Zoos and botanical gardens find Halloween programs are a hit, and an opportunity


Enormous warty pumpkins. Carnivorous plants. Immersive arachnid displays. Slithering snakes and fluttering bats. And illuminated displays of hundreds, or thousands, of ornately carved jack-o’-lanterns.
Zoos and botanical gardens have become increasingly popular Halloween destinations. Their haunting array of natural installations and spooky events provide a fun addition, or alternative, to traditional trick-or-treating.
They also are a teachable moment, naturalists and conservationists say.
“Fall is a celebration of the natural world, so Halloween and botanical gardens are an organic pairing,” says Michaela Wright, manager of interpretive content at the New York Botanical Garden, where October is “Fall-o-Ween.” The garden’s Halloween offerings began with a haunted greenhouse tour about 50 years ago, she says, “and it continues to evolve and expand.”
This image released by the New York Botanical Garden shows professional pumpkin carver Adam Bierton at the New York Botanical Garden in New York on Sept. 16, 2023. Botanical gardens and zoos across the country have become go-to destinations for Halloween. They aim to be fun, while also inspiring kids to learn about nature. (Ben Hider/New York Botanical Garden via AP)
This year, there’s a Halloween pumpkin patch that includes exotic heritage varieties in blues, pinks and other surprising colors, in addition to varieties covered in warts. Master pumpkin carver Adam Bierton, a sculptor from Rochester, New York, known for his life-like jack-o’-lanterns, hosts weekend pumpkin-carving events. And of course there is the annual display of giant pumpkins, some weighing in at well over 2,000 pounds each.
At the Chicago Botanic Garden, the “Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns” features elaborately painted and carved pumpkins, along with costumed entertainers, pumpkin-carving demos, and festive food. The garden’s online adult education classes include one on “Ghoulish Plants and Folklore,



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