Aurora snow owl


Presented by Cal Coast Credit Union
Dec. 13–23, Dec. 25–Jan. 5

*December 13–23 and December 25–January 5.

Our later hours are filled with musical performances, entertainers, and animal encounters. New this year is Aurora, an exciting visual and sound experience that weaves 3-D projections, music, and light into a spectacular performance.

'Tis the Season to celebrate—join us for holiday cheer!


Acrobat holding glowing orb, standing in front of aurora borealis.


  • 7:45 p.m.
  • Hua Mei Plaza

An amazing blend of music and 3-D projection mapped images transport you into a magical space. The friendly nature sprites are here too, sharing their story as well as the power of nature contained within their mystical orbs. As the performance comes to a dramatic and beautiful conclusion, the Aurora Borealis appears—possibly the only time it has been seen in San Diego!

Aurora sprite acrobat holding glowing orb.

Aurora Pathways

  • 7 p.m.

Wind, water, and ice sprites each inhabit one of three areas of the Zoo, guiding you to the Aurora experience at the end of the evening. Special lighting, music, and soundscape reveal the magic of their realms. Choose your sprite:

  • Wind (Center Street; Map Locator #8)
  • Water (Africa Rocks, near Rocks Box snack stand)
  • Ice (Park Way; Map Locator #14)
Brass band playing music.

Jingle Brass

  • 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 p.m.
  • Front Street Stage

These jingly, jazzy carols are sure to help get everyone into the holiday spirit. 

Large toog tree decorated with holiday lights.

"Celebration of Lights" Experience

  • 4:55 to 7:55 p.m.
  • Main Entrance Plaza

Every 30 minutes, our toog tree, adorned with hundreds of bulbs, doesn't just light up, it seems to come to life! Bright bits of light blink and dazzle as they light up the night, "dancing" to the sounds of the season.

Elf acrobats jumping in the air.

Toy Shop Hop

  • 3, 4, 5, and 6 p.m.
  • Behind Sydney's Grill

Santa's elves and their large trampoline return to put a bounce in everyone's holiday step. The elves are supposed to be getting a jump on cleaning up the workshop, but mischief beckons, and fun ensues.

Dr. Zoolittle character reading an oversized book.

Dr. Zoolittle's One Wild Night Before Christmas

  • 4, 5, 6, and 7 p.m.
  • Africa Rocks Stage

Dr. Zoolittle has his own zany version of Clement Clarke Moore's classic poem, and it all happens here at the Zoo! Not a creature will stir as this superb storyteller captivates the child in all, and visions of animals dance in our heads.

A cappella singers dressed in festive holiday sweaters.

The Tinseltones

  • 5:15, 5:45, 6:15, and 6:45 p.m.
  • Boardwalk Beer Garden

Sway to some seasonal favorites sung a cappella. Enjoy the entire 20-minute performance; a dusting of "frosty holiday magic" at the end will have you smiling with delight!


Children hoola hooping on San Diego Zoo's Front Street plaza.

Reindeer Games

  • 5, 6, and 7 p.m.
  • Front Street Stage

Everyone knows reindeer like to have fun—so grab a hula hoop and join in the games. You'll even learn to do the reindeer dance; no hoofing experience required!

Brightly decorated Christmas cookies.

Gingerbread Landing

  • 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Treetops Café

This is the spot for Zoo character meet-and-greets, strolling musicians, snacks, and Santa.

Zoo costume characters.

Zoo Characters Meet & Greet

  • Continuous, 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Gingerbread Landing

Meet larger-than-life, friendly Zoo characters like Dr. Harry Lion, Churchill Polar Bear, Sydney Koala, and all their friends. Put on your jolliest smile, and snap a picture for a great holiday card next year! 

Santa holding his glasses while he reads his list of children.

Santa's Factory

  • Price Education Center

Santa will be waiting to welcome young guests. Even if they've already sent him their wish list or had a chat at another location, a visit with the jolly ol' elf himself is a special opportunity for sweet memories.

  • November 29 and 30; December 7 and 8: Noon to 4 p.m.
  • December 13–23: Noon to 8 p.m.
  • December 24: Noon to 4 p.m.
  • December 25: Noon to 8 p.m.
Polar bear standing on snow.

Animal Experiences

  • Various locations

Meet some Zoo residents and the experts who know and care for them.

Polar Bears: 11 a.m. (Polar Bear Plunge)
Lemurs: Noon (Africa Rocks)
Reindeer: 12:30 p.m. (Polar Bear Plunge)
Meerkats: 12:30 p.m. (Map Locator #10)
Baboons: 12:45 (Afria Rocks)
Corral Animals: 1:30 p.m. (Elephant Odyssey, near the condors)
Reptiles: 2 p.m. (Reptile Walk)
Animal Surprise: 3 p.m. (Wegeforth Bowl)
Animal Ambassador Area: 3:30 p.m. (Urban Jungle, near the rhino)
Rhino: 4:30 p.m. (Urban Jungle)
Raccoon: 5:15 p.m. (Polar Bear Plunge)
Asian Leopards: 6:15 p.m. (Asian Passage)

Polar Express

The Polar Express 4-D Experience

  • Continuous; last show begins at 7 p.m.
  • Northern Frontier; 4-D Theater

You're invited on an extraordinary 4-D adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. Based on the inspiring and beloved Caldecott Medal children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. (NOTE: ticket purchase required.)

Reindeer standing on snow.

Northern Frontier's Holiday Forest

  • Continuous until 8 p.m.
  • Polar Bear Plunge

Follow this festive forest pathway among specially decorated, lighted trees designed to delight. Peek at polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, and more.

Miniature train being ridden by Zoo guests.

Balboa Park Miniature Train

  • Continuous until 8 p.m.
  • Outside the Zoo exit

Located just outside the Zoo exit, the beloved Miniature Train will be running during Jungle Bells. 

  • Obtain a hand stamp at the Zoo's exit for same day re-entry.
  • Train tickets are $3 for ages 1 and older; younger than age 1 is free. Ages 5 and younger must ride with a paying adult. 
Aye-aye in tree.


What happens at the Zoo at sunset? This evening tour features a special look at animals that are just waking up as the sun goes down, including the aye-aye, a unique nocturnal lemur. Watch these night-loving animals enjoy special treats, get a rare sneak peek at our world-famous orchid collection, and learn how we care for our animals—day and night. 

Twilight Tour is available for a limited time only! For all ages.


A pair of wine glasses sitting in front of a Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays Happens

  • 3 to 5 p.m.
  • Albert's Restaurant

'Tis the season for great deals on drinks and appetizers at Albert's Restaurant. Stop in to fill your belly before getting your Jungle Bells on.

Braised short ribs


  • Albert's Restaurant and Aurora reserved priority viewing section near Hua Mei Plaza

Enjoy a delicious pre-show dinner at Albert's Restaurant, including an exclusive specialty dessert. Then, you'll arrive at a special reserved priority viewing area to watch the magic of Aurora—a brand-new immersive, multisensory presentation—as it unfolds before you. Blending sound, lights, 3-D projection mapping, and live performances, Aurora will immerse you in a spectacular, magical experience like no other.

Dinner reservations are available between 5 and 6:15 p.m. Aurora starts at 7:45 and ends at 7:55 p.m.

Cost is $50 per person for adults, $25 per person for children ages 3 to 11, plus tax and gratuity. Nonmembers add Zoo admission.

Child's tiger facemark, adult koala mask, child's polar bear.

Face Masks

In Child and Adult sizes!
Amahle the hippo calf in her pool.


Knockaround. Image of giraffe and giraffe pattern sunglasses.

Polarized Giraffe Sunglasses ($30)

Hotel with pool
Creature Comforts