The San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells, presented by California Coast Credit Union kicked off Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 and runs through Jan. 5, 2020. This seasonal event transforms the Zoo into a wild wonderland of twinkling lights, entertaining live performances, holiday music, special displays, festive foods and animal encounters. The Zoo will be open until 8 p.m. every night of Jungle Bells—except Dec. 24, when the Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and no Jungle Bells activities are scheduled.
New this year is Aurora, an exciting visual and sound experience that weaves 3-D projections, music, and light into a spectacular performance. Friendly mythical wind, water and ice sprites share their stories, 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 takes place nightly (except Dec. 24) at Hua Mei Plaza, starting at 7:45 p.m. and ending at 7:55 p.m.
In addition to Aurora, Jungle Bells is full of memorable experiences, from Dr. Zoolittle’s animal-themed version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and Reindeer Games to the Northern Frontier Holiday Forest aglow with stunning, specially decorated and lighted trees. The sounds of the season will fill the air with an interactive jingly, jazzy carol session, and a strolling musician will engage guests in songs of the season. Zoo grounds will be filled with colorful lights, including the toog tree on Front Street. Adorned with hundreds of bulbs, the tree doesn’t just light up, it appears to come to life, “dancing” to the sounds of the season.
Now through Christmas Day, the jolly ol’ elf himself—Santa—will be on hand to visit with youngsters of all ages. Some of Santa’s elves will keep things hopping with an energetic trampoline performance at the Toy Shop Hop. Another Santa-themed adventure includes a 4-D theater experience: an amazing train ride to the North Pole through the magic of “The Polar Express.” (Theater ticket purchase required.)
Located just outside the Zoo exit, the beloved Balboa Park Miniature Train will be running during Jungle Bells. Train tickets are $3 for ages 1 and older; children younger than age 1 are free. Ages 5 and younger must ride with a paying adult.
A visit to the Zoo wouldn’t be complete without meeting some of its remarkable residents, including reptiles, lemurs, baboons, reindeer and more. Learn more about these fascinating animals from the people who care for them, at a Keeper Talk. Guests also can meet larger-than-life, friendly Zoo characters like Dr. Harry Lion, Churchill Polar Bear, Sydney Koala, and all their friends.
Jungle Bells is not just about holiday sights and sounds, but also delicious holiday smells and tastes from seasonal treats like hot chocolate and cookies, and other culinary delights offered at the Zoo’s restaurants and food stands. Guests won’t want to miss Happy Holidays Happens, a merry happy hour at Albert’s Restaurant with discounted drinks and appetizers, from 3 to 5 p.m. each day of Jungle Bells (except Dec. 24). New this year, an Aurora pre-show dinner at Albert’s includes a delicious meal and an exclusive specialty dessert. Pre-show dinner guests also receive special reserved, priority viewing to watch the magic of Aurora as it unfolds. Reservations are required. The cost is $50 per person for adults, $25 per person for children ages 3 to 11, plus tax and gratuity. Nonmembers add Zoo admission. For event details and reservation information, visit SanDiegoZoo.org/JungleBells.
For last-minute holiday shoppers, Jungle Bells is a great place to pick up holiday gifts. The Zoo’s gift shops offer an incredible array of great gifts, including holiday items, apparel, souvenirs, home décor, toys and books from San Diego Zoo Global Press. Zoo gift cards, special tours and Zoo memberships make a great gift, too, and support San Diego Zoo Global’s mission to save plant and animal species worldwide. For information or to shop online, visit SanDiegoZoo.org .
Those looking for something extra special to do during Jungle Bells can enjoy a two-hour Inside Look Twilight Tour, available for a limited time only. 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. Reservations are required. For prices, times and more information, visit SanDiegoZoo.org.
The San Diego Zoo is pleased to once again welcome California Coast Credit Union as the presenting sponsor for Jungle Bells 2019. With over 24 branches in Southern California, California Coast is the longest serving financial institution in San Diego County. It is also San Diego’s oldest financial institution (almost as old as the Zoo), having been founded in 1929 by teachers.
Jungle Bells runs Dec. 13–23 and Dec. 25–Jan. 5. The San Diego Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during this event, with the exception of Dec. 24, when the Zoo closes at 5 p.m. Jungle Bells is free with paid admission or membership to the San Diego Zoo. For a schedule of activities and more information, visit SanDiegoZoo.org/JungleBells.