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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Spooktacular fun: Tucson’s annual Boo at the Zoo returns

Halloween scene at Reid Park Zoo obtained Oct. 20, the opening night of Boo at the Zoo. A giant skeleton stands amidst a graveyard lit up by colorful lights. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Carr)

Even though the temperatures haven’t quite cooled down, families in Tucson eagerly anticipate a beloved Halloween tradition: Reid Park Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo event is back, promising a thrilling educational experience for visitors of all ages. This enchanting event, held against the backdrop of the zoo’s animal habitats, offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the spooky season while learning about the world’s incredible wildlife.

As the sun sets, the zoo takes on a different kind of enchantment. People enter the gates and are immediately greeted by a dazzling light display timed to the festive music playing in the background. 

Skeletons and ghouls are lined up everywhere, guiding visitors to the Fall Festive area of the zoo, which includes a hay maze and games, such as cornhole and find the needle in the haystack. This transformation into a nocturnal wonderland adds a layer of excitement to an already thrilling event. 

“Boo at the Zoo has a bit of a reputation, so people are looking for it. They are excited about it,” said Chelo Grubb, marketing and communications supervisor. 

Visitors can wander the zoo’s pathways, stopping at designated treat stations to collect sweets and learn more about the creatures that call Reid Park Zoo home. The trick-or-treat adventure offers a chance to engage with volunteers while enjoying the sugary delights of the season. 

Families walk down Reid Park Zoo path on Oct. 20, while the trees are lit with colorful string lights. Skeletons wearing costumes are set along the path. (Talia Doninger)

“It is just a fun time at the zoo where they might get a glimpse of an animal now and then but [it’s] more about seeing characters and getting to walk around in their costumes,” said Nancy Kluge, president and CEO for Reid Park Zoo.

The event supports the numerous education, outreach and conservation programs at the zoo. The proceeds also go towards animal care and other extensive zoo operations.

Boo at the Zoo underscores the importance of wildlife conservation. It provides an opportunity for Reid Park Zoo to share its dedication to preserving and protecting the world’s diverse animal species. Visitors can learn about the zoo’s conservation efforts, encouraging a sense of responsibility and stewardship. 

“Even though it’s a fun Halloween event, we were able to sneak in some opportunities to teach others about the amazing animals here at Reid Park Zoo and around the world. To spread conservation messages on what they can do easily at home to protect the animals,” said Deborah Carr, director of marketing and events. “It might be reducing the use of plastic or recycling, but in the case of Boo at the Zoo, it’s buying and distributing candy that does not contain palm oil.”

The emphasis on palm oil-free candy comes as a response to the alarming environmental and social impacts of palm oil production. Palm oil is widely used in the food industry, but its production has been associated with deforestation, habitat destruction and threats to endangered species.

Boo at the Zoo has many volunteers, including a few University of Arizona School of Dance students who participated in dressing up in festive costumes.

“One of the key parts to making this event so successful is the volunteer characters. People like the pirates group, the Star Wars characters, as well as the Marvel characters that are out there,” Carr said. 

Visitors aren’t the only ones having fun this Halloween season. 

“Our animals get enrichment every single day to make their environment interesting and give them something new to explore. Every day they walk into their habitat, there’s what looks like what’s out there. We do a lot of seasonal enrichment, too. In the fall, that means pumpkins,” Grubb said.

“We are very grateful to our community for coming out to Boo at the Zoo and all of our past events,” Kluge said. 

You still have time to attend Boo at the Zoo in its last weekend of the season Friday, Oct. 27, through Sunday, Oct. 29, from 6-7 p.m. Zoo members get in earlier at 5:30 p.m. Find more info, including ticket pricing, at

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