A new Halloween event that doubles as a date night with the kids in tow has arrived for weekends this month at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo called Creatures of the Night, a ghoulishly cool dance party.
Instead of paying a sullen teenager for a night out, you can let the kids boogie with stilt-walking zombies to Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can head to the wine and beer garden where they have pretzels, apple nachos and other snacks from $3-$14 that you can wash down with a pumpkin beer, fall cider or other drinks running $3-$8.
It’s a tricky to make it more Beetlejuice funny instead of nightmare-inducing to venture into the zoo at night, where spooky music and glow-in-the-dark eyes mark the entrance.
It helps that the sun doesn’t set until after 7 p.m. so you can arrive while it’s still light out.
The first stop is the circular courtyard renamed the Wolf Haven where a cute little village has a pack of big bad wolves roaming about. Only these long-haired wolves are in blue jeans, sneakers and flannel, as if Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl became easy-going werewolves.
When I arrived two squealing girls in princess costumes were running behind the Beauty and Dog Grooming shack to get away from the wolves. On their third fly-by the still-squealing girls delighted in getting a wolf to growl and pretend to chase them.
Head toward the zoo’s Wallaroo Station and the petting zoo and kiddie rides that are normally there are going strong, but added to them is a Pumpkin Palooza with actors dressed as scarecrows drawing the kids into games.
The pumpkins and games are tame stuff, but there were creepy Night Ghosts in the background.
Swathed in gauzy white robes with white makeup and black lipstick, they lurk in the grassy areas around the carousel, keeping their distance but posing solemnly for pictures when approached.
From there, a dark spider web-covered Critter Canal with spooky music leads to Scarab Point where a zombie dance party is going on.
Some are on stilts, all are wrapped in white gauze like mummies, with neon blue and purple hair and full zombie makeup. But they also keep their distance and dance along to disco music from KC and the Sunshine Band, letting the kids step forward on their own to high five or Get Down Tonight.
There’s a haunted mummy maze there that’s not very scary with glow-in-the-dark decor and another blue-haired zombie poking his head out. After he elicits a startled scream, he smiles and waves.
The zoo’s Safari Lounge has been converted into Pharoah’s Dance Party where wine and beer are flowing for the parents and the kids are having a dance-off to Boogie Wonderland.
Because it’s nighttime, most of the animal interactions are over by 8 p.m. The giraffes and zebras are roaming around, though they are hard to see too clearly in the dark. But the African animal zone is a nice corner for some quiet time away from the disco music to watch the giraffes under the moonlight.
Creatures of the night is included with admission ($29.95, $27.95 seniors, $22.95 ages 3-11) and special for this event, there’s an after-4 p.m. ticket available for $19.95. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.
The zoo is open 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Creatures of the Night runs weekends through Oct. 29.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.