Spare the gore and take the kids to these family-friendly Halloween parties planned at theme parks and attractions in the coming weeks.
Creatures of the Night at ZooTampa
The weekend nighttime Halloween party at ZooTampa at Lowry Park returns with some new scare zones for older kids, animal shows and some devilish food on weekends starting Oct. 5. Returning favorites include a pumpkin patch for little ones, scarecrows and friendly farm animals. Creatures of the Night is set up like a date night with kids in tow, with a dance party and roaming characters that are more Beetlejuice-funny than nightmare-inducing. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad can head to the wine and beer garden for pretzels and fall snacks. There is a new Medusa’s Stone Cold Cave, a scare zone located in the manatee encounter starring the serpent-headed queen; and Fairy Frightful Forest, a diversion for older kids, pre-teens and adults. Children 11 and younger are allowed to come in costume, but toy weapons are prohibited.
4-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 5-27. 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa. Included with admission: $34.95, $25.95 for ages 3-11; when you "pay for a day," you also get entry for the rest of the calendar year. Or you can get an
after-4 p.m. ticket for $24.95. (813) 935-8552. zootampa.org.
Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends
at Busch Gardens
It’s fuzzy monsters by day and much scarier ones at night at Busch Gardens. For a second year, the Tampa theme park is offering Halloween fun from Sesame Street for the little ones every weekend in October. You’ll find a parade of Sesame Street characters, trick-or-treating, crafts and games. New this year is a Not-Too-Spooky Howl-O-Ween Radio Show starring Count von Count that debuts Oct. 6. All guests are welcome to dress up in costumes, but only those 12 and younger are allowed to wear masks.
11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 6-28. 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. Unlike Howl-O-Scream, this is included with admission; $79.99 at buschgardens.com. (813) 884-4386.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Disney’s party at the Magic Kingdom got started the earliest — in mid-August! — and runs select nights through Halloween. It’s popular with both adults and kids because it’s the one time of year you can show up at the Magic Kingdom in costume. New this year are live pirates popping up in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, not just the animatronic ones. There are some psychedelic-looking lights and smoke added to the Mad Tea Party teacup ride. And Space Mountain gets the nerve-rattling change of going from pretty dark to totally pitch black. There are loads of treat stations. The popular Boo-to-You parade is stocked with Disney villains and a fireworks show features lots of classic villain songs.
Insider tip: The party starts at 7 p.m., but you can arrive as early as 4. Select nights through Oct. 31, including Friday and Sunday this week. $85-$125; peaks on Halloween night, which often sells out. (407) 934-7639. disneyworld.disney.go.com.
SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular
Held on weekends starting this Saturday Sept. 22, both kids and adults are allowed to show up in costumes for SeaWorld’s seasonal event (although only those 12 and younger are allowed to wear masks). You’ll find a Halloween Dance Party and the Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween stage show, meet sea-inspired characters in the Mermaid Grotto, see a trained animal show called Pets Ahoy Halloween and go trick-or-treating in the park. (In the park’s war on plastic bags, guests are urged to bring a reusable treat bag or Halloween bucket from home, or buy one there for 99 cents.)
Starts at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 28. Included with park admission, $79.99 online. On Spooktacular event days, children between the ages of 3 and 9 get in free with an adult single-day ticket. Toll-free 1-(800) 327-2424. seaworldparks.com/spooktacular.
This spooky, kooky event on weekends throughout October features a treat trail, a scavenger hunt and larger-than-life Lego models such as a giant jack-o-lantern and a Lego hearse, as well as Halloween-themed fireworks. You can meet a Lego Mummy or Vampyre and other characters. They also will offer pumpkin spice Apple Fries, dirt cups, spooky trail mix and other festive treats.
Runs weekends Oct. 6-28 and also Halloween night, though there are no fireworks that night. Included with admission: $75, $65 seniors/ages 3-12, 2 and younger free. Toll-free 1-877-350-5346. legoland.com/florida.