While Houston has no shortage of fall-themed activities, the Zoo Boo at the Houston Zoo is definitely one of our favorites. Even if you aren't a huge fan of Halloween, this not-so-spooky event is a hit with kids of all ages.
Having never been before, I decided to go on the opening day with my toddler and his best friend, which worked out perfectly because the zoo website advises attending on Fridays if you want to avoid the weekend crowds (and let's be honest, avoiding crowds is always a plus when toddlers are involved!). We arrived around 10 a.m., and there were already a lot of people there, so I can only imagine how crowded it gets on the weekends. However, it was never too crowded, and we had a great time checking out the different activities. Some highlights from the day included:
- Candy Corners
You'll definitely want to bring your candy bag on this trip because there are Candy Corners located at random stops around the zoo where kids can go and trick or treat for a couple pieces of candy. This was the first Zoo Boo-related stop we found, and while I don't normally agree to candy before lunchtime, there was no saying no to my ecstatic son once he had it in his hand. When in Rome, right? Be prepared for a sugar-fueled day! The corners are available all day while supplies last.
- Not-So-Creepy Creature Maze
Our last experience with a maze didn't go so well (we didn't make it past the first turn), so I was interested to see how my son handled his second maze attempt. The verdict? He loved it and charged in full force. The Not-So-Creepy Creature Maze offers a fun twist on the traditional maze by giving true/false questions about bats at each maze break. Choose the wrong answer? There's a sign explaining why the answer was actually the opposite option. Choose the right answer and you're rewarded by continuing on through the maze. While the actual true/false questions were too involved for both toddlers, it was fun to guess the answers to the questions and then read why they were right or wrong when the boys picked the wrong way.
- Fiesta Mart Pumpkin Patch
Is it really a fall festival or Halloween event without a pumpkin patch? I think not. Each kid is able to pick out a mini pumpkin to decorate with paint pens upon entering, and multiple tables set up around the patch ensure that there's always sufficient decorating space. There are lots of baskets overflowing with mini pumpkins to choose from, and the layout is very kid-friendly. Be sure to bring your camera because stacked hay bales for sitting, friendly scarecrows, and even a photo booth allow for plenty of frame-worthy photo opportunities. Pumpkins are available while supplies last. Only one pumpkin per child.
- Festival of Fun
In addition to the Candy Corners set up around the Zoo, there are also multiple carnival-inspired games for kids to play. Each station has a different game, such as trivia questions or bean bag tosses with a Halloween twist, and after kids play they get to pick out a small prize. These stops were a fun, interactive way to break up walking around the zoo as we made our way through the different Zoo Boo stops and regular animal exhibits.
Touring the Zoo with two toddler boys means that everything takes about 10 times longer than normal, so we weren't able to participate in all the different Zoo Boo activities. By the time we walked past some places they were already closed, like the Tatzoo Parlor where kids can get temporary Zoo Boo tattoos, and some of the attractions were geared towards older kids. The Mystery Boxes lets kids stick their hands into boxes and try to guess what's inside. And then there are some attractions that are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, such as the Living Pumpkin Patch and the Monster Mashquerade. Despite missing out on some of the activities, though, we had a great time partaking in this fun Halloween twist on the traditional zoo visit. For a full list of attractions, be sure to check out the Zoo Boo tab on the zoo's website.
Some fast facts for planning your Zoo Boo trip:
- Admission to Zoo Boo is free for zoo members or included with your regular zoo ticket purchase.
- Kids are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes, just be sure to check out the costume rules beforehand.
- You can print out a map and schedule ahead of time here.
All photos by Rachael Cherry
This post originaly published in 2016.