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Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Two zoos light way to family fun this holiday season

Stroll brightly lit grounds and watch Santa, sharks swim

  • A snowy mountain scene glows in the dark at Woodland Park Zoo's WildLights.

    Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo

    A snowy mountain scene glows in the dark at Woodland Park Zoo's WildLights.

  • A scuba-diving Santa swims with the sharks at Zoolights at the Tacoma zoo.

    Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

    A scuba-diving Santa swims with the sharks at Zoolights at the Tacoma zoo.

  • A scuba-diving Santa swims with the sharks at Zoolights at the Tacoma zoo.

    Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

    A scuba-diving Santa swims with the sharks at Zoolights at the Tacoma zoo.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.
And at the Tacoma zoo, he swims underwater with sharks.
No, the sharks don't sit on his lap or try to eat him.
The holiday season is truly a zoo at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma and Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
Tacoma's Zoolights and Woodland's WildLights displays are each decked out with more than 500,000 lights to create a wonderland of animal scenes.
Visitors can walk among the glittering displays while sipping hot cocoa and humming along with strolling carollers.
Both venues offer carousel rides, holiday shopping and festive foods.
There are some differences: Tacoma has camels to ride. Seattle has snow to throw.
Every night is a snowball fight in the warm and cozy Snowmazium at Woodland Park Zoo. It's faux snow but still fun.
Most of the animals are tucked into bed, but a pair of reindeer will be on hand for a meet-and-greet during Seattle's WildLights season. On weekends, an evening keeper will speak at the Raptor Barn about birds of prey.
Old favorites at WildLights include "Northern Lights," "The Water Hole" and "Jungle Lights." New light displays include "Glow-rillas," an illuminated version of gorilla Nina; "Monkey Business," a monkey climbing a tall tree; and "Grizzly Creek," a bear fishing for salmon jumping through a stream.
Tacoma's Zoolights has new 3-D displays of a swooping bald eagle, a polar bear family and a Sumatran tiger head. Other lights form ice-skating puffins, playful tiger cubs, a Pacific octopus and a massive flame tree.
Visitors can warm up in the steamy South Pacific Aquarium. Santa scuba dives with the sharks during the first three weeks of Zoolights on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Tacoma zoo is open on Christmas Day, but you won't find Santa swimming with the sharks. He'll be too tuckered out from the night before.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.
Woodland Park Zoo WildLights
The lights are on 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily Nov. 29 through Jan. 4 at Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St., Seattle. Closed Dec. 24 and 25.
Tickets for ages 13 and older are $9.50; ages 3 to 12 are $6.50; free for ages 2 and under.
Carousel rides are $2.
Parking is free. The north, inner north and northwest lots will open nightly. The southwest, south and lower lots will open as needed.
Enter through zoo's west entrance on Phinney Avenue N. between N. 55th and N. 56th streets.
Snowmazium activity schedule: Open play begins at 5:30 p.m. with falling snow, snowballs, snow creatures and crafts. Story times are 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
For tickets and more information, call 206-548-2500 go to zoo.org/wildlights.
Point Defiance Zoolights
The lights are on 5 to 9 p.m. daily Nov. 29 through Jan. 5 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. Zoolights will be closed on Dec. 24 only. Open Christmas Day.
General admission tickets are $8.75; ages 2 and under are admitted free.
Carousel rides are $1. Camel rides are $6.
Scuba-diving Santa swims with sharks during the first three weeks of Zoolights at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18.
For more information, call 253-591-5337 or go to www.pdza.org.

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