Admit it, sometimes the bar scene feels a little tired. Well, in steps Happy Hollow Foundation’s Hoot & Howl, a party more or less guaranteed to be a zoo.

Celebrating its fifth year Saturday, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo will transform just before twilight into an adults-only playground for one of Silicon Valley’s more unusual charity galas. Animals will emerge from their cages (handled by professionals) and mingle with guests throughout the night as drinks flow and people groove across a neon-lit dance floor.

“It’s like sneaking into the park after dark,” says Heather Lerner, Happy Hollow Foundation’s executive director. “A childhood fantasy of a night at a museum.”

The party has already hit last year’s cap of 700 tickets sold, but about 200 still remain. Proceeds go toward funding a reptile and amphibian house, one of the most popular requests from guests.

The event begins with guests taking a path through a tunnel that’s part of the Danny the Dragon ride. Visitors creep through the service yard, a normally restricted area piled with maintenance equipment, and are led through a long tunnel that flashes with blacklight, glow paint and glitter. Appropriately, the light at the end of the tunnel is a drink.

Guests will be served signature cocktails such as “The Valley’s Delight” and “Lemur’s Lemondrops,” the latter of which is a custom cocktail that triple-blends fresh lemon juice and vodka. With five open bars, visitors can take their pick from fine wine to dessert shots.

“It does not look like Happy Hollow in the daytime,” Lerner says. “It’s transformed for one night only and feels like a wonderland. The roller coaster, the puppet castle, your favorites from childhood—we transform that into a party space.”

Of course, many of the animals aren’t left out of the fun. In the past, animal professionals have carried around lemurs to shake—and lick—hands. Spike the alligator has also made appearances, sometimes sauntering around on a leash or retiring on a table. There have also been skunks, bald eagles, a porcupine and even a venomous slow loris named Mr. Lee.

“Animal care and handling is a priority, and making sure guests have an engaging, up-close personal experience is great for the species,” Lerner says.

Among the anticipated entertainment is Happy Hollow zookeeper and recurring Coachella performer John Beaver, who will DJ at the dance floor.

Lerner says many young adults who don’t have kids think they’ve outgrown the zoo, and Hoot & Howl intends to act as an aide-memoire.

“It’s fun to see grown-ups become alive again and remember those memories,” she says.

Hoot & Howl
1300 Senter Rd., San Jose
Sat., Sept. 12, $175.