22 November - 23 December 2019

Get ready for our magical lanterns festival

This Christmas, something magical is happening at Chester Zoo as our enchanting festive event, The Lanterns, returns for 2019.  Join us as we transform the zoo into a spectacular wonderland, full of sparkle, illumination and a sprinkling of snow!

Set off on The Great Christmas Expedition to discover exotic illuminated wildlife and animal characters in nine different fantastical worlds; each one different to the last – from traditional festive scenes to colourful animal-inspired illuminations.  This year the updated route will take you on a journey through new worlds that will have your imagination running wild.

You’ll be transported to the bottom of the sea in Underwater where you’ll need to dodge the jellyfish and fish before coming face to face with a HUGE octopus!  Then make your way through Tropical Dreams which will be a dramatic centrepiece, complete with new beautiful lanterns.  Then suspend belief as you take the Night Sky Adventure and travel through the clouds and stars, under the moonlight.

Our uniquely Chester Zoo lanterns festival gives you the chance to see the zoo in a new light.  Pick up your lantern before setting off to explore the different spaces.

There’s a lot of work that goes into creating the nine amazing worlds; each has a different theme and each is filled to the brim with magical lanterns, twinkly costumed characters and traditional Christmas scenes. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Father Christmas too, he’ll be on his sleigh surrounded by his helpful reindeer – he could be just around the corner!

Before you set off and start exploring the different spaces along the route, discover the magic hereand see what fantastical worlds will light up around the zoo when it goes dark!

Make a meal of your trip and fill up on the tasty festive food we have on offer! Take a rest part way round the route at our Christmas Food Market or treat yourself to a tasty delight at Northern Lights where you’ll be spoilt for choice! Don’t forget to stop by The Oakfield, our contemporary British pub, for a winter tipple and warm up by the fire before you continue on your expedition.   

Explore a magical festive wonderland!

Don't miss out! See the zoo in a new, sparkly light.


All your Lanterns questions answered below…

You can book tickets for The Lanterns in a number of ways. You can book them online, book them over the phone on 01244 380280, or book them in person from Guest Services at the main entrance of the zoo.

The Lanterns event will be on the following dates in November and December.
• Friday 22 November - THIS DATE HAS NOW SOLD OUT
• Saturday 23 November - THIS DATE HAS NOW SOLD OUT
• Sunday 24 November - THIS DATE HAS NOW SOLD OUT
• Friday 29 November
• Saturday 30 November
• Sunday 1 December
• Friday 6 December
• Saturday 7 December
• Sunday 8 December
• Thursday 12 December
• Friday 13 December
• Saturday 14 December
• Sunday 15 December
• Wednesday 18 December
• Thursday 19 December
• Friday 20 December
• Saturday 21 December
• Sunday 22 December
• Monday 23 December

Ticket availability can be viewed on our booking page

To reduce queuing and alleviate crowds we phase entry to The Lanterns every 15 minutes, when booking you will be able to select your preferred session time, which ranges from 4pm to 7.45pm. The last entry for The Lanterns is 8pm (for 7:45pm session time stragglers) and last orders for food are at 9pm across the site.

If you're visiting the zoo during the day you'll need to return to the main entrance at 3.30pm, so we recommend booking an earlier session time for The Lanterns to avoid having to wait around. Please ensure you have bought a separate zoo admission ticket, or you have a valid members card. You can buy your zoo tickets separately too using the 'BOOK NOW' tab above.

We’ve refined our time allocation to ensure a smooth flow of traffic at the gates and around the route. Allocated times help avoid huge queues building, so you’ll be able to enjoy the experience without encountering too much crowding.

Your ticket includes entry to a pre-booked session of The Lanterns. You’ll be invited to explore the zoo after dark as it turns into a magical festive wonderland, full of sparkle, illumination and a sprinkling of snow! There will be animal-inspired illuminations and traditional festive scenes throughout the route, taking you from one magical world to the next. The updated route will take approximately 60 minutes and will include animal lanterns, interactive characters*, snow and other festive treats along the way!

As part of the event we’re offering a range of delicious festive feasts you are able to purchase on the evening - We’ve got vegetarian and children's options too!

*If you'd prefer our interactive characters to keep their distance from you and your family as you make your way around the route, we have armbands available for pick up from Guest Services at the main entrance so our performers can try their best to identify you in the crowd.

Visit us with a group of 15 or more and get a 10% discount on admission prices, with the cheapest visitor free of charge! You can take advantage of this offer from Saturday 1 December for allocated time slots 7.15pm, 7.30pm and 7.45pm. Call our groups team for more information and to book tickets on 01244 380280.

Under 3s are FREE, however this is for admission only and doesn't include any food or drinks. There will be plenty of Christmas food and drinks options that you can buy on the evening – some stalls may not have the ability to pay by card therefore we recommend you bring cash should you wish to purchase anything on the evening. We do have a cash machine on site.

If you haven't pre-booked your meals you can buy on the day. We operate a flexible pricing system to offer you the best choice possible, but please note we recommend booking early as prices can be subject to change.

If you booked online you will have been emailed a ticket within 24 hours of placing your order.

If you ordered over the telephone tickets will be either sent in e-ticket format or by post (additional cost may apply). Tickets from our Guest Services building will be available for collection at the time of purchase. Please retain your confirmation email including the barcode as the barcode is required to redeem any purchases you make like meals and buggies.

As this is a special event hosted outside of normal zoo opening hours, members and non-members will all be charged the same standard admission price.

Visitors with disabilities can admit one accompanying carer free of charge when they pay full adult/child price. (Please select 'carer' when you make your booking). Please bring relevant proof of entitlement such as a blue badge, or a Personal Independence Payments letter (issued by the DWP benefit office).

We have 15 minute session times slots available for The Lanterns, with admission starting at 4pm. This enables us to limit queuing to make the experience as special as possible for everyone.
Depending on your speed we’re expecting this year’s new route to take between 60 to 90 minutes to complete (excluding food and rest stops). But you’re welcome to take as many trips around the route as you like, and stay up until the zoo closes at 9pm.

Please park in the main car park and go to the main entrance. From here we’ll direct you to the admission gates where the magic will begin.

Some areas of the zoo won’t be open on the evening so we’ll guide you around the lantern route. For safety reasons we ask that people stick to the route.

Although there are areas of shelter along the trail this is an outdoor event so wrap up warm and bring waterproofs and sturdy footwear just in case. If the weather gets really severe we may have to cancel the event. We will give you as much notice as possible if we do have to make cancellations. You can see our terms and conditions below (see footer of webpage).

You are more than welcome to take photographs along the trail. Our photographers will also be on hand so you can take home a special souvenir photo (additional cost applies).

Enjoy some tasty treats at our Christmas Food Market, which will be open for business serving festive favourites. You can also warm up by the fire and enjoy a winter tipple in The Oakfield, our contemporary British pub, before you continue on your expedition.
However, if you want to bring your own warm drinks or food then you are more than welcome. Unfortunately alcohol is not permitted to be brought into this event.

You can find all the directions and options to the zoo on the main Chester Zoo website. You might also want to take a look at our rail combination ticket.

Share your magical moments