Open Feb. 5 to Mar. 13: Glowfari Lantern Festival at the Oakland Zoo


Glowfari offers hundreds of gigantic, larger-than-life, glowing Chinese lanterns set up throughout the Oakland Zoo to thrill your family. It runs February 5 at dusk through March 13, 2021. Advance ticket purchase is required.

All over the Oakland Zoo are glowing fields of giant nature scenes at Glowfari | Photo: Annie Reid

Walk the zoo grounds after hours with cool light-up sculptures at Glowfari

This new family-friendly nighttime installation features hundreds of larger-than-life animal ‘lanterns’. These special lanterns are not what you might take camping, they are art structures created out of delicate paper illuminated from within. Lit-up animal sculptures will be placed throughout the Zoo. If your family is like mine, you will alternate between squeals of joy and stunned silence.

Visitors walk about a mile (socially distanced, of course!) through these very large illuminated and dazzling lanterns – from the ice-capped 15-foot tall penguin corridor to the breathtaking full-size elephants, giraffes, and lions – to the enormous, fluttering butterflies floating against the star-filled night sky. Ride the lit-up gondola to visit California Trail – where dinosaur lanterns create a world filled with prehistoric giants like the T-rex, stegosaurus, pterodactyls, and a huge glowing volcano.

Pro Tips about Exploring Glowfari with kids

Bundle Up! It’s chilly up there at night and you don’t want the cold to ruin your good time. This is the moment in the Bay Area to break out your coziest scarf and winter coat for the kids. A thermos of hot cocoa in the car for when you’re done (no eating & drinking inside!) is good, too.

Go to the left once you enter. Starting in the ocean world and winding your way through everything else felt like the best path vs. going the other way. It literally feels like each corner you turn is a magic new world opening for you.

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glowfari chinese lanterns undersea
My kids’ favorite part was the undersea “ocean tunnel” | Photo: Annie Reid

Save the gondola ride for last. The view is breathtaking, and the surprise “world” at the top is so epic it is a good finale to a really fun evening with the kids. Probably seals an early bedtime too 😉

It felt VERY safe. From employees offering sanitizer and politely encouraging folks to pull their masks up a bit better the Zoo was diligent in ensuring safety. The reminders to distance and the full wipe down of each gondola when folks got out was reassuring too. Took nothing away from the experience and honestly it felt safer than a trip to the grocery store.

glowfari light up piano
My daughters really loved the interactive bits – where you step on a pad and it changes color or makes the creature in front of you change color. | Photo: Annie Reid

Enjoy the interactivity! All of it is designed touchless – photo ops, stepping on things to cause a reaction makes for fun interactivity without needing to touch anything.

glowfari animitronic alligator
My favorite part was the animatronic reptiles and moving, roaring dinosaurs | Photo: Annie Reid

*Bonus tip: Order pizza in the parking lot. Order a hot pizza so it is delivered as soon as you get home so you have a hot meal waiting for your hungry family after all that fun.

cheetah lantern installation
Photo by Tianyu Arts & Culture

Plan your visit to Glowfari. It is a separate event not included in regular Zoo membership.

Dates for Glowfari: From 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm on Feb 5 through March 13, 2021
Prices for Glowfari: $20 adults | $18 children & seniors (2-14 & 65-75) | Children under 2 and adults over 76: Free (members save 10% or can look out for member deal days) | Parking is FREE.

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Advance ticket purchase is required. Tickets on sale as of Feb. 5.

[photos by Annie Reid and Tianyu Arts & Culture as noted]

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