Denver Zoo Offers Special NYE Experience for Guests with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorders

Share Article

Zoo Lights: Low-Sensory Night Treats Guests to the Magic of Zoo Lights—Without Some of the Features That Individuals with SPD May Find Triggering

Denver Zoo's Main Entrance

We’re proud to create a special experience for those individuals and their families, and make Zoo Lights more inclusive of the neurodiverse.

Zoo Lights presented by Your Front Range Toyota Stores has transformed Denver Zoo in Colorado’s wildest winter wonderland for 32 years. But many of the features that animate the Zoo’s 80-acre campus—like flashing lights and lively seasonal music—can overwhelm those with autism and sensory processing disorders (SPD). That’s why, the Zoo offers a special experience to accommodate those individuals: Zoo Lights: Low-Sensory Night presented by Union Pacific Railroad.

“Zoo Lights is an annual tradition for countless Colorado families, but we recognize that Zoo Lights and other holiday festivities around town aren’t accessible or enjoyable for those with autism or SPD,” said Amber Christopher, Chief Operating Officer for Denver Zoo. “We’re proud to create a special experience for those individuals and their families, and make Zoo Lights more inclusive of the neurodiverse.”

Developed in collaboration with external partners with SPD expertise, Zoo Lights: Low-Sensory Night (Saturday, Dec. 31 from 5-9 p.m.) will offer the magic of Zoo Lights along with a number of SPD-friendly accommodations, but without some of the features that may be triggering, including:

  • Capped attendance at a much lower number to preserve personal space
  • Quiet rooms throughout the Zoo’s campus to provide respite from stimulation
  • Dramatically reduced movement (including strobing, flashing and blinking) effects
  • Free sensory kits available for checkout (on a first-come, first-served basis)
  • Lowered volume on the Zoo’s popular Conservation Carousel
  • Denver Zoo Railroad closed (due to the fact the whistle cannot be turned off for safety) supported by Union Pacific Railroad
  • Special maps to help guests navigate the Zoo’s campus and know what to expect—and what to avoid, if need be—in areas where stimuli cannot be reduced

"Union Pacific is proud to continue our partnership with the Denver Zoo, providing families a unique experience to enjoy the holidays," said Nathan Anderson, senior director for public affairs at Union Pacific Railroad. “The low-sensory New Year’s Eve program will allow families normally unable to attend events like this a new opportunity to enjoy the Zoo. Expanding access is a key component of Union Pacific’s diversity and inclusion initiative.”

Zoo Lights: Low-Sensory Night tickets are very limited an only available online at Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children. Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets immediately as the event is expected to sell out. For more information, visit


Home to almost 3,000 animals representing more than 450 species, Denver Zoo is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and the city’s oldest and most passionate advocate for the natural world. The Zoo is among the most visited cultural destination in Colorado, serving almost 2 million people per year, and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which assures the highest standards of animal care. With the mission inspiring communities to save wildlife for future generations, Denver Zoo dedicates almost $2 million annually to Zoo-led programs aimed at protecting animals within their natural habitats around the world. For more information, visit

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Jake Kubie
Visit website