The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is hosting a holiday hippo jubilee with Oklahoma City native Gayla Peevey, who returns to the OKC Zoo for a special sing-along and 70th anniversary celebration of her beloved hit, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”! This musical merry-making is happening on Thursday, November 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Zoo’s Love’s Pachyderm at Expedition Africa. This event is ideal for all ages and free with general Zoo admission.

In 1953, Gayla Peevey recorded the world’s most famous holiday hippo song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and the OKC Zoo is bringing Gayla back to the Zoo to mark this significant anniversary of her song. Gayla will sing her song live in-person at the OKC Zoo on the patio of the newly reimagined Love’s Pachyderm building, a highlight of Expedition Africa, the Zoo’s latest and most-advanced habitat expansion in its history. Following the performance, fans will have an opportunity to meet Gayla, who will be signing autographs inside the Pachyderm space, and enjoy some holiday refreshments while supplies last. While exploring the Pachyderm building, event goers will learn more about Gayla and the impact of her song through historical memorabilia and educational panels from the Zoo’s on-site history museum, ZooZeum.

Born in Oklahoma City, Gayla is renowned for recording this classic holiday song. In addition to leading the sing-along, she will also share some of her childhood memories of Oklahoma City and talk about the song’s connection to the Zoo and its first Nile hippopotamus, Mathilda. Oklahoma children raised money to buy a hippopotamus for Gayla, who presented this particularly popular pachyderm to the Oklahoma City Zoo on Christmas Eve 1953. Every child, school and business that donated as little as a penny in 1953 for the transport of the Zoo’s first hippopotamus is listed in a larger-than-life book that guests will be able to view during the sing-along event.

Commemorative hippo jubilee shirts and will be available for purchase at this event and in the Zoo’s Safari Gift Shop located in the entry plaza throughout the holiday season.

Brighten your holidays with online reservations for OKC ZOO SAFARI LIGHTS with all new lanterns! Presented by OG&E, OKC ZOO SAFARI LIGHTS is a festive celebration featuring brand-new, larger-than-life light displays viewable on a driving tour and separate walking experience through the park. Guests will find festive connections to Gayla Peevey’s hippo song while experiencing the walking pathways of SAFARI LIGHTS. This holiday tradition runs nightly Saturday, November 11 through New Year’s Day, Monday, January 1, 2024 from 5:30 to 11 p.m. with the last check-in at 10 p.m. SAFARI LIGHTS is open holiday nights including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Drive-thru tickets cost $70/vehicle ($60/vehicle for ZOOfriends) and includes up to four admissions for guests 3+ for the walk-thru course. Guests only wanting to experience the walk-thru portion can purchase tickets for $16/person ($14/person for ZOOfriends). Children 2 and under are free. Tickets for the drive-thru must be purchased in advance at

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry at 4 p.m. The Zoo will be closed to the public during the daytime on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as well as Tuesdays and Wednesdays between December 5 and February 7, 2024. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular daytime admission is $16 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.

Stay connected with the Zoo on FacebookXInstagramThreadsLinktree and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Take a wild approach with your gift-giving this holiday season and consider a 12-month, ZOOfriends Membership Passport to the OKC Zoo. Membership Passports provide general admission year-round and exclusive offers while supporting the Zoo’s ongoing animal care and conservation programs. View all Passport options and purchase online at