11/20/2013 10:02 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Zoos Light Up the Holiday Season

2013-11-20-PhoenixZoo_DaveSeibert.jpg(photo: Dave Seibert/Phoenix Zoo)

Want a surefire way to brighten your holiday season this year? Some of the best zoos around the country are upping the merrymaking ante with elaborate light displays, holiday shows, ice skating, visits with Santa and, most definitely, a candy cane or two. Here's a look at some of the best of the bunch.

ZooLights: Phoenix Zoo
With 3.7 million lights and 700 light displays, ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo is the largest holiday light display in Arizona. Whether you catch a Music in Motion show with music from The Wizard of Oz and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, slide down the Polar Slide, ride a camel or glide across the zip line, be on the lookout for Wizard of Oz characters, and especially those cheeky flying monkeys. Dates: Nov. 28-Jan. 12 Time: Sun.-Thurs., 6- 10 pm; Fri.-Sat., 6 pm-midnight. Tickets: $10-$14; free for children ages 2 and under.

ZooLights: Lincoln Park Zoo
2013-11-20-LincolnParkZoo1.jpg(photo: Lincoln Park Zoo)

ZooLights at the beloved Lincoln Park Zoo in downtown Chicago is an annual tradition for many locals and tourists. Over two million lights decorate the trees overhead while visitors stroll the grounds sipping spiced wine and hot chocolate. There are free crafts, train and carousel rides, ice carving, ice skating and visits from Santa (through December 23). Dates: Fri.-Sun., Nov. 29-Dec. 13 and daily Dec. 14-Jan. 5 (except Dec. 24-25). Time: daily, 5-9 pm Tickets: Zoo admission is always free; nominal cost for select activities.

(MORE: View a family trip itinerary: 4 days in Chicago with kids.)

Wildlights: Columbus Zoo
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo will light up the skies of central Ohio for the 25th year with over three million lights. There will be train rides, light shows, reindeer, visits with Santa, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, and behind-the-scenes zoo tours on select days. Dates: Nov. 22- Jan. 5 (closed Nov. 28, Dec. 24- 25). Time: Sun.-Thurs., 5-9 pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-10 pm. Tickets: $14.99 for adults; $9.99 for kids ages 2-9; free for kids under 2; additional cost for select activities.

ZooLights: National Zoo
2013-11-20-NationalZoo_Flickr_cliff1066.jpg(photo: cliff1066/Flickr Creative Commons)

While giant pandas are nestled snug in their beds, over 100,000 visitors will come to experience 500,000 lights displayed at the National Zoo. You can ride on a train or carousel, check out the Lego and train villages, zoom down snowless tubing tracks or enter the Gin-GRR-Bread competition. Adults looking for more holiday spirit can indulge in a cup of spiked hot chocolate. Dates: Nov. 29- Jan. 12 (except Dec. 24-25). Time: daily, 5-9 pm Tickets: Zoo admission is always free; additional cost for select activities.

(MORE: Find parents' reviews of kid-friendly hotels in Washington DC.)

ZooLights: Oakland Zoo
Hundreds of thousands of lights illuminate the night sky and light up Candy Cane Lane at the Oakland Zoo. The Bay Area's largest LED holiday light display features animal sculptures, a nighttime adventure on the Outback Express train, holiday-themed rides and a storybook maze for little ones. Don't miss a cup of the Ghiradelli hot chocolate. Dates: Nov. 29-Jan. 5 (except December 24-25). Time: daily, 5:30-9 pm Tickets: $8 for adults; $7 for children and seniors.

--Kristi Marcelle, a California based-freelance writer, contributed this to