Things to zoo: Holiday happenings at local zoos and aquariums in December

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Scuba Santa at Adventure Aquarium, Camden, NJ

You probably think the zoo is closed and that’s far from true. In December, local zoos and aquariums welcome the cold weather with seasonal events, transforming into a winter wonderland full of holiday-themed events for all to enjoy. And remember, there are some animals who like the cold and don't hibernate.

Adventure Aquarium (1 Riverside Dr.)

The weather is cold outside, but the fish stay inside, so you’re fine. Celebrate the holidays at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden with multiple seasonal attractions taking place until Thursday, Jan 1. With admission to the winter aqua zone, guests can get their pictures taken with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Abominable Snow Monster of the North -- the Bumble, as well as enjoy a tree-lighting ceremony and watch Scuba Santa swim with the sharks in Ocean Realm. Hours of the aquarium are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but the special holiday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Day, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.  

The Philadelphia Zoo (3400 W Girard Ave.)

As some of the zoo’s population flee for the indoors during the weather change, some stay outside. Families are invited to see animals indoors and outdoors at the zoo as the grounds are decorated just in time for the holidays. On Saturdays and Sundays starting on Dec. 6 through Dec. 21, the Philadelphia Zoo hosts Zoo Noel, which lets visitors participate in a scavenger hunt around the grounds, meet animals in all different biomes, participate in different games, and grab a hot chocolate to warm you up as you stroll along. Not only is Christmas in the air at the zoo, but jolly old St. Nick will be there, too. Guests can get their pictures taken with Santa Claus at the zoo’s treehouse at 11 a.m. 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. The Philadelphia Zoo is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

Elmwood Park Zoo (1661 Harding Blvd.)

Elmwood Park Zoo’s animal of the month is the reindeer, and it just so happens that you can get your picture with them, too. Through December, get a seasonal gift for your loved one by standing next to Santa’s furry pals. The picture times change daily and runs until Thursday, Jan. 1.

Besides getting your picture with Rudolph and the gang, on Saturdays and Sundays starting on Dec. 13 through Dec. 21, instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas night, kids can meet St. Nick during a special brunch at the zoo. The brunch includes an all-you-can-eat buffet and a photo with Santa. The brunch is at 10:30 a.m. and noon. The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

Cape May County Zoo (707 North Route 9)

The Jersey Shore’s beloved nonprofit zoo gets a visit from Santa on Saturday, Dec. 13, when guests can tell Santa what they want for Christmas and get pictures taken with the gift-giving icon. Visitors also can participate in holiday crafts and visit all the animals that occupy the grounds. Pictures with Santa start at 11 a.m through 2 p.m.  Zoo hours are 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. daily; it is closed on Christmas Day.