See Nashville Zoo in a whole new light this winter at Zoolumination: Chinese Festival of Lights from November 15 until February 2. This massive event will be the largest lantern show in the country spanning more than 60 acres and featuring more than 500 custom-designed lanterns, a life-size holiday village, entertainment and specialty food options, along with the ability to see some of the Zoo’s live animals up close in award-winning exhibits.
The size and scale of the lanterns will be significantly larger than any other display in the country and includes lanterns that are the size of four-story buildings and a dragon nearly the length of a football field. Chinese artists have recreated zoo animals in great detail and at actual size, including elephants, rhinos, giraffe and dozens of others. Themed animal and flower scenes will be spread throughout the Zoo, along with towering traditional Chinese lantern scenes.
This 63-night event will also include “North Pole Village,” a life-size recreation of the village where Santa and his elves live. The village will be comprised of multiple two-story buildings, made entirely of lanterns, a life-size train, holiday trees, light displays and music. Kids can visit Santa nightly until Dec. 23 and local bands and choirs will play traditional Christmas music on select nights. The 110-foot tall zip line and the carousel will also provide unique night-time experiences for riders.
Nashville Zoo is partnering with Zigong Lantern Group, who have won numerous awards throughout the world for their designs. Approximately 50 Chinese artists, welders and construction staff will travel from China at the end of September to help construct the massive lantern scenes. Design of the scenes began in May and the on-site construction and placement will take more than two months and require large construction cranes to set many of the 500+ lanterns in place.
In the two months leading to the event, multiple construction areas have been allocated behind the scenes at the Zoo for artists and welders to build the lanterns. The lanterns will require more than 70 tons of steel; 50,000 feet of silk; 21,000 LED bulbs and more than 50,000 feet of cable and wire to hook it all up; most of which will be re-purposed or recycled after the event. The Zoo has also contracted Cumberland Creative to produce a short documentary on the men and women involved in this project and a behind-the-scenes look at how it comes alive.
The event will also include nightly performances by Chinese acrobats and entertainers traveling from Zigong, China. Traditional Chinese artists will display hand-made items for purchase, such as stone carving and fan painting. The Zoo will be adding Chinese menu items throughout the Zoo and holiday menu items at North Pole Village.
This event will run Friday, Nov. 15 – Sunday, Feb. 2 from 5-9 p.m. each night, only closing on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The event is expected to welcome more than 200,000 guests.
Most weekend nights are expected to sell out and the public is encouraged to purchase early. Zoo members will receive a $2 discount on admission, as well as early access to tickets. General public tickets will go on sale on September 4 here.