Where to Celebrate Halloween in DC: Parties, Film Specials, and Kid-Friendly Fun

More than 20 costume parties, children’s events, scary movie screenings, and more in the definitive guide to All Hallow's Eve.

By: Laura Wainman


Don your best neon for the W Hotel’s ’80s Halloween Bash, where DJ Oz and surprise guest artists blast ’80s remixes all night. Costumes are required to attend, and you’re going to want to bring your A-game: The best costume wins a sleepover package at the W, including Champagne and breakfast in bed. Did we mention you’ll be dancing to benefit Fido (human attendees only please), as a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Fashion for Paws? The party’s on the P.O.V. rooftop from 8 PM to 3 AM. Tickets ($40) can be purchased through Eventfarm.

Be forewarned: You may have a nightmare hangover after you join 9,000 of your closest friends for the Nightmare on M Street bar crawl. Enjoy $2 Coors Lights, $3 Blue Moons and Red Bulls, and $4 Bacardi drinks at more than 27 downtown DC bars, including Madhatter, Rumors, and Dirty Martini. Hit McFadden’s at midnight for an exclusive costume contest and be on the lookout for the 6,000 specialty beer steins being given away at select bars. The fun lasts from 5 PM to 1 AM, but you must register before 10 PM at either the Front Page, Mackey’s, BlackFinn, or McFadden’s (on Pennsylvania). Snag tickets in advance for $17.50; the event sold out last year, so it’s good to plan ahead.

Tricks and treats await all Halloween weekend long at Town Tavern. Head there Friday for a $10 power hour open bar from 10 to 11 PM and tunes from Redline Addiction. Saturday’s open bar is extended from 8 to 10, also for $10, if you RSVP online before 6 PM. Stick around for the annual costume contest and a chance to win $100. Drink the hangover away on Sunday with a bottomless Bloody Mary brunch from noon to 3 for $12.

The winner of Elliot in the Morning’s annual costume contest at the Clarendon Ballroom on October 26 wins a not-too-shabby $3,000, so get creative. There’s also live music from Scott’s New Band and Toxic Mouse in the basement lounge starting at 8 PM. Cover charge is $15 before 10.

Rub elbows with politicos, lawyers and other young professionals at Things to Do’s Graveyard Jam at Hard Rock Café on October 27. Compete in the costume contest for a trip to the Caribbean, bob for apples, have a caricature drawn by the artist from Frankenstein’s Castle, and jam out to resurrected tunes from the past 30 years on the dance floor. The party starts at 9, and tickets are $22.

Get your insanity on at the Sphinx Club on October 26 for BYT’s Temple of Doom blowout. The party will feature burlesque, a hypnotist, “scareoke,” deejays, decoder rings to solve secret messages hidden throughout the party, and plenty of young things to try to impress. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

Lock in a spooky date night at Masa 14 with ghoulish specials priced at $5, including a Devil Dog (a bacon-wrapped Kobe beef dog) washed down with a Zombietini. Specials are offered October 26, 27, 28, and 31. And on October 27, dress to impress—the bartenders that is—as they’ll judge a costume contest from 10 PM to 3 AM in which entrants compete to win a bottomless mimosa brunch for four.

Also holding a costume contest is Black Jack; compete to win $500 at its Halloween shindig on October 27. Dance the night away with live music courtesy of DJ Roz, and throw back a specialty punch or frozen drink served in novelty glasses for $9. The daring can try one of two $5 themed shots. Cover is $15 for those in costume and $20 for the un-fun who show up without. Doors open at 9 PM.

Check out ghouls, ghosts, and goblins on the Red Palace stage as part of the fourth annual Spook-o-Rama on October 26 at 10 PM, hosted by Tilted Torch. There’s a wicked burlesque show by Peekabo Pointe, belly-dancing by Shakra, and plenty of games, raffles, and potions to enjoy. Over-the-top attire is encouraged, and doors open at 9 PM. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Celebrate the walking dead with the Zombie Festival at the Half Street Fairgrounds, which features a zombie dance party hosted by DJ Lil’e, three back-to-back classic zombie flicks shown on the huge screen, a zombie obstacle course, food trucks, and drink specials for those who come costumed as zombies. Starts at 6 PM on October 27. Admission is $20.

Family-Friendly Fun

Put on your best pirate face and bring the wee ones to the National Aquarium to celebrate Hallowmarine on October 27 from noon to 4. There’s fun for all with face painting, a children’s costume contest, live music from the Pirates for Sail, and a scavenger hunt that will test the family’s knowledge of aquarium animals. Admission is the regular aquarium rates.

Give your kids an out-of-this-world Halloween experience at the Air & Scare trick-or-treating bonanza at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. Join space aliens, astronauts, and zombie pilots for screenings of The Jetsons, face painting, story time, and spooky science experiments on October 27 from 2 to 8. Admission is free, and parking is $15.

The ghoulish fun lasts all month long with Montgomery Parks’ October activities in the park. Take a spooky train or carousel ride at Wheaton Regional Park or a calm, festive ride at Cabin John Regional Park. Halloween movies are included with admission at Wheaton. Guests are encouraged to dress in costume and bring canned food to donate to the parks’ food drives. Other monthlong events will include a skate session on a darkened rink, pumpkin and apple festivals, a pumpkin treasure hunt, and Meadowside’s annual Halloween extravaganza. Visit the website for tickets and a full schedule.

Grab Fido and get ready for a day of canines in costumes at the Spooky Pooch Howl-o-Ween celebration on October 27. It’s the only day of the year when Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens allows dogs onto the grounds, from 2 to 4. The costumed pooches can perform tricks for treats, enjoy the Mutts Gone Nuts comedy show, participate in a costume contest (prizes for best overall, most original, cutest, spookiest, and best owner/dog combo) and be pampered with themed cookies and ice cream. Human chaperones can also decorate their own pumpkins. Cost is $15 per dog and up to two owners.

Have a “howling good time” at the 14th annual Boo at the Zoo from October 26 to 28. From 5:30 to 8:30, the National Zoo will offer kids ages 2 to 12 a special trick-or-treat experience. Pint-size trickers can fill up their recyclable zoo bag with treats from more than 30 stations distributing everything from ice cream and candy to organic snacks. Take a spooky train ride around the Great Cats circle and visit the Bird House, the Small Mammal House, the Reptile Discovery Center, the Great Apes House, the Think Tank, and the Kids’ Farm. Tickets are $30, and parking is $10.

Take a ride on the wild side at several of the area’s major theme parks, which are staying open for an October thrill. Enjoy Fright Fest at Six Flags, Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion, and Busch Garden’s Howl-o-Scream. Open weekends through October 28.

Film and Theater Events

Settle in for nine nights of fright and gore at the seventh annual Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival. The event showcases the best in new horror films across the world, and for the first time ever you can catch the entire festival (more than 50 films) at AFI Silver. You’ll have the chance to meet many of the directors in person, including Jennifer Lynch and McLean native Richard Bates Jr., and participate in the first-ever Spooky Movie Local Filmmakers Summit, moderated by Eduardo Sánchez, one of the directors of the Blair Witch Project. Shows run from October 10 to 20; tickets and a full schedule can be found online.

Enjoy a chilling tale of seduction, cruelty and sacrifice in Michael Pink’s Dracula by the Washington Ballet, at the Kennedy Center from October 24 to November 4. Tickets range from $25 to $125.

Check out some of your favorite scream-inducing flicks at AFI Silver’s Halloween on Screen. Think Carrie, Possession, and Nosferatu. Or loosen up a bit with Bob Hope’s haunted house comedy The Ghost Breakers or “rom-zom-com favorite” Shaun of the Dead. Head to the theater October 12 through November 4, and get full listings on AFI’s website.

October 28 may be the only time it’s okay to “boo” an orchestra, as the National Symphony Orchestra conducts its Family Halloween Spooktacular at the Kennedy Center. During the 1 and 3 PM concerts, musicians will be dressed up in their most “spirited” attire—and don’t be surprised if they boo right back at you. Performances will include selections from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, John Williams’s Imperial March from Star Wars, Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice with narration, Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite No. 1, and more. Dress the tots in their best ’ween wear for a pre-concert trick-or-treating experience and a musical instrument “petting zoo.” Snag tickets for $15 to $18.

Catch episodes of Dr. Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer every Friday and Saturday, respectively, in October at Black Cat. Doors open at 7 PM, and drink specials will be offered.