New NOVA Wild Reston Zoo Opens with Light Show

The NOVA Wild Reston zoo in Northern Virginia is back with a new name, new management, and a new light show called The Great Migration. The Reston zoo light show, created in partnership with Lumagica, features animal sculptures and settings created with 800,000 LED lights.

Formerly Roer's Zoofari, the animal park's popular drive-through safari returns along with the new light show. In March, the Reston petting zoo and walk-through trails will also open for daytime visits.

About the NOVA Wild Zoo in Reston

The new zoo reopened as NOVA Wild in February 2023. The popular Reston animal park is now a nonprofit, accredited by the Zoological Association of America and certified by American Humane.

NOVA Wild's new owner, Tara Campbell Lussier, is a former Reston resident who visited the zoo as a child and now lives nearby in Purcellville. She has big plans for the zoo, including include new animals, new structures, and unique interactive experiences including glamping.

The new Reston zoo has a three-part focus on animal welfare, education, and conservation. The owners have hired new veterinarians and have brought a new animal welfare expert on staff.

Even as the zoo changes, much remains the same. NOVA Wild is still focused on kid and family-friendly experiences that bring visitors close to the animals. The 12-acre drive-through safari reopened first with the walk-through trails and petting zoo to follow.

Visitors to the NOVA Wild zoo will still encounter animals in a variety of enclosures. For example, the drive-through safari brings visitors up close with llamas, buffalo, emus, and more. Other habitats feature cheetahs, kangaroos, monkeys, watusi, and other exotic animals. And the barn houses familiar farm animals including donkeys, ponies, and goats.

The Great Migration Light Show at NOVA Wild Reston Zoo

From February 17 to April 9, the Great Migration light show at NOVA Wild offers Northern Virginia locals a reason to visit the Reston zoo near or after dark. The show features lighted animal sculptures spread throughout the zoo on a mile of paved and dirt paths.

Most of the light sculptures at The Great Migration depict migrating animals in their habitats. For example, lions wander the Serengeti, pandas munch on bamboo, and butterflies flit next to flowers. In addition, lights fill trees and decorate stand-alone sculptures.

The new light show is unlike the previous Chinese lantern show at Roer's Zoofair held in 2016 or the Luminocity show in 2021-2022. Animal sculptures at the 2023 zoo light show are made of strings of LED lights on metal forms. The lights sparkle, but we miss the beautiful Chinese lantern details like the one at the recent Winter Festival in Tysons.

What to Expect at NOVA Wild's Great Migration Show

As you enter The Great Migration light show you have the opportunity to purchase feed for the goats you'll encounter. Visitors to the Reston zoo light show walk among the displays at their own pace. There is no set route, so you can visit the lights in any order and you may need to zig zag a bit to see all of the displays.

Start by walking through the Butterfly Tent decorated with pretty flower and butterfly sculptures.

Butterfly and flower sculptures at The Great Migration light show in the NOVA Wild Butterfly Tent
NOVA Wild Butterfly Tent

Then, head toward the back of the zoo on the paved path. You'll pass a tree filled with hanging wood chimes and a fence decorated with small drums. Take a minute to create your own mood music with these African instruments.

African drums on a wooden fence at NOVA Wild The Great Migration
NOVA Wild The Great Migration Instruments

As you walk toward the back say hello to the zoo's barn animals (the barn is lit at night). Next, walk left around the small pond. Use caution here as parts of the trail are dirt and can be muddy. It's also very dark between the sculptures, so keep a close eye on children.

From the back of the pond you'll have a nice, light-filled view looking back toward the barn. There are light-up benches scattered along the trail where you can take a break.

A view of colorful lights from the back of the pond at the NOVA Wild Reston Zoo Lights
NOVA Wild Reston Zoo Lights

As you come around the back of the pond, look for a giant peacock sculpture nearby with lighted dots and benches underneath. If the sculpture is white and quiet, wait a bit. Soon the display will sparkle with colorful lights set to music, creating a nice photo spot for kids.

Lighted Peacock and globe display at NOVA Wild Reston Zoo
Peacock Display NOVA Wild Zoo

A display of elephants, lions, and other animals from the Serengeti completes the circuit. Back in the gift shop, you can purchase a souvenir of your stay including drums and sculptures from Africa.

Top Tips for NOVA Wild's Light Show

Here are a few tips for your visit to NOVA Wild's The Great Migration light show based on our experience:

  • If you want to see the zoo animals and the lights, purchase tickets near dusk and walk the trails twice. Once it's dark it is difficult to see most of the animals in their dark enclosures.
  • Prepare to walk, and wear comfortable shoes. You'll encounter a mix of paved and dirt trails that can be muddy and uneven in spots.
  • If the weather is cold, bundle up. The entire NOVA Wild light show is outdoors.
  • Consider bringing a small flashlight. Or purchase a light-up necklace or bracelet for your children. That will make it easier to keep an eye on kids in the darker areas.
  • There are lots of wires on the ground leading to each sculpture so walk with care.
  • There is a food truck up a short hill behind the butterfly tent.

The Great Migration is expensive, but families with young children will likely get the most from the light show. As we suggest above, you'll get more for your money by purchasing tickets near dusk and walking through the exhibits before and after dark.

NOVA Wild Reston Zoo FAQ

Here is essential information and answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the NOVA Wild zoo. Prices, hours, and other NOVA Wild information is accurate at time of publication, but additional visitor options are coming. Please check back for updates.

Where is NOVA Wild located?

The NOVA Wild animal park is located at 1228 Hunter Mill Road, Reston Virginia.

What are the NOVA Wild Reston zoo prices?

At this time, only the Drive-through Safari and The Great Migration light show are open. The NOVA Wild Drive-through Safari price is $10 per person for ages 3 and up. Animal feed can be purchased separately.

General admission tickets to The Great Migration are $35 for adults and $24 for children 3 to 12 (under 3 free) with VIP and group options available. Parking for the show is $10.

Can I walk through the NOVA Wild animal park?

Initially, you can only walk through the Reston zoo by purchasing tickets to The Great Migration light show. The full Reston petting zoo and walking trail reopen in early March.

What are the NOVA Wild Reston zoo hours?

The NOVA Wild Drive-through Safari is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 to 4:00. One-hour timeslots are available on the hour. Reserve NOVA Wild Safari Tickets online.

The Great Migration light show at NOVA Wild runs from February 17 to April 9. The Great Migration is open Thursday – Sunday from 4:30 to 9:00 and daily during Spring Break (April 3 – 7).

Is The Great Migration at NOVA Wild good for kids?

The Great Migration at NOVA Wild is best for families with young kids. There are no educational signs near the sculptures, so the focus is on entertainment.

Where can I find more information about NOVA Wild?

Visit the NOVA Wild Reston zoo website for the latest updates and to purchase tickets to the animal safari and The Great Migration.

Northern Virginia residents should expect more updates and improvements as NOVA Wild continues to update the popular Reston zoo.

NOVA Wild hosted our guest photographer, Melissa Gifford, at The Great Migration. As always, all text and opinions are our own.

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Visit the NOVA Wild Reston Zoo in Virginia
Visit NOVA Wild Reston Zoo

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