West Philly communities make LumiNature even more dazzling, and personal

West Philly community groups came together to decorate trees for Luminature.
Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo kicked off its colorful LumiNature experience last month, but there’s now a very localized incentive to head to this seasonal activation.

Fifteen West Philadelphia community groups officially unveiled their ‘Our Neck of the Woods Exhibit’ during LumiNature. And Philadelphians now have their own say in the matter—until Jan. 7, the public is invited to cast their vote for their favorite community creation as part of the region’s largest holiday light show and experience.

Philadelphia Zoo

“We are always looking for ways to showcase the Zoo’s relationship with our nearest neighbors,” said Philadelphia Zoo School and Community Partnerships Director Bethany Housman in a statement.

She continued: “Philadelphia Zoo is so fortunate to be located in such a unique, active part of West Philadelphia and we consider ourselves to be an integral part of the neighborhoods immediately outside our walls. ‘Our Neck of the Woods’ provides an opportunity for our neighbors to be a part of LumiNature by bringing a piece of their neighborhood inside the Zoo.”

The new addition to the Zoo’s light show was entirely created by residents, families, groups and schools in the West Philadelphia community. Each participating group was able to make it personal as well, with the chance to choose an animal that was close to their heart and decorate a large tree or snowflake that celebrates that animal and includes decorations that represent their group.

West Philly organizations that competed this year include: Belmont Charter High School, The Mantua Civic Association, Charles L. Durham Library Branch, School of the Future Anime Club, West Powelton Saunders Park, West Philadelphia Reading Captains, People’s Emergency Center, Mantua Worldwide Inc., Mantua Civic Association Enrichment Committee, Fab Youth Philly’s Play Captains, Rose’s Clubhouse, East Parkside, West Belmont Civic Association, Dimplez 4 Dayz Resource Center, and the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood.

Philadelphians can cast their vote now for the first family-friendly competition at the Zoo, and more information on participating groups included can be found online.

For LumiNature as a whole, the full-scale nighttime holiday light show takes over the entirety of the venue after hours. While walking through, Philadelphians can find magical illusions of big cats and peacocks coming to life; flamingos flocking on a 25-foot-tall tree; and hundreds of penguins hosting an outdoor party of their very own, among many other gems.

For 2022, there are a few fresh fixtures to set your eyes on. The Penguin Prismatic features a 40-foot-tall penguin glowing with 40,000 lights surrounded by a colony of colorful penguins reflecting on the Zoo’s Bird Lake. Visitors will also be able to check out video projections that mimic the Savannah desert. And the new finale “showstopper,” titled the Animale Fantasia, will feature cave-like screens situated on a field of lights choreographed to music, and as the Zoo says, it can’t be missed. 

Society Hill Films

Other highlighted favorites include the Zoo’s iconic 25-foot-tall pink flamingo tree made entirely of lit lawn flamingos, a 22-foot-tall Butterfly Tree featuring five oversized whimsical Monarch Pavilions and colorfully-winged artistic performers, an Earth- shaped 3D screen showing programmed lights, music, sound effects and color (all of which are under a canopy of glowing lights) and much more.

While at LumiNature, visitors can sip on hot apple cider or hot chocolate, both of which are available to be spiked. If you’re looking for a snack, there are also warm pretzels and a winter-themed beer. Over at Sweet Whimsicality, visitors can also make their own s’mores over an open fire underneath lit orbs and sparkling trees, and snack on other sweet treats and hot cocoa as well.

LumiNature will be open now through Saturday, Jan. 7. LumiNature is a nighttime experience, with timed entrance tickets available every half hour from 5 to 8 p.m. for arrival, with the experience closing last call at 10 p.m. Guests should pre-purchase timed-tickets making reservations at PhiladelphiaZoo.org.

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