The balmy temperatures outside aren’t much indication, but Halloween will be upon us before you know it. Washington offers plenty of ways to celebrate, including ghost tours, costume parties, and themed scavenger hunts. Grab your favorite candy corn-flavored treat and read on for some of the spooky options.
PARTIES, COSTUME CONTESTS, AND CELEBRATIONS
The Nightmare on M Street bar crawl is back October 25 for its 15th year in the District. The area favorite is brewing up some new twists: A handful of Gallery Place bars have joined the roster of seasoned Dupont spots, amounting to more than 35 stops along the tour. Enjoy food and drink specials with no cover from 5 PM to 1 AM. The traveling party culminates in a midnight costume contest, so don’t be scared to dress in your eeriest ensemble. You’ll have to check in at one of four registration locations—the Front Page, the Exchange, McFadden’s, or the Green Turtle—before 10 PM, and purchase your ticket in advance. Prices start at $15 but could go up to $40 depending on availability, so get them early.
If you’d rather dance than crawl, shimmy over to the Hamilton on the 25th for its 2nd annual Halloween Howl. The live concert features a selection of spooky tunes, from a lineup of artists including Steve and Annie Sidley, Cal Everett, Cairo Fred, Brandon Ehrgood, the Crimestoppers, John Trupp, and Sara Curtin. Come in costume before the show starts at 8:30 PM; doors open at 7. Tickets are $20 to stand, $25 to sit.
It’s almost time for Boo at the Zoo! The National Zoo’s annual trick-or-treating extravaganza has been a DC cornerstone for years, and 2014 is no exception. October 24, 25, and 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, the whole family can enjoy treats and souvenirs, demonstrations and chats, and ornamented trails for a fun and friendly pre-Halloween with the animals. Tickets for members ($20) and nonmembers ($30) are available online, as are parking passes, discount info, and additional details.
The zoo’s celebration continues with Night of the Living Zoo on October 30 from 6:30 to 10 PM. Performance artists, glow-in-the-dark lawn games, and a costume contest are just some of the staples you’ll witness at the yearly event. More information can be found on the zoo’s website.
The Mansion on O Street’s Halloween Costume Party on October 31 kicks off with a treasure hunt, a chocolate fountain, a deejay, and a mansion tour. Bring a pumpkin to decorate, and you could win a $100 gift certificate. There’s also a costume contest, which hands out awards in categories such as craziest shoes, grossest costume, and best pet costume (yes, pets are welcome if they are clothed for the occasion). Doors open at 8, and the party goes until midnight. Reserve tickets online ($40 through October 27, $50 through October 30, and $60 on Halloween).
On the big night, head to Bethesda’s Doubletree for the Monster Bash. Between 9 PM and 1 AM, dance in the grand ballroom or take advantage of tables and lounge seating with fellow boogeymen and -women. Enjoy treats from the sweets stations and cash bars, or watch horror films in the two movie theaters (with popcorn!) while awaiting the results of the costume contest. The event is 21 and up, so make sure you bring your ID. You can find more details on the grand prize and the event online, where you can also order your tickets ($10).
Want to start celebrating right after work on the 31st? Memories and Nightmares Halloween Night at Policy starts at 6 PM with happy hour. The bartenders will conjure up complementary cocktails, until the cauldron is empty. Come in costume (encouraged but not required), and stay for the deejay as dusk turns to dark. If you can’t make it until later, don’t worry: The spirits will be out until 3 AM.
The Halloween Fiesta at La Tasca is perfect for witches and vampires who are at least 21 and want to get down in Old Town. There’s no cover charge at this Alexandria party, but you will find bar specials, scary movies, and a surprise for the best circus-themed costume. October 31 from 10 PM to 2 AM.
Does the full moon awaken your competitive streak? Check out Lucky Strike’s Bowlloween Costume Bash. It’s happening across the country October 31, and the Gallery Place location invites you to join the ghouls and goblins for costumed bowling, magical potions, and supernatural songs from 9 PM to 2 AM. Tickets ($15, $40 VIP) are available online.
To get an authentic Día de los Muertos experience, don’t miss Fuego Cocina y Tequileria’s Day of the Dead Celebration. For the second consecutive year, Arlington’s “fire kitchen and tequila bar” opens its doors for this Mexican fiesta, which begins Halloween eve and continues through the weekend until November 2. Symbolic decorations, themed cocktails, and traditional sweets such as “bread of the dead” and Mexican hot chocolate are just a few ingredients you can look forward to.
HAUNTED HOUSES, TRAILS, AND TOURS
Everyone’s looking for ghosts this time of year, and Nightmare Manor is the place to see them. Also known as Seth’s Folly, the 200-year-old estate has been haunted by victims of the 1824 fire that engulfed it but left it standing. Formerly situated on a quarry, and now abandoned, the manor is open for you to tour. Get $25 tickets for a range of dates and times: from now until November 1, Thursday and Sunday 7 to 10 PM, and Friday and Saturday 7 to 11 PM. Be sure to check the website in the event of inclement weather.
A Maryland classic, Markoff’s Haunted Forest has been operating since 1993 and continues to bring the scares. Hunt for zombies, zip-line through the woods, and choose a haunted trail to explore. This year, Calleva is donating proceeds to a new list of local charities and organizations: Girls on the Run, Maryland Off-Road Enthusiasts, Poolesville Green, Poolesville Wrestling, Stronghold at Sugarloaf Mountain, Team River runner, and WUMCO Help. See the website for full ticket information and dates of operation, and check out our video for a preview of the scares.
The Haunted Trail at the Workhouse Arts Center invites you to take a family tour before dark ($5), or a more unsettling journey, recommended for teens 13 and older ($10). As part of the Workhouse’s 31 Nights of Frights, all funds will support its programming. You can preorder tickets for October 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31, as well as November 1. Some dates don’t offer family tours, so check specifics before purchasing.
Discover a new side of Old Town with Alexandria’s Ghost and Graveyard Tour, which leads you through the historic district with chilling mysteries and folklore. An Alexandria Colonial Tours guide is well-equipped for the exploration through time, armed with a lantern and dressed in 18th century garb. Don’t bring your pets, but kids nine years old and up are welcome. Groups will be sauntering through the streets all month; visit the website to see the calendar and purchase tickets.
It’s scavenger hunt season, and Watson Adventures is extra-prepared. The Haunted Scavenger Hunts over the next several weeks will combine family, Halloween, history, art, politics, and more. For those of you who like a slower pace and in-depth questions about prominent historical figures (and their ghosts!), get tickets ($22.50) for the Haunted Washington Scavenger Hunt October 25 at 6 PM. If that’s not your cup of witch’s brew, bring your kids to the Fright at the White House Family Scavenger Hunt, October 18 at 4 PM or October 25 at 3:30 PM. Tickets for kids (ages 7 to 17) are $15.50, and for adults are $19.50. There’s also the Murder at the National Gallery Scavenger Hunt, the Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, and others. For a full list of hunts, dates, and times, visit the Watson Adventures website.
Gravensteen Haunted Productions is back in NoMa with The Curse of Frau Mueller, at a site of tragedy cursed since 1932, as the story goes. The 50,000-square-foot warehouse features multiple rooms of terrifying scenes. Tickets are $30 for dates from now to November 1.