Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Themepark Freak
Welcome to an honest Ouwehands Zoo Review of their special fall and winter event, Light Nights.
Please keep in mind when reading this review, nobody paid me to go to the Ouwehands Zoo and I purchased my Light Nights ticket myself. This is an unsponsored review! Lets get into it!
What is Light Nights at the Ouwehands Zoo?
Light Nights is apparently an annual fall and winter event at the Ouwehands Zoo. The only reason I heard about it is I was served an ad about it on Facebook. If I hadn’t seen it there, I probably wouldn’t have ever heard about it since I don’t really do zoos.
However, I did see it and the photos and video for the event looked intriguing. Even if the event was a bust, I figured it got me out of the house on Sint-Maarten (Nov 11th event where kids come around singing for candy).
So, what IS Light Nights?
Light Nights Treasures of Time
Light Nights Treasures of Time is a dinosaur art installation made of neon cloth and lights scattered through the zoo.
Some of the art were just prehistoric plants, towering over us, while others were dinosaurs of all kinds. A lot of the exhibits stood still but some moved a head or wings. As you entered the zoo there was even a volcano complete with smoke billowing from the top.
I’m not sure exactly how long the entire route through Ouwehands Dierenpark was, but by the end of it I personally had walked around 6500 steps. For me, this works out to around 4.5km (2.8 miles) in total.
Light Nights Entertainment
Besides walking the route through the park to look at the different dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, there was some entertainment. We saw some fire dancers as well as heard a show that was going on. I’m not exactly sure what the show was about, but we heard a lot of laughter and delighted squeals from lots of children.
Food at Ouwehands Light Nights
Since I was last at Ouwehands Dierenpark, probably around 2008, a lot of catering has been set up through the park. For Light Nights, not all of it was open. However, nobody was going to starve. The Jungle Restaurant was fully open and the other places had snacks, pastries and of course warm drinks.
Price of Light Nights
Night Lights at Ouwehands Dierenpark runs €16.50 per child age 3-9 and €19.00 per person over the age of 10. Children up to 2 years are free and car parking is €8.00.
My Honest Ouwehands Zoo Review of Light Nights
Once again let me remind you, this is my honest Ouwehands Zoo review of Light Nights. I purchased tickets for this annual event out of my own pocket.
When we arrived to Ouwehands Dierenpark, the parking lot was DARK and muddy (we had torrential rains about 30 minutes before our time slot). The zoo had the ability to light the parking lot, but it was clear they were choosing not to. So we picked our way through pot holes full of water to the entrance of the park.
When we turned the corner to where we had to have our tickets scanned, we saw the first brightly colored and lit art installation at the koi pond.
It was at this point both my husband and I were pretty sure that this night was going to work out ok. As long as the weather held out, that is!
Getting Tickets Scanned for Light Nights
Something that annoys me about Dutch attractions (and fast food or snack bars) is no matter how many people there are, there’s only 1 person servicing a horde. No, this is not the post pandemic, “everyone is hurting for employees” situation. I’ve witnessed this since the day I got off the plane to live in the Netherlands.
So, in true dutch fashion, we stood in line for a good 20 minutes while people fumbled with their phones trying to find tickets. Thankfully at this point, the guest services window opened to start a second line scanning tickets.
Fire Dancer Show Blocking Walkways
As mentioned somewhere above, there’s a fire dancer show as part of the entertainment. This was actually going on when we entered the park and looked pretty cool. I say look because I could only see the fire going into the air. There was zero chance of me seeing anything being a short person in a giant’s world (the Dutch are very tall).
This, I’m used to. What I’m not used to is the park’s decision to place the fire dancers in a location that would create a total bottle neck.
There were A LOT of parents with strollers and people were standing 4-5 people deep around the fire dancers. This meant those strollers couldn’t get through. Not that the parents didn’t try to use their strollers and kids as a battering ram through the crowd. It was just the crowd wasn’t having it and didn’t move.
This happened a second time later in the night. The fire dancers were set up in a place that caused a complete and total jam in the walking route. People were having to step over a fence into the greenery to get around the crowd.
I think the zoo management may want to re-think where they put the fire dancers in the future.
Ouwehands Zoo Review of the Light Nights Walking Route
As mentioned before, the walking route through the zoo was roughly 6,500 steps or 4.5km. Including sitting for an ice cream and later a cup of coffee, it took us about 1.5 hours to get through the park.
Outside of the crowds that formed when the fire dancers were in action, I don’t feel like it was too crowded. We never had to wait long for people taking pictures of themselves in front of the art (which resulted in pitch black human forms…didn’t take many art installations in for people to stop trying to take selfies) to move. Nor did it feel like there were big crowds around any one art piece.
There were a few crowds around the enclosures of the more nocturnal animals, as well as around the panda house. One thing I did NOT appreciate was the few parents that decided to turn on their phone flashlight to shine on the animals so their children could see them. Not only is this specifically against the zoo rules for Light Nights, but it’s just cruel to the animals and rude to other guests.
Thankfully everyone held it together at the panda house and weren’t banging on the windows trying to wake the passed out panda up. It really looked like he had a binger on the bamboo and passed straight out.
Accessibility of the Light Nights Walking Route
When Ouwehands Dierenpark said their zoo is accessible to everyone, they meant it. There weren’t any stairs to be had. Everything was ramps.
In places like the penguin house, where you can go down to see them swim, there were some steep ramps. The concrete was roughed up to give plenty of traction when wet (and it was wet), as well as hand rails to hold on to.
While wet, there were also plenty of places for people to sit to catch a breather as well as plenty of toilets scattered through the park.
The only thing I didn’t see was water fountains. However, water in the bathrooms are perfectly potable for those who wanted to fill up their own bottles.
Sensory and Stimulation at the Light Nights
While walking through the park, the most noise came from people or kids crying. However, this is a list of what I saw and heard as I walked through the park:
- crying and/or screaming children
- animal noises (chirps and ribbits of night creatures — the penguins were pretty noisy at times too!)
- flashing lights at some of the art installations
- music through the park
- some of the art installations had loud dinosaur roars
- two animatronic dinosaurs outside the Jungle Restaurant roaring at visitors
- lots of mud if it rains
Food and Drink at the Light Nights
At the end of the day, what you can find to eat in the Ouwehands Dierenpark is typical attraction food. Hamburgers, french fries, ice cream, and typical dutch pasteries (i.e. apple pie).
About 3/4 of the way around the park we stopped at the Jungle Restaurant for some ice cream (you want to go in even if you’re not planning to purchase anything, there’s two art installations inside). We bought two ice cream sundaes which turned out to be the tiniest ice cream sundaes I’ve ever seen for €3.50 each.
Honestly, not the best sundae I’ve ever had and not really worth it. But all the walking was making my blood sugar plummet so I needed something. At the end of the day, it did it’s job.
The cappuccino I had at the tea shop at the front of the park, on the other hand, was actually pretty good. Once again, it was overpriced for the thimble of a cup it was (but this is pretty typical with coffee and drinks in the Netherlands). But at least it was a creamy cup of machine poured cappuccino. They even had a sugar alternative!
Final Thoughts of the Ouwehands Light Nights
Overall, I think the €19 euro entry was worth it for 1.5 hours of entertainment and a beautiful 4.5km walk.
The entire event is well put together and thought out. There wasn’t any time during the night that we thought there wasn’t anything to look at. There was always another dinosaur, giant plant or even a huge prehistoric spider to look at around every corner.
If you didn’t pick up dinner on the way to the event, you weren’t going to starve inside. I felt there were enough savory and sweet options being sold (and at enough locations) to serve all guests that wanted to eat and drink.
And outside of those few parents who broke the rules to shine their light on the animals, the crowd on this night was very well behaved. Yes, you had some kids running around and climbing on things (meant to be climbed by kids, there’s a lot of interactive things through the zoo itself) but it’s a zoo. It was built for kids.
I also didn’t feel that this particular event was too childish or too grown up. It was just a really awesome art installation that wowed everyone old and young alike.
Will I do it next year? Likely not since I heard someone say that they do the same theme 2 years in a row. However, I will absolutely go back to the Ouwehands Light Nights in 2025 when the theme has been refreshed into something new!