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Puget Sound-area zoos celebrate holiday season

Santa, reindeer and lights

Santa feeding one of his reindeer at the Issaquah Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo. Photo Courtesy Cougar Mountain Zoo

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After Thanksgiving is over, it seems like everything is suddenly Christmas-themed. Naturally, the Puget Sound's zoos are joining in on the holiday spirit with some unique activities of their own.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

For many who have grown up in Tacoma, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's Zoolights extravaganza is a yearly tradition, and for good reason. After 5 p.m., gorgeous light displays, all in animal themes, fill the zoo - including a massive 22-foot-wide rock crab with moving pinchers. There's more than just displays, though: Visitors can ride a camel, take a spin on the holiday carousel, and even visit a real-life reindeer up close for the true Santa experience. If you haven't visited Zoolights before, it's a Tacoma must-see during the holiday season.  Visit for details. $10 for Zoolights only, $16 for a combo pass (daytime and Zoolights), children are discounted; open Nov. 25 to Jan. 1 (closed Christmas Eve), 5- 9 p.m.

Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo, located near Green Lake in Seattle, has a light display showcase of its own, called WildLights, with some special activities. In the Snowmazium, families can play with indoor snow (fair warning: Snowball fights are bound to happen) and hear snow stories. Like Zoolights, WildLights features live reindeer and a carousel. WildLights is also hosting a few special one-night events. Nov. 30 is Pokémon Go Night, and the zoo will set lures throughout the grounds. And of course, Dec. 12 is Seahawks Night, which means an appearance by the team mascot, Blitz, a Seahawks scavenger hunt and many more activities. Visit for details. $10 for adults, $8 for kids ages 3 to 12; open Nov. 25 to Jan. 1, 5:30- 8:30 p.m.

Seattle Aquarium

Celebrating the holidays might be tricky underwater, but the Seattle Aquarium has found a loophole. On weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the aquarium features the one-and-only diving Santa. Santa Claus himself will dive into the 120,000-gallon "Window on Washington" exhibit, and families can take photos with St. Nick from the comfort of dry land. Professional photographers will also be present, and donations go toward the aquarium's DreamNights, which allows children who have a chronic illness, disabilities or special needs to visit the aquarium in a calm, safe environment. Visit for details. Included with cost of admission ($25 for adults; $17 for youth ages 4 to 12); Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 26 to Dec. 24, noon and 3 p.m. (noon only on Christmas Eve)

Cougar Mountain Zoo

Cougar Mountain, tucked away in the suburbs of Issaquah, is going all-out with its Christmas festivities by continuing the annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival. Santa will be there, of course, in the Santa's House building, which is only open during December, and he'll be accompanied by his reindeer. If your kids are ever curious as to what Comet and Dasher and Prancer actually might look and act like, and if they want to meet Santa and get their faces painted in the process, Cougar Mountain might be the perfect Christmas zoological destination. Visit for details. $14.50 for adults, $10.50 for kids ages 2 to 12; open Dec. 1 to 23, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (or dusk)

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