Fall has arrived in New York City and with it, a fantastic array of seasonal activities that make saying goodbye to summer feel more like a celebration than a somber farewell. And with Halloween just around the corner, one of my family's favorite Halloween-themed outings—the Bronx Zoo's annual Boo at the Zoo—is already underway!
For years, we've enjoyed donning our costumes and exploring the zoo, joining the Halloween parade, marveling at the pumpkin carving demos and displays, and, of course, visiting and learning about the majestic resident animals. This year, we're particularly excited to visit as the zoo has revamped its programming with new activities and attractions, including a Haunted Forest geared at older kids, a hayride, and a corn maze. Read on for all the details on returning favorites and new offerings, including price details and best times to visit.
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When I first learned of the Haunted Forest—a new attraction this year aimed at ages 12 and up—I knew I wanted to visit with my 13-year-old son, but I wasn't sure how my 8- and 10-year-old would react. So I took my son and his friend to test it out.
For parents who remember the zoo from their own childhoods, the Haunted Forest is located in the now-closed World of Darkness near Somba Village. It's the perfect spot for a creepy thrill. Using strobe lights, spooky audio and visual effects, and live actors, it's a solid first haunted house experience. The actors don't touch anyone, and the overall effect is great for the tween and teen crowd. The thrills are fun but do take time to notice the surroundings. The glass enclosures feature beautifully carved pumpkins and other interesting details.
We saw younger kids brave the experience, too, though it really is too scary for toddlers and very young children. I chatted with one kid who was maybe 7 years old and, though there were no tears, he firmly declared he was “not going back in there!” My son and his friend enjoyed the experience, and we all shared a few jumps, yelps, and laughs, so I'll call it a success.
Photo ©2017 Wildlife Conservation Society
Next, we made our way toward the Dancing Crane Pavilion to check out pumpkin carving demonstrations. It really is amazing how detailed the carvings are. There are also ongoing Halloween themed crafts and activities at the pavilion. We watched the Halloween parade—a Boo at the Zoo staple. The costumed stilt walkers are always a treat, this year hailing from the Alice Farley Dance Theater.
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After hitting up the Candy Trail for a quick sugar fix, we made our way to Astor Court to catch the sea lion feedings. Just beyond the sea lions at Fountain Circle is another new attraction. Visitors can catch a hayride and head to a brand new corn maze, where cider and other seasonal goodies await.
In addition to the annual costume parade, other favorites have returned. Head to the Spooktacular Stage at the Grizzly Bear Tent to be wowed by magicians and amazed by mind-reading mentalists; check out the Extinct Animal Graveyard by the Mouse House, as well as owls, vultures, and others at Bird Meet-and-Greets.
As always, we had a great time visiting the Bronx Zoo and plan to return again this season—maybe my younger kids will even want to brave the Haunted Forest!
Boo at the Zoo runs weekends in October at the Bronx Zoo, located at 2300 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. Check the zoo's website for details on hours and admission.
Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.