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Boo at the zoo! Take the kids where the wild things are

Want less horror this Halloween? Try your local zoo for spooktacular fun
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When 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 fun instead of fright. Here’s how they celebrate Halloween where the wild things are:

Lowry Park Zoo: Tampa, FL
Select dates, September 25 to October 31 What to expect: This “family-friendly fright zone” offers up darkened haunted houses, spooky trails, and things that go bump in the night. The littlest trick-or-treaters can look forward to free, unlimited zoo rides all evening, including a kid’s roller coaster, mini train and carousel. This year, little ones can also check out the Boogie Monster Bounce House and amusement park-style games with a scary twist, while older kids can explore a creepy Egyptian tomb. Best for: 6 to 12. Tickets: $17/adult, $14/child.

Boo at the Zoo Little Rock Zoo: Little Rock, AR
October 21-24 and 28-31 What to expect: This year, the Little Rock Zoo is going all out to make Boo at the Zoo a truly theatrical event, with special lighting and eerie fog, ghost stories by the firelight, and a brand-new haunted house. Kids and parents can ride the haunted train, get their fortunes read, conquer the hay maze or take part in a costume contest. Be sure to catch Frankenstein’s wedding, where zombies will take the lead on the dance floor. Trick-or-treating starts at 6 p.m. when volunteers hand out candy at 14 different stations throughout the zoo. Best for: 3 to 11. Tickets: $7 per person.

San Diego Zoo: San Diego, CA
October 16-17, 23-24 and 30-31
What to expect:
This popular, one-of-a-kind overnight is offered three Saturdays in October. It starts with an arts-and-crafts workshop followed by a private bus tour to a campsite for dinner, while families learn how animals adapt to their environment through their “creepy body parts.” Later, there’s an up-close visit from some animal ambassadors, trick-or-treating in the Children’s Zoo, s’more roasts and a costume parade. After a morning breakfast there will be more animal encounters and kids can watch the elephants enjoy eating a pumpkin breakfast. Reservations are required and space is limited, so book well in advance. Best for: 5 to 12. Tickets: $139/adult, $119/child plus regular admission fees.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden: Cincinnati, OHWhen: Weekends only, October 9-24What to expect: While kids are trick-or-treating their way around the zoo, they can discover how animals “celebrate” Halloween. Don’t miss the very popular Snow Monkey Pumpkin Hide & Seek, Gorilla Pumpkin Hunt, Elephant Pumpkin Smash and the Polar Bear Pumpkin Bob. There’s also a scare-ousel, illusion show, spooktacular train ride, pumpkin-carving demonstrations and a scavenger hunt. Best For: 2 to 12. Tickets: Included with zoo admission, $14/adult, $9/child.

National Zoo: Washington, DCWhen: October 22-24What to expect: Arrive in costume with your goodie bag so you can visit the more than 40 treat stations in the zoo. As a bonus, you can learn more about zoo animals during special zookeeper presentations. Best for: 2 to 10. Tickets: $30/person.

Toledo Zoo: Toledo, OHWhen: October 21-24What to expect: This celebration is two parties rolled into one. Bring your small fries to Little Boo, a just-for-toddlers party with trick-or-treat stations, games and a giant Fisher-Price play area. Preschoolers and school-age kids will love the Pumpkin Path, with its “mystifying performances,” carnival-style games and 20 themed trick-or-treat stations. Best For: 2 to 8. Tickets: $11/person.

Brookfield Zoo: Chicago, ILWhen: Weekends only, October 16-24What to expect: Visit during the last two weekends in October, and your little goblins can march in a parade, play in a corn maze, show off their costumes and get up close to wolves, owls, snakes, and other creepy critters. Kids can also make arts and crafts to take home. Best For: 2 to 8. Tickets: Included with zoo admission, $13.50/adult, $9.50/child.

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo: Fort Wayne, IN
October 15-17, 21-24 and 28-31 What to expect: This highly-rated zoo goes wild with Halloween activities like pumpkin decorating contests, costume parades and cartoon-themed days with everyone’s favorite characters. Kids can the join the Monster Mash dance party, get lost in the maze and take a free train ride around the zoo. And of course, there will be plenty of candy. Best For: 2 to 8. Tickets: $4/adult, $8/child.

Louisville Zoo: Louisville, KYWhen: Select dates, October 8-30What to expect: Throughout October, “the sweetest party in town” enchants little ones with more than a dozen themed attractions, including Mumpkin the Talking Pumpkin, a zipline, Ogre Swamp, a new Toyland and an antique carousel that mysteriously runs backward. Best For: 2 to 10. Tickets: $8/person.

Phoenix Zoo: Phoenix, AZWhen: Select dates, October 23 and 24What to expect: It’s easy to see why this popular two-day event is in its 21st year, with a maze full of scarecrows, a pumpkin patch and a parade with more than two dozen cuddly storybook friends. Mark your calendar for the weekend before Halloween. Best For: 7 and under. Older kids can check out Howl-O-Ween on October 29 and 30 with live music, headless horsemen, and the Dungeon of Terror. Tickets: Included with regular admission, $18/adult, $9/child. is an award-winning family travel site, featuring reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, and more. Want an easy way to find out about vacation deals? Sign up for our and follow us on and .