The Living Desert displays holiday WildLights display


Photo courtesy of The Chaparral. The loving Desert entrance off Portola in Palm Desert

Christmas is just around the corner, and The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert opened its doors on Nov. 20 for the holiday WildLights event. This year’s events will definitely be different due to the COVID restrictions, but the zoo says it has found ways to make it special for visitors like the previous years.

According to The Living Desert’s website, WildLights celebrates 28 years of dazzling guests by transforming the zoo into a sparkling winter wonderland. It is a festive, annual tradition where visitors come to marvel at more than a million colorful, sparkling holiday lights.

WildLights guests can encounter a herd of life-size, luminescent animal lanterns, explore newly added pathways and stroll through the popular tunnel of lights flashing to holiday music.

In true WildLights tradition, the festive G-scale model trains with more than 3,300 feet of track will be decked out for the holidays. The zoo will also be offering food and beverages for purchase.

The Living Desert decided to make a change to this year’s event. It said, “Now celebrating its 28th year, WildLights will amaze guests with over a million twinkling LED lights and festive activities, transforming The Living Desert into a luminescent winter wonderland for all to enjoy. With a new route for 2020, WildLights pathways will take guests on an illuminated journey around the Zoo with vintages of select animal habitats including the emus of the new Australian Adventures.”

As the WildLights event continues this year, a few residents that have attended in previous years said that they might not consider returning this year due to the pandemic.

According to a poll made by us on Instagram, 15 of the 40 people who participated said they would also attend this year’s event. In contrast, the other 25 said they wouldn’t attend due to being afraid of being around a crowd during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since cases have drastically gone up, many Coachella Valley residents are avoiding any kind of unnecessary trips to public areas where there might get exposed.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is set on 80 acres of outdoor space, allowing visitors to be 6- feet apart from each other. The zoo is also closely following strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Advanced reservation, facial coverings and strict social distancing are required when visiting the zoo.

Coachella Valley resident Jasmine Lopez said she enjoyed last year’s event and will actually consider attending this year. “I went last year, and I really liked it. I think they should probably consider adding a few more fun things this year. I actually heard it would be better, so I will definitely go back because I think it is a good way to distract myself a little since I don’t go out much due to COVID. Knowing that they are following the protocols, I will definitely go this year and see what it will be about.”

One of the new additions this year is souvenir photos with Santa. Saint Nick will be perched high in his festive sleigh to accommodate for social-distancing. Guests of all ages will be able to step into the front of Santa’s sleigh to pose for pictures.

Visitors will be able to purchase their photos onsite and online following the event.

Guests will have a variety of things to do like riding the carousel and making s’mores around a fire, for an additional fee. Seasonal refreshments, holiday spirits, WildLights souvenirs and zoo-themed holiday gifts are also available for purchase.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 760-346-5694.

WildLights is presented by H.H and Frances C. Berger Foundation and is sponsored by HiTech Lights.