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Family Fun: Light Up the Holiday Season at Nashville Zoo’s Zoolumination and Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS

Time to get in the holiday spirit! 

Written by Trisha Boyer
Family Fun: Light Up the Holiday Season at Nashville Zoo’s Zoolumination and Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS
Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Suddenly, it’s November. The month of feasting with family and friends, giving thanks, and getting into the holiday spirit with, among other things, lots and lots of lights.

From November 15 to December 30, Nashville Zoo will host their first ever holiday event, Zoolumination: Chinese Festival of Lights, treating guests to a dramatic display of more than 500 custom-made silk lanterns. From bright, colorful, larger-than-life renditions of some of the Zoo’s most beloved animals to a Santa’s village complete with buildings and a train made entirely out of lanterns, the exhibit promises to be a sight to behold—there’s even a 200-foot-dragon in the works.

Nashville Zoo Zoolumination;  Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Nashville Zoo Zoolumination;  Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Nashville Zoo Zoolumination; Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Nashville Zoo Zoolumination; Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

Photo credit: Nashville Zoo/Katie Johns

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“We had been wanting to put on a holiday event for a while, but wanted to do something unique compared to the typical holiday light displays you see around town,” explains Becky Dombrowski, communications specialist at Nashville Zoo. ”With Zoolumination: Chinese Festival of Lights, guests are able to experience a spectacular display of art, while learning about another culture.

In addition to the elaborate lantern displays, Chinese acrobats and entertainers will perform nightly, and guests can peruse a variety of handmade crafts while enjoying specialty menu items, like pork banh mi, potstickers, and eggrolls.

While it’s the first time the Zoo has hosted a lantern festival, it will be the largest lantern festival in the country, and there are already plans for it to return again next year.

Zoolumination: Chinese Festival of Lights
nashvillezoo.org/zoolumination
Nightly, November 15 to December 30 (5 – 9 p.m.)
Thursday – Sunday, January 2 to February 2 (5 – 9 p.m.)
*Closed Nov. 28, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25

Across town, for the 5th year running, Cheekwood kicks off its immersive, lighted winter wonderland, Holiday LIGHTS, on November 23. With returning favorites like live reindeer, visits with Santa, traditional decor in the mansion, and period carolers singing classic holiday music, senior communications manager Caroline Jeronimus, says “the event has become a cherished holiday tradition in Nashville and appeals to both the young and the young at heart.” 

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo courtesy of Cheekwood

Photo courtesy of Cheekwood

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Photo credit: Caitlin Harris

Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS; Photo credit: Dion Degennaro

Photo credit: Dion Degennaro

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New for this year, Cheekwood will introduce Pinnacles of Light, an outdoor display showcasing more than 17 custom-made LED trees with programmed lights, a poinsettia wall (perfect for snapping those holiday photos), an antique train display, and Santa photo ops for the family pooch.

And if one million twinkling lights isn’t enough to lure you out on a cold winter’s night, remember there’s more than one way to get in the holiday spirit; the cozy s’mores station is a perfect place to warm your toes and enjoy a seasonal cocktail or two while taking in the splendor of the season.

Holiday LIGHTS
Cheekwood.org
November 23 to January 5; (5-10 p.m.)
*Closed November 28 and December 25