1. Be dazzled

Take in the lights at Oxbow Park's Zollman Zoo's ZooDazzle. Decorated with more than 200,000 lights, the annual event is designed to get families out to the zoo -- and into the holiday spirit.

“Harold Davidson is our board member who coordinates the lighting. He’s done it for years,” said Barb Jensen, Friends of Oxbow board president. “It takes weeks to put them up and a massive amount of volunteers and volunteer hours.”

In addition to the holiday light show, kids can mingle with Anna, Elsa and Olaf, the zoo’s barn will feature live music, kid’s games and crafts, and there’s a silent auction in the nature center.

“We had about 6,000 people visit during last year’s ZooDazzle,” said Jensen. “We’ll have the fire pits going, there will be free cider and cookies, the outdoor swing is decorated and is a great spot for a family Christmas card photo, and of course kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus inside the big igloo.”

Families will also have the opportunity to take in the zoo’s 30-plus Minnesota-native animals. Established in 1969, and open year round, the zoo features black bears, otters, wolves and more.

“Our new cougar will be out on display soon. He should be out for zoo dazzle,” said Jensen. “Our new coyote is also out and has been mingling well with the other coyotes.”

Hosted by the Friends of Oxbow, a non-profit organization that supports the educational, environmental, and recreational goals of Oxbow Park, admission to ZooDazzle is free -- donations are accepted. With more than 50,000 annual visitors, and open daily admission to Zollman Zoo is always free - and donations are always accepted.

“ZooDazzle is a fundraiser for Zollman Zoo,” said Barb Jensen. “Over the years, donations at ZooDazzle and other Friends of Oxbow events have raised more than $750,000 that have gone to the Path of Imagination natural playscape, and the wildcat exhibit. Our hope is that families come out, enjoy themselves, and support our wonderful little zoo.”

Lindy Lange is a licensed school social worker. Family Time appears every Wednesday. Up next: Sign up now for a winter semester PAIIR class.

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