Our annual family trip to see Calgary Zoolights took an unexpected and imaginative twist this year. The first surprise was having the zoo almost to ourselves.
Just how cold was it at Calgary Zoolights?
Every year we seem to pick the coldest possible evening to go see the Christmas lights at the zoo. I’m not too sure how we manage it, because we usually decide on the timing a few weeks ahead.
The sun went down at 4:36 pm, leaving plenty of time for any impression of heat to completely vanish. That’s ok, it was the northern equivalent of a mirage anyway. At this time of year, whatever heat comes from the sun is just enough to keep the Earth turning, no more.
We arrived to a nearly empty parking lot about 6:30. The temperature was -22° C with a 10 km/h wind from the north. In old money, that would be -7.6° F and a wind of 6 mph. Still from the north.
How would we ever last?
Coats. Layers. Hats. Balaclavas. Mitts. Scarves. Boots.
Basically, we dressed like the Michelin man and waddled around feeling fairly toasty. For a while, that is, but eventually we needed a little break.
Childhood magic in the Conservatory
The best indoor space in the Calgary Zoo is the Conservatory. Year-round, you can step into a place full of green and flowery life, often with resident butterflies.
I wasn’t expecting this year’s theme, but as we turned left into the jungle, I saw an unmistakeable familiar grin.
And there we were, in the middle of Alice in Wonderland, meeting the familiar friends from so long ago.
Surrounded by clocks was the nervous White Rabbit, worried about his pocket watch, concerned about Time.
Around the corner, Alice was about to make the very bad mistake of following the label on the DRINK ME bottle.
You might remember her problem! Here is Giant Alice, shown in blue because the lighting in the Conservatory was constantly cycling through various magical colours.
Finally, young Alice got it just right and returned to her normal size. She looks lovely here.
The Conservatory has two big plant-filled rooms separated by the large lobby.
In the second room, the theme was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. There were some beautiful Christmas trees, like this one decorated with china cups and saucers.
And I would have to say this caterpillar was the best creature.
This was one of the most imaginative Zoolights I can recall. It was especially nice to see the original illustrations by John Tenniel.
Inside and out, this year’s Zoolights has lots to see
Don’t let my description of the cold put you off. There are warming fires all around the Zoolights path, and you can always duck in to the Conservatory as we did.
We finished off with a cup of hot chocolate in the big cafe.
I’ve only shown you the indoor lights because I was so taken with Alice and her friends. Outside, the trees are wrapped in all colours of tiny lights, there are illuminated lanterns in realistic animal shapes, and on the bridge across the Bow River, a dozen or so pairs of dolphins are leaping up to greet you.
They have about 1.5 million lights up at the Zoo this year. It takes between 1 and 2 hours to go round.
There’s a skating rink outside, and we saw some brave skaters, but for me, the tremendous speed at which I always go on ice would have created such a breeze, everyone in my wake would have been frozen by it, and I just couldn’t do that to them.
The weather is supposed to get warmer. Zoolights is on until January 6, 2018. You need a separate ticket (not a day pass). All the info is on the Zoo’s website.
If you liked this article, please share it, and thank you for doing that. A very Happy New Year to you and yours.