For those who prefer Halloween evenings to be a little less Nightmare on Elm Street and a little more Casper the Friendly Ghost, the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo has created a spooky adventure for attendees of all ages. Creatures of the Night has haunted the zoo on Friday and Saturday nights throughout October and emerges at dusk for one last time this year Saturday.
“Creatures of the Night is a Halloween-themed children-centered event in which the whole zoo is decorated in Halloween decorations, and there are actors dressed up in costumes like werewolves and scarecrows,” said Josie Knieriemen, a junior majoring in animal biology, who worked the event last year. “Families are welcomed, as well as adults looking for a not-so-scary but fun Halloween event, and candy is given out to the children as well at various trick-or-treat stations.”
Working at Creatures of the Night took nothing away from enjoying the event itself. During her eerie evenings, Knieriemen had multiple tasks that took place across the zoo and allowed Knieriemen to see every goblin and ghoul that made their way through the event.
“When I worked during the Creatures shifts, I had my own bubble cart that was mobile around the park and I sold bubble wands to families,” Knieriemen said. “On occasion, I worked in the main gift shop in front of the park selling stuffed animals and other souvenirs.”
Filled with thrilling turns and fun frights, Knieriemen has become a true fan of the yearly event. Thanks to convenient dates and cheaper prices compared to amusement parks, Knieriemen’s enthusiasm is shared with visitors.
“I would definitely recommend the event to people, especially to families and to people that are drawn to events that have the seasonal feel, but are less scary,” Knieriemen said. “It’s a lot of fun, pretty cheap, and a cool experience seeing the zoo transform into the spooky atmosphere that Creatures of the Night provides.”
For first-time goers, the adventure can be a little unprecedented. With blood-soaked sights of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and twisted thoughts of Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens swirling in Halloween fans’ minds, what’s left for those holiday enthusiasts with a milder stomach?
“I attended Creatures of the Night on Oct. 19 with a family I know, so two young kids and their mom. I had never been to the zoo in Tampa so I was not sure what to expect, but I was very excited,” said Resa Barold, a senior majoring in communications of science disorders. “I can say I was not disappointed at all. There was so much to do there and everyone was so friendly. I was there for about two hours and I never left the kids zone because they packed it full of characters dancing and taking pictures.”
Attendees can come in costume, something most other amusement parks do not allow. Animal costumes seem to be a common favorite to blend in with the zoo’s permanent guests.
At the food stations, a monstrous “Beast Burger” is available for all those in need of a pick-me-up after all the jumps and squeals. For those with a much more vicious hunger, a bigger and spicier burger was put out last year called the “Revenge of the Beast Burger.”
Leaving satisfyingly spooked and still tactfully in one piece, Barhold will have to return to the zoo during daylight hours to see all that was left to behold. It will be a trip she’ll have to squeeze in before finishing her final year.
“I will most definitely be going back to see the rest of the zoo animals another time because there was no shortage of activities at Creatures of the Night and there is something for everyone.” Barhold said.