Boo at the Zoo captures spirit of Halloween

Candy-time: Boo at the Zoo is a sweet event, no matter which age. These scary witches entertained and handed out candy to any daring children brave enough to stop by.

Steven Dennis

The city of Topeka is looking spooky this time of year. 

The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center kicks off its annual Boo at the Zoo, the largest trick-or-treating Halloween party in Topeka. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 at the Topeka Zoo. 

Shanna Simpson, animal care supervisor of The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, said the event allows the Topeka community to celebrate Halloween with their families safely. 

“Vendors from all over Topeka come,” Simpson said. “They have tables and they hand out candy, coupons and fun stuff from their businesses. There are bounce houses and a hay maze, too. It’s like a family trick-or-treat kind of event at the zoo.”

Stepping inside the gates of the zoo, guests are welcomed by festive booths such as members of The American Cancer Society dressed in witch’s costumes, an actor in a Shrek costume dispensing goodies to kids and a sea of young trick-or-treaters looking for a fun time at the zoo.

Simpson said that local vendors are eager to engage in the community event.

“There are a bunch of people who participate in the event,” Simpson said. “Papa Murphy’s [hands out pizza here,] there is Chucky Cheese, there is St. Francis … There are over 40 different businesses from all over Topeka. We have been doing this for over 10 years. It is in the last two Saturdays in October. [It has gotten so big] that we had to move it to two days.”

Kate Larison, executive of Friends of the Topeka Zoo, said that the zoo attracts massive crowds for the spirited event each year.

“Typically, we draw around thirteen to fifteen thousand people here for the two Saturdays and we look forward to it every year,” Larison said. “It’s our highest attendance day of the year.”

To aid in the traffic and parking while construction is completed around Gage Park, this year the Topeka Zoo has partnered with Topeka Metro to bring free shuttle services to from the zoo. It is important to the zoo that they make the event better and more accessible each year.

“The zoo is always looking at opportunities to have different events and reach out to different audiences,” Larison said. “This (event) is one that we have done for years and years. It brings families out to the zoo on a beautiful fall day and they can enjoy some safe trick-or-treating for the kiddos and at the same time see the animals and enjoy the activities that are going on.”

The zoo itself was decorated for the occasion, too. Thick cobwebs encased trees and pumpkins dotted the lawns. Radio stations set up shop, too, so that guests could hear their stations live. 

In addition to the decorations and vendors making the grounds festive, there were special events for the zoo animals as well. 

“We will give the animals pumpkins and special fall treats,” Simpson said. “So whenever people are walking around they could see a bear eating a pumpkin.”

For those interested in attending Boo at the Zoo, admission is $5.75 for adults and $4.25 for children. For more information, visit