Halloween celebrations kicked off Wednesday evening at the Riverbanks Zoo.
Boo at the Zoo is an annual 11-night event that has been a staple at the zoo for 18 years. It debuted in 2003 and is still going strong, according to Susan O’Cain, director of communications at Riverbanks Zoo.
“It’s just a fun time for everyone to come out. A family-friendly event for everyone to enjoy around Halloween,” O’Cain said.
Boo at the Zoo runs through October 30, and the event is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every night. Kids and adults can come in costume and enjoy the zoo in the evening, after regular park hours. It has a multitude of activities for all ages.
The event includes trick-or-treating, the Eeky Freaky DJ dance party, multiple photo opportunities and more. For an additional fee, attendees can also ride the Spooky Spots n’ Stripes Railroad, go around on the Haunted Carousel and roast marshmallows at two different fire pit areas.
Roger Wolfe, a regular attendee of Boo at the Zoo, has been to the event eight times in the last few years. Wolfe said he enjoys the opportunity to bring his family to have fun.
“Bringing the kids and letting them enjoy the animals or enjoy getting the candy and just all around experiencing the lights and everything out here. It’s fun and lets them have fun,” Wolfe said.
This year attendees can expect to see new inflatables, decorations and a giant jack-o-lantern greeting them at the event.
Stephanie Abdalla and her 11-year-old daughter, Ava, arrived in costume ready to have some fun.
“We haven’t been to Boo at the Zoo since she was little and we are meeting friends here, so we are just excited to get outside and see our friends,” Stephanie Abdalla said.
“I just want candy,” her daughter, Ava Abdalla, said.
Ava got her wish from several candy stations throughout the zoo. Each station is run by local volunteers and sponsors. The two main sponsors for this event are Food Lion and Lysol. Kids are strongly encouraged to bring their own reusable candy bags for conservation purposes.
Not all of the animals will be available for viewing during the after-hours event. According to the zoo website, "while you may spot a few night owls during Boo at the Zoo, most of our residents will be off-exhibit to catch some zzz’s.”
Wednesday evening, attendees were able to see sleeping bears, lions, otters and a few other animals.
The Zoo recommends purchasing your tickets online because of capacity limitations, and refunds are not available because the event occurs rain or shine. Tickets are $12 for Riverbanks Zoo members and $14 for the general public. Children two and under will be admitted free with an adult ticket. Any unsold tickets can be bought at the gates for $16.
Visitors of the event can also expect things to look a little more like they did pre-pandemic. Capacity is still limited this year, but the zoo is no longer using its time ticketing procedures. City of Columbia’s mask ordinances are in effect, meaning masks will be required at any indoor stations throughout the zoo. Visitors are not required to wear a mask outdoors if social distancing is possible. More information can be found on the zoo’s website.