“Harry Potter” Takes On HallowZOOeen
Joss and I went to HallowZOOeen 2021 Saturday afternoon. The last (and only) time we’d gone was a couple years ago, pre-pandemic. That night, as we drove away, I was shocked to see how backed up the cars were. They well overflowed the Zoo’s parking lot, and were lined up probably half a mile down the street leading up to the Zoo. It was chaotic enough I thought, “Maybe one HallowZOOeen is enough for our family.” But this year, the Zoo added afternoon time slots. And since we were overdue for a Zoo visit with some friends, we went back!
I love his costume so much!
Show Up Early
First, I am a fan of the afternoon time slot offered in HallowZOOeen 2021. We showed up at about 12:30 p.m. for the 1 p.m. ticket time. The afternoon options for 2021 are 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23-24 and 30-31. Of course, my plan was to avoid any parking frustrations. So I was pleased to see a half-empty lot when we arrived. It was easy to find a pull-through parking slot. We got in line at the entrance gates. If you’ve been to the Zoo, showing up 30 minutes early got us a spot in line near the tiger statue. Over the next 30 minutes, we watched the line grow longer and longer behind us. Thankfully, Joss enjoyed playing on the tiger statue and making friends, so it wasn’t a difficult wait.
Harry and Hermione
Joss was dressed as Harry Potter. So the cutest thing was watching him befriend a Hufflepuff girl while we waited in line. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Joss was being very expressive and excited. And he got a lot of compliments on his costume, which was really nice for him 🙂
Pros (and Cons) of the Afternoon Time Slot
Getting to do HallowZOOeen in the afternoon means that the animals are still out and about! Now, there are enough HallowZOOeen activities that we were easily there from 1-4 p.m. And we honestly didn’t do a lot of extra animal sight-seeing. There’s just so much HallowZOOeen stuff to do! But you could still see the animals as you walked by, which was really nice. So I think that is one of the primary benefits. The most obvious “pro” is for parents of kids with an earlier bedtime. We were back home by 5 p.m., with plenty of time for a relaxing dinner and movie night.
She was pretty sleepy, but we finally got to see baby Dara!
The cons to going earlier in the day are 1) you lose a bit of the spooky factor that arises after dusk. And 2) It can be warm! Joss and I both took off our Hogwarts robes mid-way through the visit. Which means, of course, that I got to carry some extra gear in addition to a rapidly-growing-heavier trick-or-treat bucket. At one point, I was carrying his candy bag, two robes, a bottle of water and a bottle of gatorade, plus my phone. When I put everything down for a minute, realized that my arm was getting really sore! All that to say: A backpack may be a good idea, and try to dress for the weather!
Had to stop for a photo with the Gryffindor lion
All in all, though, I’d still pick the afternoon over the evening time slot, at least for the next couple of years. Since I complained about parking earlier, it was still a little hectic getting out of the lot, but not bad. People were very considerate as far as letting you pull out in front of them so you didn’t get stuck for long.
Trick or Treating
If you’ve never been to HallowZOOeen, it’s fantastic. Local businesses sponsor “Goblin Stops,” which are located throughout the Zoo. Each (at least this year) was outfitted with two “candy chutes,” to help with Covid safety.
In case you’re wondering, wide-mouth bags are better for the candy chutes! Joss’s candy kept landing on the ground!
In addition to the Goblin Stops, there are four themed play areas. The most memorable is probably the QuikTrip Pirate Island, with its giant pirate ship! You can board the pirate ship, but also enjoy some easy games and other activities that are lining the path around it.
New this year was the Andy B’s Arachnid Arcade, complete with spider photo op and other games/activities. Since Joss has been a bit scared of spiders lately, it was nice to see a colorful, friendly one. He seemed to enjoy it!
Other themed zones are the Burger King Royal Castle, where you can meet princesses and have a dance party. And the Insurica Pumpkin Patch Playroom, complete with a hay bale maze, games, hula hoops, and mini pumpkins you could take home.
A nice educational component is the Tulsa Zoo’s Education stop. We got to meet the sweetest owl and ask questions about him. Apparently, he is so friendly and curious, he really enjoys doing events like this! There was also a table of touch-and-feel rocks and minerals, and some animal skeletons as well. Zoo volunteers talked about the Cox Nature Exchange, where Zoo visitors can trade in natural items like rocks and fossils. When you bring in an item, you get points that can accumulate, so you can choose another item at some point to take home.
The Haunted Train is an additional $5, and is not too scary. We did this first thing, but after walking around for a couple hours, I wondered if we should have waited till we needed a break! It takes you on a round trip through the Zoo, past several spooky scenes, like a mad scientist lab, cemetery, etc.
Reservations are required for HallowZOOeen. Zoo member tickets are $9, and non-member tickets are $18. Kids 3 and under get in free. Add-ons include the Haunted Train, Scary-Go-Round ($1), and of course any food you might like. I’d recommend bringing your own water, as a bottle of Aquafina at the Zoo costs $4! Which we definitely needed, as it was so warm. Naturally, I left the bottle of water I’d filled at home in the car.
Remaining HallowZOOeen dates for 2021 are Friday, Oct. 29, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, 1-4 p.m. Reserve your tickets at tulsazoo.org/zoo-events/hallowzooeen.
Being overdramatic, but genuinely tired after three hours of walking!