Illumizoo has all the Light Moves

Full disclosure, I am a sucker for lights – fireworks, holiday lights, string lights over a patio – I’m all in. So, when the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens announced they would be opening Illumizoo Summer Spectacle on Fridays this summer, I felt like a kid again.

I have been to ZOOLights multiple times and was expecting something very similar. I was wrong. Illumizoo is truly a whole new experience and I loved it! It was so nice to arrive before sunset and see the animals still out. I saw a family of lemurs exploring the tree in the African Forest, a Jaguar regally watching over his enclosure, the Komodo dragon scary as ever with his darting tongue, but what I really appreciated was that Illumizoo highlighted the areas of the Zoo that I don’t normally pay much attention to.

The bamboo pathway that leads to the Asian Bamboo Gardens and the Riverview Gardens was probably my favorite part of Illumizoo. With color-changing lights projected on the bamboo I stood there for what I’m sure my husband would describe as way too long, trying to capture the change in photo and video. It was a little mesmerizing for me! (photo above)

We then headed to the Riverview Gardens. It was clearly the spot to capture a sunset photo for the contest the Zoo is holding all summer. Be sure to use #jaxzoosunset when you post your best picture. I loved the “bottle tree” decorated with different colored glass bottles and the lighted flower installations found throughout, all set next to the backdrop of the Trout River. Visitors stopped along the water or found a spot on the grass just to enjoy the sunset views.

We next explored the Asian Bamboo Gardens which really are a beautiful spot to walk through. Kids were coloring paper lanterns that were then folded, lighted and floated on the nearby pond - they were loving it! As we came back across the Trout River Plaza, families were enjoying live entertainment - a fire dancer and fire eater.

We wandered into the Great Lawn, which was bustling with activity. Giant touch screens featured art that changed when you “painted” it with your hands and kids of all ages were enjoying trying it out. There were tons of hula hoops, bubbles and other family fun there and a spot to grab a bite to eat and a drink with picnic tables set up for families. The Watering Hole was also open, a great place to grab a local beer overlooking the Trout River.

As we wandered back toward the entrance and the sky turned full dark, I could now see all the additional lights in the trees. There was colorful up lighting placed throughout the trees and gardens, and fun photo ops with color changing seats. Inside the Play Park and Splash Ground area, a “foggle” machine spouted bubbles filled with fog that seemed to almost “smoke” when you popped them with your hand. At the Savanna Bloom Gardens (the spot where the giraffe overlook is) lighted poles danced in time to different music that was playing. It was beautiful and made me feel like a kid again, reminding me of when the little things like light up wands would fascinate me for hours.

Illumizoo Summer Spectacle runs every Friday night through August 27. Book tickets in advance at It’s great for adults, as well as families. I plan to visit again before the summer ends. The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is a wonderful attraction to visit, I always leave with a smile on my face.

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