Zoos that go wild for Halloween

If your kids love dressing up and trick-or-treating, but they’re still too young for zombies and gory sights, consider planning a trip to the zoo this fall. At scores of zoos across the country, the focus is on tot-friendly fun rather than fright. Here’s how they celebrate Halloween where the wild things are:

1. Boo! at the Zoo: Phoenix Zoo

(Phoenix Zoo)

When: Oct. 19-20, 2013 What to expect: It’s easy to see why this popular two-day event at the Phoenix Zoo has been running for more than 20 years, with a maze full of scarecrows, zoo-animal pumpkin-eating, and dance party with costumed characters. There is even a recycling swap meet for gently used costumes. Best for: Ages 7 and under. Tickets: Included with regular admission: $20 for adults; $10 for kids.

2. Boo! at the Zoo: Brookfield Zoo

(Brookfield Zoo)

When: Weekends only, Oct. 19-27, 2013 What to expect: Visit the acclaimed Brookfield Zoo during the last two weekends in October, and your little goblins can ride a “haunted” carousel, play in a corn maze, show off their costumes, and get up close to wolves, owls, snakes, and other creepy critters. Kids can also carve pumpkins and decorate cookies to take home. Best for: Ages 2 to 8. Tickets: Included with zoo admission: $15 for adults; $10.50 for children.

3. Boo at the Zoo: National Zoo

(National Zoo)

When: Oct. 25-27, 2013 What to expect: Arrive in costume with an empty goody bag so you can visit the more than 30 treat stations in the National Zoo. As a bonus, you can learn more about zoo animals during special zookeeper presentations. Best for: Ages 2 to 10. Tickets: $30 per person.

4. Wild Zoo Halloween: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

(Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo)

When: Oct. 18-20, 24-27 and 31, 2013 What to expect: This highly rated zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana, goes wild with pumpkin-decorating contests, costume parades, and cartoon-themed days—as well as animal shows and special sea-lion feedings. Kids can also join the “Monster Mash” dance party, explore a maze, and take a free train ride around the zoo. And, of course, there will be plenty of candy. Best for: Ages 2 to 8. Tickets: $13.50 for adults; $8.50 for kids.

5. Boo at the Zoo: Little Rock Zoo

(Little Rock Zoo)

When: Oct. 18 -20 and Oct. 25- Nov. 1, 2013 What to expect: Little Rock’s zoo makes Halloween a theatrical event, with live music, haunted hay rides and a haunted house. Kids and parents can also ride a haunted train, get their faces painted, conquer the hay maze, or nibble on grilled s’mores. Trick-or-treating starts at 6pm, when volunteers hand out candy at different stations throughout the zoo. Best for: Ages 3 to 11. Tickets: $10 for adults; $8 for kids.

6. HallZOOween: Cincinnati Zoo

(Cincinnati Zoo)

When: Weekends only, Oct. 5-27, 2013 What to expect: While kids trick-or-treat their way around the Cincinnati Zoo, they can discover animals “celebrating” Halloween. Don’t miss the popular scavenger hunt, Halloween animal meet-and-greets, and the Hogwarts Express train rides. There’s also a “Beauty Shop of Horrors,” where kids can get a spooky manicure or temporary tattoo. Best for: Ages 2 to 12. Tickets: Included with zoo admission: $15 for adults; $10 for kids.

7. The World’s Largest Halloween Party: Louisville Zoo

(Louisville Zoo)

When: Select dates, Oct. 4-27, 2013 What to expect: Throughout October at Louisville’s zoo, the “sweetest party in town” enchants little ones with over a dozen themed attractions, including “Mumpkin the Talking Pumpkin,” an “ogre swamp,” Toyland, a new sports-themed attraction, and an antique carousel. Best for: Ages 2 to 10. Tickets: $10 per person.

8. Little Boo & Pumpkin Path: Toledo Zoo

(Toledo Zoo)

When: Oct. 17-20, 2013 What to expect: This celebration in Toledo is two parties rolled into one. Bring your small fries on the first two days to Little Boo, a just-for-toddlers party with trick-or-treat stations, games, and scarecrow-making, as well as spider and bird-feeds. Preschoolers and school-age kids, meanwhile, will love the Pumpkin Path on the third and fourth days, with its own trick-or-treat stations and carnival-style games, as well as a “mystifying magic” show, story-telling “witch sisters,” and free bounce houses. Best for: Ages 2 to 8. Tickets: $11 per person.

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