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GETAWAYS: Lights Before Christmas

Why Go? If you’ve ever wanted to visit a zoo after hours, here’s your chance. Riverbanks Zoo opens its gates during evenings in November and December for its annual Lights Before Christmas celebration, now in its 25th year. The entire zoo is transformed with nearly a million twinkling lights (Volunteers start setting them up in July!).

How Does It Works: Adult non-member tickets are $8 and children 2 and under are free. Tickets are available online at www.riverbanks.org or at the gate. Count on plenty of lights, cocoa and marshmallows around a blazing bonfire, a visit with Santa and other activities—but don’t promise the kids that they’ll see the tigers, elephants and giraffes snoozing. Depending on the temperature, most of the animals will be inside their warm habitats and not available for viewing. However, the petting zoo and farm should be open (and the farm recently welcomed a new calf).

What Else? There are new attractions this year. For a nominal fee, a giant 15- by 25-foot snowglobe (complete with fake snow) is available for family photo opps, with volunteers available to help capture the moment. There’s also the Sky-High Safari, a 44-foot-high vertical ropes challenge, which will allow visitors to view the lights from high above the park.

Distance From Augusta: 68 miles or about an hour’s drive.

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