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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

Something New at the Zoo!

Words by Penny Neef. Photos by Joe Kelly.

Like most of us, Virginia Zoo in Norfolk has had to do some pandemic pivoting. After closing to the public, the Zoo opened back up this summer. Winter is usually a slow time for the Zoo, not this winter.

You can still walk-through Virginia Zoo, including World of Reptiles, each day from 9:30 – 4:30 and say hello to the live animals. But something else is happening at the Zoo. There are 29 new animals on display, the inflatable kind. You can see them during the day, or see them all lit up at Zoolumination. Drive-thru every night from 5:00 – 9:00 pm on weeknights and 5:00 – 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday until January 9.

Driving through the Zoo is a brand-new concept, driving through the Zoo at night is a unique experience. The staff guide you to a back entrance. It is surreal and a little bit magical. The trees are lit in all kinds of colors. You are given a QR code to launch a site on your phone to provide music, animal sounds and a narration for your trip around a large loop.

The 29 animals are lit up from within and glowing. They range in size from six feet to a 36-foot-tall family of giraffes. You can pace yourself to the narration and learn a little bit about the animals you are seeing, or you can enjoy the experience quietly. It’s up to you and the passengers in your car.

We had our grandson, ten-year-old Joe with us for Zoolumination. He is curious about everything, so we slid open the sunroof, let him pop his head out the top of the minivan, and listened to all the animal facts as we slowly drove.

If you’re looking for something different or something pandemic safe for you and your family this holiday season, Zoolumination is perfect. You must purchase your tickets online and in advance. There are no ticket sales at the entrance. If you are a Zoo member, there is a discount.

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

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