Eager to experience some Halloween night magic before October 31? This fall season, Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo is just the place to do it. Through November 4, the zoo is home to the Jack O’Lantern Journey, a spectacular jack-o’-lantern display filled with thousands of intricately carved pumpkins over a half-mile trail. I headed to the event with my two children to find out everything you need to know before visiting. Here are my insider tips to make sure your visit with children is a real treat (with no tricks).
Photo courtesy of Franklin Park Zoo
1. Buy your tickets early.
Advance tickets are required to attend the event and popular time slots can sell out quickly, so don’t wait to purchase if there is a particular date or time you want. Depending on the specific date you choose, tickets are available for as early as 5:00 p.m., which is a great option for families with young children. On most dates, the last admission is at 9:30 p.m.
If you’d rather keep your schedule flexible, VIP tickets allow for admission on any date, and at any time. Another great VIP benefit: You’ll receive express lane admission to the event, so you can still go on a popular evening (Friday or Saturday, typically), but take your time enjoying the displays ahead of big groups. (This is especially helpful if you have a child who is very young or dislikes crowds).
2. "Carve" out some time.
With more than 5,000 jack-o’-lanterns over a half-mile trail, there’s a lot to take in at the Jack O’ Lantern Journey; the average visit takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes. We particularly enjoyed seeing the Disney- and superhero-themed pumpkins, as well as an incredible carnival-themed display, complete with a Ferris wheel.
With so many glowing jack-o’-lanterns on display, the path is well-lighted; however, if you anticipate your child may be apprehensive, consider bringing a small flashlight to help them feel more comfortable. Glow necklaces or sticks are another idea—and fun for all members of your family.
3. Keep an eye out for special guests.
Speaking of superheroes, you just may be lucky enough to meet special costumed characters as you make your way along the trail. My five-year-old son loved having the chance to say hello to Spider-Man, as well as getting his photo taken with the one and only Elsa. My children had a lot of fun telling these characters that we had just seen “their” pumpkin!
4. Enjoy a fun amusement ride.
After you’ve finished viewing the displays, be sure to take a spin on both the carousel and mini Ferris wheel—we especially enjoyed that the carousel animals were zoo-themed. The rides are not included in the cost of your admission ticket, but can be enjoyed for a small fee.
5. Get a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.
Get even more in the Halloween spirit by bringing home a pumpkin (or two!) from the on-site pumpkin patch. There’s a large selection of pumpkins in different sizes, so you’ll be able to find one perfect for every member of the family.
For a particularly special souvenir of your evening, a custom, hand-carved jack o’lantern is a wonderful choice. Available in a variety of designs, the jack-o’-lanterns are priced at $45.00 and up. Tip: If you’re interested in purchasing a custom jack-o’-lantern, consider doing so before you hit the trail to check out the displays. More intricate designs can take up to 45 minutes to complete, so buying beforehand is a convenient way to avoid long wait times for your jack-o’-lantern to be finished.
We had a great time during our visit to the Jack O-Lantern Journey. As my son said afterward, "This was the best night!"
Photos by author unless otherwise noted