published Friday, December 9th, 2011

Chattanooga Zoo glows with Christmas cheer

IF YOU GO

What: Holiday Lights at the Zoo.

When: 5:30-8 p.m. today, Saturday and Dec. 16-17.

Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

Admission: $8 adults, $6 seniors, $5 ages 3-15.

Phone: 697-1322.

Website: www.chattzoo.org.

When it comes to animals with holiday ties, reindeer may get all the love, but during the Chattanooga Zoo's annual Holiday Lights celebration, every species gets in on the fun.

For the 15th annual Holiday Lights, the zoo will be decked out in even more seasonal trappings, and many of the activities have been relocated to make guests more comfortable, said director of zoo marketing and communications Marisa Ogles.

"It has typically been one of our smaller events, just because the weather keeps people inside a bit more," Ogles said. "This year, we're trying to make sure we have more of our events inside anyway, so that shouldn't be an issue."

Holiday Lights will be open to the public tonight and Saturday as well as Dec. 16-17.

Ogles said the zoo is expecting 3,000 to 5,000 guests throughout the event.

Children will be able to enjoy inflatables, have pictures taken with Santa and make crafts, including treats that will be used in physical enrichment activities with the animals.

Holiday Lights also will tie into the zoo's inaugural 12 Days of Animal Christmas event, during which guests can donate gifts to the animals off an online wish list. Guests will be able to watch the animals unwrap their gifts one at a time every 30 minutes.

"They can unwrap the presents and see what's inside, and people can watch," Ogles said. "That's going to be fun. It'll be like watching a loved one open a present you bought them; you get to see what their reaction is."

In addition to all the holiday-specific activities, Holiday Lights will take place after normal operating hours.

During the holidays, everyone gets to stay up a little later -- even the jaguars.

"They get to stay out later, past their bedtimes," Ogles said, laughing. "That's exciting because they're usually in bed by that point."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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