and to protect endangered species. Of course some of these signs are playful: How far can you stretch to help save a tiger?

A highlight of the night for me was touring last year’s OSU Solar Decathlon house, which placed in the top ten in the 2009 competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Only 800 square feet but full of everything you could ever need in a home, the house is constructed of materials readily available to you and I now, and features a multi-functional room design. The house it situated in the North America region of the zoo and fits in amongst the other displays for minimizing impacts on animal habitats such as recycling, organic gardening and wind energy are highlighted.

The competition this year will take place at the Mall in DC Sept. 23-Oct. 2, 2011 and the square footage has been increased to 1200 square feet to accommodate families. This is a spectacular competition that showcases sustainable home designs and ideas that can be used now and in the future of green building.

A trip to Wildlights for families would not be complete without including a visit with Santa, pictures in the sleigh, and some hot chocolate. The crowds are much smaller than they are in peak season so little ones have a better chance of getting close to the animals. I truly think that the beauties of the exhibits during this unique event are worth visiting year after year, turning it into a holiday tradition. I know I can’t wait to do this again.

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