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Eight Tips for Enjoying Boo at the Zoo

Besides being a Birmingham tradition, Boo at the Zoo is a great way to get another photo-op out of Halloween costumes and stretch Trick-or-Treating beyond one big night. Here are some tips on how to tame this Birmingham Zoo experience: 

1. Get there early for best parking and a head start on exhibits, especially with very young children. Parking will spill over onto Cahaba Road on busy nights, and you don’t want to start out with walk-wearied kids.

There are several spots staged for photos, and pics taken with the remaining light at dusk will better show costumes and detail (it’s very difficult to capture special effects as an amateur photographer).

2. Start in the back of the zoo and work toward the front. It seems natural to pick a direction when you first enter and then work your way around, but therein lies the crowd. Start with your must-do exhibit, like the train ride or the carousel, and then get to your next favorite. Lines will lengthen later in the evening as visitors make a panicked effort to get onto the rides.

3. The train ride (not terribly scary, but suspenseful for young kids)  is better at dusk for young children, since there is some light remaining. The carousel, however, is best ridden after dark because black lights bring a glow to anything white.

4. If you’re the designated infant-holder at the carousel (meaning you won’t ride but will be standing at the perimeter waving), grab something white to wave, even if it is a sheet of paper or a  napkin. It’s the best way to get the attention of your happily disoriented kid who is riding the carousel in the dark.  Note: the carousel goes backwards during Boo at the Zoo.

5. Have a little fun yourself. You can come in full dress-up mode or even get by with a casual nod to the occasion. Spotted: Grandpa pushing a stroller in a Darth Vader cape, a mom Snow White and a daddy Prince, and a dad wearing his everyday uniform (i.e., polo & kakis)  wearing bunny ears as he carried his daughter.

6. Don your hat and pull the stroller hood up as you walk through the Candyland/Trick-or-Treat section, which includes an aviary. A teenaged Princess Leah was shocked when a bird chose to “trick” rather than “treat” her from above, and, judging from her friends’ squeals of disgust, I’m guessing she got to ride shotgun on the trip home. 

7. Plan extra time for the children’s section near the carousel. This area has carnival-type games to play for candy and small prizes as well as a family-friendly dance floor with flashing lights and party tunes.

8. Most of the animals will be asleep and away from public view, so tell the kids that you”ll have plenty to see but you probably won’t spot many critters – real ones, that is.

Admission is $8 and additional rides are $3.50 each, or purchase an armband with unlimited rides for $10. Buy ride tickets when you purchase admission. If you don’t bring your candy bag, one will be provided.

The Birmingham Zoo is a treasure for our community. Enjoy a spooky stroll with the kids on weekends in October.


  • Chris

    And if you can get away with it, buy the armbands and do not put them on. Stick them in your pocket and flash them when asked. That way, the parents can alternate events with the kids and only one parent has to buy a band! This worked well for us last night :-)

  • Lee

    Just wanted to ask if Boo at the Zoo is fun for young adult couples? Thanks!n

  • Tina

    Good question. It would really depend on what you like. Boo at the Zoo has a great sense of anticipation with themed exhibits around every corner, and the (little) people watching is as entertaining as anything you’ll see around Halloween. The adults dress up a bit also, and it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of a suburban banker dad pushing a stroller while dressed as a vampire.

    Boo at the Zoo is overwhelmingly geared to children but the fun for adults is watching the parade of costumes, the kids’ eyes bright with anticipation, and the shared, strange sense of “what are we all doing?” that comes from stepping out as an alter ego. It’s sort of like a big street festival.

    If you want a real scare, Boo at the Zoo is too tame. However, if you enjoy being around young kids and a sense of fun more than fright, Boo at the Zoo would be a lark. Be warned that this isn’t a sexy date. Come to think of it, if you’re not ready for a glimpse of the life of frenzied parenthood, BATZ could be downright horrifying.

    Hope that helps!