What’s Inside UNEXTINCT at the Columbus Zoo

Learn about endangered and extinct animals while experiencing the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in a new light at Unextinct, the unique limited-time afterhours spectacle. Wander through pathways where extinct creatures come to life in over 15 scenes with 72 extinct and endangered species. Still wondering what Unextinct is and if the additional admission fee is worth it? Follow along with us on a tour of this first-of-its-kind fusion of education, art and entertainment.

What's Inside UNEXTINCT at the Columbus Zoo

Before entering the zoo we saw the construction for the new Guest Entry Security Pavilion, which will house the EVOLV security system which is what is currently in place at Zoombezi Bay. The Columbus Zoo was one of the only large tourist attractions that I’ve been to that had basically no bag check or (visible) security. Glad that is changing soon with this $1.4 million dollar investment.

Guest Entry Security Pavilion columbus zoo

What is Unextinct at the Columbus Zoo?

I kept asking myself “how would you describe Unextinct in as few words as possible?” The best I could come up with is it’s “a walking project show”. But that’s not a very good description as it’s more than just projections. Perhaps “nighttime spectacle” is the best way to put it but that still doesn’t really describe what you’re going to see.

columbus zoo unextinct show

Most of us central-Ohioans are familiar with the zoo’s annual Christmas event. Wildlights is pretty self-explanatory what it is and the event has been around for a long time, so I’ll try to explain by comparing and contrast Unextinct to Wildlights.

So how is Unextinct different from Wildlights?

The main difference is Wildlights is included with zoo admission but Unextinct is not. This is a traveling experience that started at the Sacramento Zoo last year.

Wildlights is one of the busiest seasons at the zoo. If you visit on a Friday, Saturday, or exceptionally warm day you’ll find traffic jams and packed midways. This was not our experience for this event. We went to see Unextinct on a 55 degree Friday night on March 29th and the crowds were very light making it much more enjoyable to walk around. Ohio weather is unpredictable but chances are it will be much warmer in March and April versus November and December.

I was surprised the real elephants were out and standing in front of the projections.

Going in I thought maybe they would re-use some of the Christmas lights from Wildlights but that was mostly NOT the case. There was only one area (the Shores playground) where they had kept some of the lights up, everything else was new, including some cool lighting I had never seen before.

The main show elements do make use of video projections but they keep it interesting by using different surfaces and materials to project on. Two of the projections are on water screens like you’d see at Disney’s World of Color or Fantasmic! shows.

One of the challenges for this event is Unextinct is best experienced in the dark, but this being a spring time event means it doesn’t get dark until 8pm and that time gets later and later as the dates progresses. The zoo recognized this early on: Unextinct initially was scheduled to start at 6:30pm but was pushed back to 7:30pm.

My wife and I both thought we would have really enjoyed the event as a date night without the kids. The late start time and not many interactive components makes this a more adult-oriented event rather than the more family friendly Wildlights. There is an adults only night on April 12.

Overall, we had a good time and thought the additional fee was worth it. However, we are zoo members and were able to purchase discounted tickets and did not have to pay for parking. I’m glad to see the Columbus Zoo branching out and trying new and unique things.

Columbus Zoo Unextinct Tour Video

To get the best feel and look at what Unextinct is, watch this video from our recent visit.

Unextinct FAQ

Q: Will all Zoo exhibits be open during UNEXTINCT?

A: No, not all exhibits will be open. Please check the mobile app for the list of accessible areas.

Q: Can I use my Zoo membership perk of free parking during UNEXTINCT?

A: Yes, Zoo members still enjoy free parking for the UNEXTINCT event.

Q: Are there dining options available during UNEXTINCT?

A: Some food locations will be open; refer to the mobile app and website for details.

Q: Will any rides or attractions be open?

A: The Carousel and 4D Theater will be open during UNEXTINCT.

Q: How much time do you need to experience UNEXTINCT?

A: At minimum probably one hour and at most about two.

Unextinct takes place on select days from March 14 – April 27, 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

To learn more, purchase tickets, and check dates visit the zoo’s website.

unextinct review

Columbus Zoo Unextinct Update: April 11, 2024

Today the Columbus Zoo announced some exciting news: they’re extending this experience through May 26! And that’s not all. They’ve also got a few other surprises for you:

  • Members of the Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay, and The Wilds can now purchase tickets for only $14.99 each (50% off!)
  • Both the Zoo’s historic carousel and thrilling Tidal Twist roller coaster are now included in the ticket price
  • To take advantage of the dark of night for optimal viewing, UNEXTINCT will begin at 8 p.m. starting on April 19
  • BONUS: VIP Night (presented by Dr Pepper) is scheduled for April 20 if you’re looking for an elevated nighttime experience!

It’s awesome to see the zoo reducing the price while also adding more value to the experience! It’s just a bummer for people like me who paid for one of the earlier, more expensive tickets without rides.

Have you experienced Unextinct at the Columbus Zoo? What did you think? Or which park or zoo would you love to see this traveling experience come to next? Let us know in the comments below!