Going to things in Little Rock can feel a little like making a trip to Earth-2, that alternate version of town that feels both familiar and just a little bit off.
Like going to a UALR basketball game. The jerseys say Little Rock, and there are people in the crowd who look familiar. Or do they?
Life's a mystery like that.
Another example is the zoo. Been by it, been near it. Parked in its parking lot, but somehow, some way never stepped foot in it before.
Growing up, a trip to the zoo meant a visit to Gentry and the petting zoo, which was hardly a zoo and horrifying to boot, as those dirty little monkeys engaged in acts contrary to nature, or at least zoo-level decency.
I've been to the zoos in Chicago and San Diego and even sneaked into the San Francisco Zoo. Avoiding the zoo here wasn't about making some moral stand about the penned animals, just didn't have a reason to go.
A reason appeared last week, on New Year's Eve no less, in GloWild, the lantern festival and light show that started back in November (!) and ends this Sunday night, Jan. 7.
Light shows at zoos and botantical gardens and even baseball parks have rapidly increased in popularity the last few years, as people looked for more outdoor-centric activities amid the ongoing pandemic.
GloWild is divided into three sections with part 1 being based on creatures pulled from Chinese mythology, part 2 turns to bugs, and the last section is a trip to the jungle.
And you know what? It was terrific.
The one-way loop started with a large display of butterflies and continued through activities and winged selfie stations.
Several areas were interactive, from a whack-a-mole-style panda game to the moon swings to a hard-to-describe sequined wall that invited running a finger across it.
While child friendly, GloWild appeals to all ages. Based on the reaction of the New Year’s Eve crowd, everyone was delighted by the lights, the sights, and the sounds, along with the occasional glimpse of a zoo animal in its enclosure.
The zoo claims GloWild is one of the "nation's largest interactive light festivals" with dozens of handcrafted silk-covered lanterns.
The lanterns make a covered walkway where there wasn't much walking, since people stopped to take photos and shoot videos on their phones.
Tickets are $20, and $17 for zoo members. There's also a family pack of four tickets for $65. To buy tickets, click here.
It starts at 5 p.m. and continues through 9 p.m. GloWild is a rain or shine event, so prepare accordingly if the weather looks to be rainy that night.
GloWild is sponsored by the Arkansas Zoological Foundation in partnership with Tianyu Arts & Culture.