Lantern Magic this Christmas

This Christmas our unforgettable night time journey through the zoo will be even more magical than ever before.

Write your letter to Santa and get creative with our Lantern workshop before experiencing the nocturnal sounds of the zoo after dark. Journey through our enchanted illuminated trail leading to our spectacular display of animal lanterns.

And this year you will find some beautiful 'new arrivals'. Here you can make your Christmas wish and hang it on our Giant Wishing Tree and say 'hello' to Santa. Visit the Fruit Bat Forest and the Elephant House and soak up the festive atmosphere around the zoo with our friendly festive characters.

There'll be plenty of deliciously tasty treats plus enjoy a free winter warming drink. You can even pre-order one of our hearty festive suppers too!

With the nocturnal sounds of the zoo, a little bit of festive cheer and a visit from Santa we'll ensure that your family enjoy a Christmas treat that they won't forget.


Sorry, tickets for Lantern Magic 2014 are now sold out.

Frequently asked questions >

What our visitors said about last year’s event:

“The zoo became such a magical place, very different from day time visits. We wanted to start a family tradition of coming to the zoo at Christmas and this was perfect.”

“It truly was a magical experience. Even though we were adults it was still enjoyable. Fantastic!”

“We loved the calm, quiet atmosphere and lots of happy families wandering around with their lanterns.”

“It was something different from the usual Christmas 'grotto’”

“The look on my daughters face as she saw the animal lanterns, the people dressed up, the lit up walk ways and hearing the lions roaring – it was unforgettable. You gave us the most memorable family celebration ever.”

Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo
The animal lanterns and illuminated costumes have been made by Lantern Company.

Frequently asked questions

Our answers to your frequently asked questions for Lantern Magic, our very special Christmas event.

When is Lantern Magic on?

We're hosting Lantern Magic between 4 December and 23 December from 4pm to 8pm. Tickets are now sold out for this year.

What are the opening & closing times for this event?

Our first session starts at 4pm and then every half an hour until 6.30pm. The zoo will close at 8pm. 

If you're a little early for your session you can visit the Elephant House, write a letter to Santa or visit our gift shop.

If you're visiting the zoo during the day before your Lantern Walk you'll need to return to the main entrance at 4pm, so we recommend booking an earlier session to avoid waiting times. Please ensure that the ticket you have bought includes zoo admission, or you have a valid members' card. Alternatively you can purchase your zoo tickets separately here.

Why are there allocated times to arrive?

We allocate times to avoid queuing and so you’ll be able to enjoy the experience without encountering crowds.

How can I book my ticket?

Tickets are now sold out for this year. If you'd like to be the first to know when they go back on sale for next year please sign up for our newsletter.

What does my Magical Lantern Experience include?

The Magical Lantern Experience is a trail to a spectacular animal lantern display where you will find Father Christmas and make a wish under the giant Cedar Wishing Tree.


  • Children’s lantern workshop where they can personalise their very own lantern to take home 
  • Use of a family sized lantern to help light the way 
  • Access to the lantern trail inside the zoo when the zoo is closed to general public 
  • Making your wish to hang under the giant Cedar Wishing Tree 
  • Late night opening of the Fruit Bat Forest and Elephant house
  • A host of friendly Christmas characters 
  • Free winter warming drink 
  • Life-sized animal lantern display 
  • Making your wish to hang under the giant Cedar Wishing Tree
  • Meet Father Christmas 

  • A delicious lantern supper 
  • Daytime zoo admission 
  • Professional photo souvenir
  • Hot Christmas punch
  • Handimals
  • Animal-inspired gifts from our shop

Do we get to meet Father Christmas?

Father Christmas will be located near Oakfield Manor. You’ll be able to meet him and have your photo taken.
You can buy a professional photograph or you can take your own photos if you prefer.

Can I take the lanterns home?

Yes, you can take the children’s personalised lanterns home with you but please leave the family sized lanterns with us when you have finished your journey around the zoo so other people can use them.

What does the Lantern Supper include?

Here is the menu for the Lantern Supper. We will also have other food options available on the night. 

Hot pork shoulder with caramelised onions, stuffing & sage on crusty ciabatta 
Grilled local pork sausage with all the trimmings on soft rolls (for the children)
Roasted butternut squash & field mushrooms with caramelised onions & sage on crusty ciabatta 

Warm apple, brandy & cinnamon punch
Choice of soft drink

How much is it?

Under 3s are FREE, however this is for admission only and doesn't include food or drinks.

If you haven't pre-booked your supper you can upgrade on the day.

Standard prices Adult (16+) Child (3-15) Under 3s 
Lantern Walk
(Lantern admission and drink voucher)
£9.99 £8.99  FREE (admission only)
Lantern Walk & Supper
(Lantern admission, supper & drink voucher)
£15.99 £13.49 FREE (admission only)
Zoo admission, Lantern Walk & Supper
(Day zoo admission, Lantern admission, supper & drink voucher)
£25.99 £20.49 FREE (admission only) 

Will I receive tickets?

If you booked online you will have been sent an e-ticket within 24 hours of placing your order.

If you ordered over the telephone tickets were 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.

How long does the experience last?

The experience will last between 45 minutes to 1 hour but you are free to wander the route at your leisure so you could stay longer if you like. Fruit Bat Forest will close at 7.30pm. The main entrance area including the shop and Bembe Kitchen will close at 8.00pm.

Where do I park?

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.

How long is the trail?

The trail is 0.75 kilometers each way.

Are there age restrictions for the children’s lantern workshop?

There are no age restrictions to the children’s lantern workshop so even the big kids can take part if you wish. There are larger lanterns available to borrow (one per family) to help light the route.

Are there any other restrictions?

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

What if the weather is bad?

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.

Will I be able to take photographs?

You are more than welcome to take photographs along the trail apart from in the Fruit Bat Forest. There will be a professional photographer to capture your moment with Father Christmas and photos will be available for purchase but you are also welcome to take your own if you wish.

Can I bring my own food?

If you haven’t booked in for the supper then you can still buy hot food and drink from us during the event. 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.

What is the best way to get to Chester Zoo?

You can find all the directions and options to the zoo on these pages. You might also want to take a look at our rail combination ticket or if you're near the Merseyrail network consider a £10 family ticket. Please note that the last bus from the zoo to the station is 6pm, so please bear this in mind when booking your Lantern Magic session.

Any other questions?

If you have any other questions please call us on 01244 650 209.