YOUR GUIDE TO ZOOTAMPA’S CREATURES OF THE NIGHT HALLOWEEN EVENT
Wondering if ZooTampa’s Creatures of the Night is worth a visit? Below we share our experience taking our kids to Creatures of the Night, the Halloween event that takes place at ZooTampa each weekend in October.
We are two local moms who write about kid-friendly happenings in the St. Pete-Clearwater area. We also had different reviews of the Creatures of the Night event and we wanted to share both to give you a balanced review of the event.
Overall, Creatures of the Night was so much fun for Malena and her elementary ages kids. Elizabeth went with toddlers and the event was more of a miss for her age kids.
Below you’ll find our reviews, plus some important things to know before visiting Creatures of the Night for the first time.
Let’s get spooky!
What is Creatures of the Night at ZooTampa?
Creatures of the Night is ZooTampa’s annual Halloween event. It takes place after-hours on weekend nights throughout the month of October.
I felt like I couldn’t get a good sense of what the event really was from the zoo’s website. Basically, they decorate and theme sections of the zoo to be “spooky” in a family friendly way.
For example, the carousel was themed around “clowns” and the tunnel to get to the Africa section was “troll themed.” In each area, there are actors in costumes milling about to add to the experience.
They also have experiences and activities such as:
- A haunted house
- Pumpkin smashes throughout the night
- Evening zoo keeper talks (e.g. saying “goodnight” to the Okapi with an education talk about Okapis)
- Dance party sections with characters
- Hay bale maze
Each section of the zoo has a sign at the entrance to tell you how scary the section is, as pictured below. The haunted house is the scariest part and is a separate entrance line, so you won’t accidentally end up in a too-scary section.
There are also special Halloween-themed food items throughout the zoo.
You also get to experience the zoo at night and they add light shows to the decorations as well. The whole thing definitely has more of a vibe once it gets dark.
NOTE: Creatures of the Night isn’t the best time to “see the zoo.” You’ll see animals, for sure, but there’s a lot to do and crowds that make the animals secondary to the Halloween stuff. We recommend getting a pay-for-a-day ticket and coming back to focus on the animals on another visit.
Malena’s Creatures of the Night Review
Malena and her kids love going to Creatures of the Night every year. Two of her kids are elementary-aged, which are great ages for this event.
Some of their favorite parts include:
- Pumpkin smashing demonstrations
- Blacklight scavenger hunt
- Maze with jokes
If you’re staying after dark, get glow-stick bracelets or necklaces to put on your kids. This is what we do and it helps you most easily spot your kids in the crowds.
Elizabeth’s Creatures of the Night Review
I went to Creatures of the Night on a Sunday night in the middle of October. Our kids had just turned 2 and 4 so they are little.
While we appreciated all the effort and detail that ZooTampa puts into this event, it wasn’t the best fit for our toddler-aged kids.
Here are some things that made this event less of a win for our toddler-aged kids:
COSTUMES & CREATURES
Our kids just didn’t really understand the “creatures” in costume all over the zoo. They were too young to get the whole idea of the event, so they seemed more dazed & confused the whole time instead of excited.
If your kid gets scared of costumes, this event will also be challenging. The creatures did a very nice job of reading the room and being very friendly with our little kids. However, our two-year still got scared a few times, especially if she was taken by surprised by a costumed-character.
For the littlest kids, the night timing for Creatures of the Night can be tough. I felt like my kids would most enjoy the light shows and interactive light displays (such as the one pictured below), but they are obviously best after dark.
In October, sunset is around 7pm which is about bedtime for our kids. With all the stimulation, they were definitely ready to head home by 7:30 which just didn’t give much time to enjoy the night vibe.
The crowds were tough with our toddlers. It felt very busy and it some parts were tough to navigate with all the people.
If you can swing going to the event without a stroller, you’ll have an easier time in the crowds. We definitely ran into some bottlenecks with our double stroller.
Overall, a lot of the event felt a little more stressful than fun for our toddler-aged kids. That said, it’s really nice that our tickets will still be good next year so we can try again at next year’s event.
Things to know before you go to Creatures of the Night
Grab a map
Don’t forget to pick up a map of the event when you enter the zoo (if you don’t want to download their app).
The map is the best way to know where everything is during the event and has the schedule of animal talks, pumpkin smashing. It also has descriptions and scariness-levels of all the themed-areas.
We found parking to be confusing and a little frustrating on our visit. The main parking lot was full by the time we arrived at 4:30, but there weren’t obvious signs right away that there is an overflow parking lot.
You have to drive passed the main parking lot to the front of the zoo before you see the signs directing you to the overflow parking lot. The overflow lot is to the right of the zoo entrance and across the street.
We were among many cars who were circling the main parking lot not realizing about the overflow lot. If the lot seems full, save yourself time and head to the overflow lot directly.
Plan for the food lines to get long, especially as the crowds get bigger later in the evening.
Since everyone is given their $5 reservation deposit back as zoo vouchers, pretty much everyone is buying food at some point in the night.
If you have little kids that may get feed-me-right-now hungry, you’ll definitely want to pack snacks. We also got food early in the night when we saw a shorter line.
We had different experiences with crowds at Creatures of the Night. Malena visited on the first weekend the event was open at the end of September and the crowds were fine.
Elizabeth went in the middle of October and felt that the crowds were heavy. The crowd got heavier as the night progressed and there were sections of walkways that were tricky to navigate with a stroller.
Saturday is the busiest night for the event, per ZooTampa’s Facebook page.
ZooTampa has a Pay-for-the-Day ticket model where you buy a ticket and can return all year for free. Pay-for-the-Day tickets or membership get you free entry in Creatures of the Night.
We highly recommend getting the pay-for-the-day ticket over Creatures of the Night-only ticket, since it is only $12 more and gets you entry all year.
Plus, when you buy either a Pay-For-The-Day ticket or Zoo Membership in October, you actually get 15-months of Zoo entry so it is definitely worth the small extra cost.
To reserve your Creatures of the Night spot, you have to put down a $5 deposit per person but you are receive it back as a voucher at to spend on food or merchandise when you arrive.
We think you’ll get the most bang for your buck for Creatures of the Night if you have elementary aged kids or older.
ZooTampa makes efforts to have sections for the littlest kids, like a dance party area and fun lights you can stomp on the ground.
However, my toddlers (just turned 2 and 4) seemed mostly confused by the creatures —and one time very scared of a clown). The event and the crowds were also overwhelming for them at times. They just didn’t seem old enough to appreciate the event.
The timing is also hard with little kid bedtime since it doesn’t get dark in October until after 7. Some of the best parts for toddlers would be the light displays but they are obviously better in the dark.
Check out our ultimate list of Halloween events in St. Pete-Clearwater