A single Halloween pumpkin is cute; group a few together and they can be giggle-worthy or gruesome, depending on the carver’s muse. Gather and alight 5,000 pumpkins on the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Wetlands Trail, however, and there’s really only one word to adequately describe the scene: spectacular.
The annual Jack O Lantern Spectacular has returned to the zoo to chill and charm thousands of visitors who walk among the hoard of gourds lighting the night between now and Nov. 6. Quirky and clever “skits” have become a mainstay of the Halloween display, and this year is no exception: look for pumpkins arranged in a tribute to the Peanuts’ “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” as well as artistic designs paying tribute to rock legends (Buddy Holly) and sports heroes (Ted Williams, Tom Brady).
A mind-boggling 20,000 pumpkins are carved and crafted each year for the show — most last only about a week, so the thousands on display at any moment are constantly being replaced. This year’s show features 18 themed skits and about 130 large detailed pumpkins, each sketched with permanent marker on skins hollowed out so thin that light can easily shine through. These large display pumpkins can weigh up to 300 pounds before carving, and you’ll also see a thousand-pound monster sitting under the spooky tree at the end of the trail.
Tickets for the Jack O Lantern Spectacular are sold online or at the zoo gates (online only for weekend nights). Weeknight tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children under 12; add $3 for weekend tickets, which will be sold only in advance and on a timed-entry basis to cut down on crowding and line-waiting. The trail opens at 5:30 every night and closes at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.