Little Rock Zoo’s GloWild attraction lights up the holidays

The Little Rock Zoo is home this holiday season to two dozen giant pandas, as well as a killer whale and a gargantuan octopus.

Normally off the radar of Arkansas’ largest zoo, these glow-in-the-dark creatures draw families and others to War Memorial Park. They are featured in three of GloWild’s more than 30 tableaux, an extravaganza that opened on a further 17 nights through January 15.

Pandas, killer whales and octopuses are large silk lanterns that represent the living species they resemble. So do the other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, sea life and insects in this abundant menagerie lit by 50,000 LED lights.

“We wanted to bring something new and exciting to the Little Rock Zoo,” says zoo director Susan Altrui. “We also wanted something fun and interesting for families during the holiday season. The silk lanterns are true works of art, created by our partner Tianyu Arts & Culture. during Chinese New Year.”

Altrui reports that GloWild “attracts people of all ages – couples, parents with children, grandparents with children, and young adults. The light show has really helped our zoo bridge the generational gaps.”

Visitors’ favorites vary widely, she says: “Some people really like the interactive features of the nature playground. Others really like pandas or sea creatures like the big octopus or the bubble-blowing crab. Customers also have a lot of fun. fun with photo stops. I’m a big fan of the rhino family because our zoo has a new baby rhino.

Some lanterns reproduce animals kept at the Little Rock Zoo. Others don’t, including those of all marine species. There’s a reason to exhibit the pandas and other creatures missing from the zoo’s collection, as Altrui explains:

“GloWild features endangered and threatened animals and also includes information about them that guests can read along the way. The show not only takes you into a world of light, but also informs you about the fate of many of these beautiful animals to learn more about their perils.”

Based in Chicago, Tianyu Arts & Culture is a subsidiary of a Chinese company based in the province of Sichuan. The Arkansas Zoological Foundation and Keep Arkansas Beautiful provide support.

The enormous orange octopus is a favorite of some visitors to the Little Rock Zoo. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler) GloWild has admission fees separate from the zoo’s regular daily tours, which continue to operate. The evening program requires paid admission even for zoo members, although at a lower price than the general public.

Visitors are required to wear masks inside the Africa cafe and gift shop, both of which are open in the evenings. Overnight parking is free. In addition to the lights, says Altrui, “visitors can admire some of our nocturnal revelers,” including spider monkeys, alpacas and elephants.

GloWild has been successful enough so far, she adds “that we plan to bring it back bigger and better next year. We’ve had great feedback from our guests and we’re already talking about ways to improve the show for 2022. I think we’ve found a new holiday tradition for Little Rock.”


  • Or: Little Rock Zoo, 1 Zoo Drive in War Memorial Park
  • Hours: The Little Rock Zoo hours of operation for GloWild Lights are 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and select other evenings through January 15.
  • Admission: GloWild tickets are $20 ($17 for zoo members) for visitors 3 and up, free for kids 2 and under.
  • Information: (501) 661-7200;

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