Last night we spent a beautiful fall evening at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo during Boo at the Zoo. We discovered a few years ago, that Thursday night is perfect for this popular event. The lines are significantly less than on the weekends, and this year we definitely lucked out with the weather. It was a beautiful crisp, but not chilly fall evening which made attending in costume much more fun.
We planned to start our evening promptly at the new, earlier 5pm opening thinking that we would miss traffic and have more daylight for exploration. Unfortunately, with lots of construction and heavy traffic we arrived at the zoo at about 5:45. However, we still found relatively good parking (during our first visits several years ago we had to park in the upper lot by the Northern Trek because the crowds were so large on the weekends). Even my husband, who met us later after work, was able to find parking in the main lot – just further away.Upon entering the zoo, there are a lot of fun characters to greet the kids and pose for photo ops. We saw Tinkerbell, an elephant, a meerkat, and stilt walkers just to name a few. The kids could walk up to many of the characters immediately or wait for one or two groups ahead of them. However, the extremely popular Anna and Elsa had a long line of children waiting every time we saw them. First, we decided to see the elephants as their indoor viewing area can often get crowded during these special events. After the elephants, the kids were hungry for dinner. This is the one downside to the earlier starting time, what to do for dinner. We opted to pack dinner and ate in the picnic area in front of the lions (it was great seeing the lions more active in the evening). Having a large family, buying dinner in parks can be both expensive and time consuming. You have no idea how long it can take kids to pick between chicken tenders, hamburgers, and PB &J. It is so much easier to have dinner ready to go, especially when you want to optimize your time. We were glad we packed so we could get back to the fun quickly.
After dinner, we walked to the Hay Maze in the Palava Hut. This is a short non-scary maze with several spooky scenes. Most of the scenes involved on or several of the popular blow up decorations used in lawns. This is always a Boo at the Zoo favorite of ours. The Palava Hut also houses the Glow Show which ran every 30 minutes starting at 6:30pm. My kids have seen it in the past, but didn’t want to watch again this year.We then headed to the Australian Adventure for the Spooky Train Ride. On weekends we have experienced extremely long lines for the Spooky Train Ride. This year we had to wait for only 2 trains before boarding our train. This is pretty similar to what we have experienced on past Thursday visits. The Spooky Train takes you through all the lights in the Australian Adventure. Australian Adventure is also home to the Tucker Court Juggling Show, Junior Superhero Academy, Giant Bubbles, and Animal Encounters at the Contact Barn. We stopped by the Juggling Show briefly, as it was next to a treat station, and found it entertaining.
A big change this year is how kids collect treats. In the past, each child was given a ticket that they presented to one of several treat stations in the zoo in order to get either one large treat or one bag of small treats. This year upon entry to the zoo, each child was given a small brown paper bag. There were eight treat stations set up around the zoo and kids could stop at each station to receive a small treat. The kids had a lot of fun finding using the map to find the treat stations and explore all the areas of the zoo.Last year, the carousel was included in your admission to Boo at the Zoo. This year you had to purchase tickets at their regular price in order to ride. This definitely cut down on the wait time, as my kids hopped right on without any wait. However, if I knew we had to pay before they ran in, I’m not sure whether or not we would have ridden on this occasion as we had already ridden during the summer.
Near the carousel is another of our favorites, the Not-So-Haunted Greenhouse. Just as advertised the Green House was beautifully decorated for Halloween without and extremely scary elements. There were a few skeletons and the witch pictured above (which in my opinion were the creepiest elements in the entire zoo) that may frighten some timid children, but the green house is well-lit which lessens the fear factor. I did not observe any frightened kids during our walk through the house.The Wolf Lodge was beautifully decorated in Halloween-colored lights. I wish the photos I took on my phone would have turned out better. Inside the lodge, the Kooky Cellists (which my oldest always calls the Cellophants from the elephants’ trunk party when they temporarily moved to the Columbus Zoo while the African Elephant Crossing was being built) played spooky tunes. This is also a great time to see the wolves in action. In the Northern Trek there was also bear feeding which we unfortunately missed. We almost missed the UH Rainbow Safety Zone in the Center for Zoological Medicine. Here the kids received simple paper passports. They then participated in three activities about Halloween safety. Upon completion, they turned in their passports for a chocolate-covered Peep and glow-in-the-dark slap bracelet. Next to the safety zone was an area with simple spider crafts which my kids elected to skip.
It sounded like the Monster Mash Dance Party was really rocking, but the kids were getting tired after walking the zoo for almost 3 hours. This is definitely an event that you must pick your favorite activities — which means there is something for everyone. There was also a Magic Show and Live Animal Show that we did not attend.We were entertained until the very end by dancing robots near the exit. We all agreed that this was our best year yet at Boo at the Zoo! The changes to the treat stations and new decorations were fabulous. Of course, the lower Thursday night crowds and beautiful fall evening were an added bonus.