NEW ORLEANS - Audubon Nature Institute, nationally known for creating first-class family attractions, will add another one to its list in November with the premiere of Audubon Zoo Lights, a new holiday offering.
The event is scheduled to run from Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving, through Dec. 30 and will be open to the public for a $15 admission fee, which will be discounted to $10 for Audubon members. Hours will be from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Audubon Zoo Lights will transform a large section of the zoo with elaborate light displays, many of them depicting zoo animals such as elephants, lions, flamingos, alligators and more.
While visitors will not be allowed to visit the zoo’s animal habitats, there will be lighted, life-sized replicas of some of the zoo’s most popular residents, including a 19-foot-by-19-foot peacock.
“The world of technology and how we celebrate Christmas has changed dramatically,” said Ron Forman, president and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute. “With computers and LED lighting, you can do 3-D and 4-D figures and virtual reality. This is going to be a high-tech way of lighting up the zoo at night to turn it into a festival of lights.”
Forman said the holiday attraction was inspired by the success of Audubon’s long-running Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo, which Children's Hospital also sponsors.
“It really aligns with what we're trying to do, which is create healthy environments for families,” said John Nickens, IV, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital. “This could be one of those moments where it becomes a real tradition in New Orleans to go down to the zoo and have this winter wonderland, even if it is in the middle of 70 or 80 degree weather.”
The entrance to the Uptown zoo will be decorated with huge, glowing metal Christmas ornaments welcoming visitors. Once guests enter, familiar sights like Goldring Plaza’s canopy of palm trees and the statues of elephants and other animals in the Cooper Plaza fountain will also be decorated. Another area will feature depictions of animals native to the North Pole and other freezing climates.
“From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there's anything like it in the New Orleans area. In fact, I’ve lived other places and I'm not sure there's anything like it anyplace else. I think people will be pleasantly surprised at the size and scope of it,” said Tod Smith, president and general manager of WWL-TV, the event’s media sponsor.
Event Producers, an Elmwood-based production and event company, is producing the attraction for the zoo.
Inside areas of the zoo, there will be holiday music performances and second line parades, as well interactive displays, family activities and handmade crafts for purchase. Guests will also be able to write messages to be delivered to the patients at Children’s Hospital. A donation from another sponsor, IBERIABANK, will allow hundreds of local school students to attend the event free of charge.
An area of the display will also feature depictions of animals native to the North Pole and other freezing climates.
During Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital, Audubon will also collect holiday string lights for recycling at the zoo front gate between Nov. 23 and Dec. 30. The conservation project will support Audubon’s “Lights for Lions” campaign to help save lions in the wild.
Audubon Nature Institute expects more than 60,000 visitors will attend Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital during its 27-night run during the holiday season.