Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo
**UPDATED AUGUST 2018** Every October the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI hosts a Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular for Halloween. The event gives you the chance to walk the zoo trails in the dark and marvel at over 5,000 illuminated pumpkins in various sizes and themes.
Brandon and I have gone to the Jack O Lantern Spectacular four times. 2013’s theme was the 50 states and for 2014 it was an alphabet theme. On top of the new theme for each year the carvers also display pumpkins with celebrities and other iconic figures that made headlines that year. Many of them were in memory of a celebrity’s passing. The first time we went in 2011 there was a pumpkin of Steve Jobs and this year there was one of Robin Williams.
The theme for 2018 is magic so expect to see anything from fairies and wizards to legendary superheroes. They’re also introducing an amazing new zipride where you can view Providence from 115 feet in the air!
The trail takes about 45 minutes to walk, longer if you stop often to admire the pumpkins. It opens up at 6 pm and closes at 11 pm so you can expect to be walking along the trails in the dark. Aside from the jack-o-lanterns and the moon there is no other light which is awesome for effect but can make walking difficult for children and senior citizens. Go slowly!
It is very very crowded when the gates first open, full of families with young children who want to see the pumpkins but also need to be in bed at a reasonable hour. If you’re not one of those families I suggest waiting until after 8 pm to view the pumpkins. The trails will be much less crowded and you will have a better experience.
Strollers are allowed on the trail but the zoo doesn’t have any available for rent in the evenings so bring your own. I recommend bringing a small umbrella stroller instead of the bulky jogging stroller that we used. With so many people on the trail it’s hard to maneuver a large stroller, especially in the dark.
At the beginning of the trail you can opt to have your photo taken. You’re given a ticket to view and purchase it at the end of your journey. The zoo made a great effort to make this a family friendly event so thrill seekers might find the trail a little underwhelming. At the end of the trail is the Laughing Tree, the grand finale of the whole spectacular. There are small pumpkins hanging in the tree, giant pumpkins on the ground that spew fog and spooky music playing.
The Verdict: The zoo has recently started offering tiered pricing for its tickets, up to $18 for adults on Prime Nights (i.e. weekends). Still, it’s a fair price for such a popular attraction. It’s also an event you can attend every year without feeling like you’re seeing the same old things over and over again.
When to Go: The Spectacular is held from October 4 to November 4 for 2018. The least crowded days are Monday through Wednesday, Halloween night and all the nights following it. If you really hate crowds or have kids who can handle staying up super late, go after 8 pm. If you want to make a day trip of it, visit the zoo in the afternoon (they close at 4 pm), head into Providence for some dinner and then be back around 5:30 to get in line.
Other Tips and Tricks: Bring layers with you because while the weather may be mild when you first get to the zoo it can get rather chilly an hour later. After all, this is Rhode Island in October. Also, if you bring your camera PLEASE don’t be that obnoxious person that uses their flash on the trail. Having dozens of flash cameras go off in the dark does not make for a pleasant walk.
Child Friendly? Yes but it depends on the temperament of your child. Stink did fine as a baby but as a toddler she was scared of the spooky music and dark trails. Distractions help if they get scared so bring a toy for them to play with until you get to a less-scary part of the trail. Kids are also encouraged to come in their Halloween costumes!
Pet Friendly? No
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