While the gory settings and graphic makeup at the special Halloween events now underway get lots of attention, there are also many nightmare-free options for those with little ones.
They can get an early jump on trick-or-treating and dressing up in costumes while they enjoy parades, shows, story times and Halloween-themed fireworks.
Here are some of the milder adventures that feature more treats than tricks.
Spooktacular at Busch Gardens
The Tampa theme park is decked out for Halloween, but it’s not just for the after-hours Howl-O-Scream scare fest. Spooktacular is included with daytime admission on weekends through the end of October, and even on Monday and Tuesday of Halloween week, for a not-so-spooky Halloween party for children. Kids 13 and younger are welcome to dress up in costumes (though be warned that face painting is not permitted on any guests unless it is done by park artists).
There will be trick-or-treating, a costume parade, story time and Spooky Kooky Science with Professor Pufflemintz. That runs from noon to 4 p.m. at the Festival Walkway, and also in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun zone, where they will have a Halloween Show, meet-and-greets with favorite Muppet characters in their Halloween costumes and a Halloween dance party. Tickets start at $94.99, but there is currently a deal that lets you buy next year’s Fun Card ($131.99) and get these last months of the year for free. Busch Gardens, 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. 813-884-4386. buschgardens.com.
Creatures of the Night
ZooTampa at Lowry Park calls its Halloween party “family frights without the bite.” Running weekends starting Sept. 29, this year’s event features “elder vampires” Count Chirop and his wife, Countess Tera. They will invite you to their Vampire Ball where fun and dancing are encouraged. Storybook villains have been set up in what they call Eerie Realms immersed in Halloween decor. Some of the spookier animals like tarantulas will be brought out for chats with the animal care team. There will also be themed food and drinks.
Children 12 and younger are free to wear costumes, though toy weapons are prohibited. Running weekends 4-10 p.m. starting Sept. 29. ZooTampa members and those with a Pay for a Day ticket get free admission; otherwise $34.95 after 4 p.m. 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. 813-935-8552. zootampa.org/creatures.
Brick or Treat
Legoland in Winter Haven brings back its monster party with trick-or-treating throughout the park, holiday-themed Lego creations and character appearances, a special soundtrack and lighting on the Dragon Party Coaster, a funny 4D movie “The Great Monster Chase” and a new fireworks display. Unlike other parks, both parents and kids are invited to don a costume and even join the costume parade in Miniland, USA at 4 p.m. It runs on select days Sept. 16-Oct. 29 (note that it skips some weekend days, so check the website) running from 1 p.m. to the 8 p.m. fireworks show. Tickets start at $84, and there’s a new seasonal pass that allows unlimited admission through Christmas Day for $119. 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven. 888-690-5346. legoland.com/florida.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Walt Disney World’s family party at the Magic Kingdom is not included with regular admission to the park, but many of its nights are sold out because it has the appeal of lighter crowds, lots of candy stations and a special parade and fireworks show starring Disney villains. It runs on select nights through Nov. 1 from 7 p.m. to midnight, but ticket holders can get into the park early at 4 p.m.
It’s also the only time of year you can wear a costume in the park. Checking out the elaborate costumes by the fans is half the fun. Live entertainment includes the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” hosted by the mischievous Sanderson sisters from the “Hocus Pocus” movies, as well as appearances from a variety of Disney villains. Tickets are $159-$199. 1515 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. 407-934-7639. disneyworld.disney.go.com.
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Similar to Busch Gardens, this sister theme park also has kid-friendly daytime activities including a trick-or-treat trail.
There’s also a Sesame Street Halloween Parade, story time, Halloween mermaids, a scavenger hunt, fall crafts, a Scarecrow Halloween Dance Party and a costume contest for those under 13. Tickets start at $94.99, but there is currently a deal that lets you buy next year’s Fun Card ($131.99) and get these last months of the year for free. seaworld.com/orlando.