Familiar holiday traditions are taking on a ‘wild’ twist this Yuletide season as part of the Jungle Bells celebration at the San Diego Zoo. During the annual event, the Zoo is transformed into a wild, whimsical wonderland filled with dazzling light displays, tasty treats, a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, melodious bell ringers, jumping elves, and the Zoo’s special animal encounters. Come be cheered by a cheetah or awed by an armadillo – after all, ’tis the season!
Jungle Bells runs now through Jan. 6, 2013. During the three-week celebration, the Zoo is open until 8 p.m., except on Dec. 24, when the Zoo closes at 5 p.m. Jungle Bells activities are most concentrated in the late afternoon and early evening.
Now in its fourth year, there are plenty of old and new Jungle Bells traditions for families to enjoy: take a ride on the North Pole miniature train outside the Zoo entrance; share your wish list with the jolly ol’ elf himself at Santa’s Workshop; find out who’s really stirring during Dr. Zoolittle’s “The Night Before Christmas” show at the Children’s Zoo; applaud the Jumpin’, Jammin’ Elves as they perform astounding acrobatic feats to holiday tunes in the Urban Jungle; and see the Zoo from the perspective of the most famous reindeer of all aboard Rudolph’s Skyfari aerial tram. For those looking for the wildest of holiday Zoo experiences, “Animal Magic for the Holidays” offers special encounters with our animal friends at Discovery Outpost.
New to Jungle Bells this year is Chocolate Town, where guests can marvel at a Chocolate Holiday Tree made up of chocolate-colored plants; meet the mayor of Chocolate Town as he welcomes visitors; choose yummy chocolate morsels from a brightly decorated Chocolate Food Truck; encounter favorite animal ambassadors; and see the all-new “12 Days of Christmas” light display set to music.
At the 4-D Theater, experience the San Diego Zoo premiere of “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas.” The holiday movie starring everyone’s favorite wooly mammoths has Sid accidentally destroying Manny’s favorite holiday decoration, the traditional Christmas rock. Convinced he’s now on Santa’s naughty list, Sid and the gang head to the North Pole to see Santa and chaos ensues. “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas” is sure to delight guests of all ages. Tickets may be purchased at the theater ticket booth.
No holiday celebration is complete without colorful and twinkling lights and Jungle Bells is no exception. There are more than 50,000 individual lights used in the Jungle Bells décor and displays, all recently replaced with LED bulbs to save energy. To view the more than 40 animal-shaped light sculptures around the Zoo, guests may hop aboard the Tinseltown Trolley on Front Street and take a mini tour. Another light display not to be missed is the “Blitzen” Light Experience at Treehouse Plaza.
The Jungle Bells holiday celebration is free with paid admission or membership to the San Diego Zoo. For a schedule of activities and more information about Jungle Bells, visit. www.sandiegozoo.org.
Photos: Kathie Zaccaria