Things to Do

Your Fun Fall Guide to Halloween and Día de los Muertos Around DC

Celebrate the season with haunted houses, costume contests, pumpkin parties, and more.

Image via iStock.

With Halloween and Día de los Muertos creeping up on the calendar, we’ve put together a fun list of ways to mask up and get out this October. Looking for some classic frights? We have a rundown of haunted houses and ghost tours. Prefer a boozier night out with the spirits? We’ve got those too. There’s also fun for the whole family—trick-or-treating for the kids and photoshoots for your pets to capture the whole season.

Haunted Happenings

A performer at Markoff’s Haunted Forest, pre-pandemic. Photo courtesy of Markoff’s Haunted Forest.

Shocktober
112 Church St. NE, Leesburg, VA
Haunted house enthusiasts won’t come away from this Leesburg attraction—ranked fifth scariest in the country by Travel + Leisure—unimpressed. Walk through four floors of horrors at the Carlheim Manor and peer into the basement’s “Well of Souls’ if you dare. Proceeds go to a good cause, supporting The Arc of Loudoun, a disability nonprofit. Tickets for the house start at $40 here, and a pre-recorded virtual tour for those looking for an at-home experience is just $5.
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 30.

Field of Screams Maryland
4501 Olney Laytonsville Rd., Olney
Get your fright fix at this classic haunted attraction, rated the number one scariest in the DC area. This two-part terror includes  the Super Screams Haunted Trail, a walk through a haunted forest and campground, and the Slaughter Factory, a meat processing plant with an owner gone mad. Tickets start at $50. Take a spin at axe throwing and zombie brain smashing with an enhanced Total Terror pack.
When: Thursday through Sunday, through November 7.

Markoff’s Haunted Forest 
19120 Martinsburg Rd., Dickerson
Take a wagon ride through the abandoned mining town of Onslaught Mills. There, you’ll move on foot through the ruins and get a chance to see the “undead” up close and personal. For those who are faint of heart and don’t have the stomach, pizzas are available at the forest’s outdoor picnic area. Tickets start at $35 here.
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 31.

Synetic Theater’s Vampire Ball
1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
Spend your night with a live performance of The Madness of Poe, a 90 minute thriller featuring three of the poet’s macabre tales. Then grab a themed cocktail and enjoy the afterparty. Admission includes the show, ball, refreshments and four drink tickets start at $95. For $125, attendees can get all that along with an extra drink ticket and access to the RIP bar and lounge area.
When: Friday, October 29; doors open 7:30 PM.

Nightmare in Navy Yard
1385 Canal St., SE
This open-air pop-up celebration features an open bar, live music, and food trucks while special effects, laser lighting, and animatronics enhance the eerie experience. Host Scorpio Entertainment is gearing the event toward vaccinated and mask-wearing individuals. Tickets start at $45.
When: Saturday, October 30, 8 PM.

Scary DC: Horror on the Hill
237 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
What’s scarier than a politician? Not much. But their stomping grounds make a close second. These historically accurate ghost tours include tales of scandal and mystery that allegedly took place on Capitol Hill. Public tours are $25 per adult and $20 for seniors, students, military members or children here. Private tours cost $150 for each group of five or fewer and $250 for each group of nine or fewer.
When: Public tours on Fridays and Saturdays, 8:30 PM to 10 PM; private tours on Sundays to Thursdays, 8 PM to 9:30 PM.

Bars and Bites

Photograph by Richard Sandoval Hospitality

Halloween Ball at the Red Bear Brewing Company
209 M St., NE 
Enjoy drinks and Halloween drag at the NoMa craft brewery with performances from Bombalicious Eklavar, Jayvon Love, King Perka Sexxx and Sextia N’Eight. Come dressed up as your favorite super villain and stick around after the show to take the dance floor yourself.
When: Friday, October 29, 10 PM to 11:59 PM.

Halloween Graveyard Jam at the Hard Rock Cafe
999 E St. NW
This widely attended Halloween party boasts a costume contest with a trip to the Caribbean as a grand prize, as well as themed party games, live music, and dancing. Early arrivals will receive gifts at the door. Tickets are $18 here.
When: Saturday, October 30, 9:45 PM to Sunday, October 31, 2:30 AM

Brunch by the Park: Halloween 2021
1201 Half St. SE
Take in the fall weather at the DC Brunch Club’s barely brunch-time festival on the Half Street Fairgrounds. Southblock, District Doughnut, Swizzler, Surfside and more will be serving up eats.  Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, Vizzy, Liquid Death, Superbird and more have the drinks. And take advantage of unlimited food and booze samplings from participating vendors for the first two hours. Tickets start at $29 per person here.
When: Saturday, October 30, 1 PM to 6 PM.

Día de los Muertos at dLeña
476 K St. NW, Ste. D
Chef Richard Sandoval is bringing the Day of the Dead to life with the flavors of marigold, the flower widely used in celebrations. The  upscale Mexican restaurant is serving exclusive themed cocktails and a marigold margarita alongside fine dining dishes like chile ancho-pork belly stew and braised short-rib paired with an orange blossom purée. Finish off your meal with pumpkin cake with piloncillo sauce, spiced pepitas, and cinnamon ice cream.
When: Tuesday, October 5 through Tuesday, November 2.

Tequila Sunrise Halloween Party and Bloody Brunch at TTT Clarendon
2900 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
TTT Clarendon, aptly known for tacos, tortas, and tequila, is throwing a two-part event: a Halloween party and brunch. The monster bash features eerie decor and 80s to 90s hits, plus themed cocktails like their exclusive El Ojo—an edible eyeball sitting in a mix of reposado tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, and habanero syrup. Try your hand at the costume contest for a chance to win gift certificate prizes of up to $250. Tickets for the 30th are $30 in advance here (and include two drink tickets) and $50 at the door (with three). And come back on Halloween for all-you-can-eat brunch tacos, breakfast burritos, enchiladas and more for $35 each.
When: Saturday, October 30, 8 PM to 2 AM and Sunday, October 31, 1 PM to 6 PM.

(Almost) Día de los Muertos Wine Dinner with South American Wine Makers
660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
For a classy affair that you can still come to in costume, Joselito Casa de Comidas is hosting a five-course wine dinner. Try dishes including salted cod fritters, stewed quail, and duck breast with mole poblano. Every plate will be paired with a different flavor of South America in each glass. Tickets are $99, available here.
When: ​​Sunday, October 31, 6 PM to 9 PM.

Family Fun

Alternative Halloween treats

Día de los Muertos at District Pier
The Wharf, 400 M St., SW
The Wharf is bringing together live music, street food, and a beer garden for an afternoon celebration of Día de los Muertos. Enter the costume contest, decorate a sugar skull, or get some face paint of your own at this free boardwalk event. 
When: Sunday, October 24, 2 PM to 5 PM.

PumpkinPalooza
227 Harry Thomas Way NE
A pick-your-own pumpkin patch is the heart of this annual NoMa event at Alethia Tanner Park, which includes food, music, and a seasonal scavenger hunt. Kids will also enjoy a live performance by award-winning children’s entertainer, The Great Zucchini. Those who came dressed to impress can even enter a costume contest. Admission is free; register here.
When: Thursday, October 28, 4 PM to 7 PM. 

Día de los Muertos in Petworth
9th St. NW & Upshur St. NW
The Petworth Community Market is hosting its fourth annual Día de los Muertos Festival. Learn how to create memoriams at an altar-making workshop to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones. All the while, experience live performances and get your face painted like a calavera, the decorative Day of the Dead skull.
When: Saturday, October 30, 9 AM to 1 PM

Smithsonian’s Día de los Muertos Virtual Family Celebration 
Prefer staying in? Celebrate Día de los Muertos from the comfort of your own home with Mexican folk dances performed by Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana. Learn the history behind Día de los Muertos and get to know dances from Sinaloa’s El Toro Viejo to Jalisco’s El Son de La Negra. Register for this free virtual show here.
When: Saturday, October 30, 10 AM to 11 AM.

Trick-or-Treating

Photo via iStock

Get a head start on the hunt for candy at one of these group trick-or-treat gatherings run by neighborhood organizations (some benefit local nonprofits).

Bethesda Row
4827 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda
When: Wednesday, October 27, 5 PM to 7 PM.
RSVP here

Pike & Rose
11580 Old Georgetown Rd., North Bethesda
When: Saturday, October 30, 10 AM to 12 PM.
RSVP here

Village at Shirlington
2700 S Quincy St., Arlington
When: Sunday, October 31, 10 AM to noon. 
RSVP here

Photograph by Ryan Weisser

Don’t forget your pet, too

Bark Social Single & Neighbor Mingle Night
935 Prose St., North Bethesda
Dog owners looking to meet new friends or a special someone should check out this mixer in the Bethesda area. The event includes a costume contest sandwiched between two mingling activities, a fun and low-key way to break out of your bubble and get to know the local community with fellow dog-lovers. Tickets are $10 per person here and include free admission for one pup. 
When: Tuesday, October 26, 7 PM to 10 PM

Drag, Dogs, & Halloween
935 Prose St., North Bethesda
You better bark. This dog-friendly drag show features a number of performers and DJs. Enter a best costume contest for you and your dog at this event organized together by the MoCo Pride Center, Bark Social, and PAD Awesome Entertainment. Tickets are $15 here.
When: Friday, October 29, 8 PM to 11:59 PM

Hirshorn Howl-O-Ween
Independence Ave and 7th St., NW
The Hirshhorn’s first-ever dog-friendly event will turn its Sculpture Garden into a furry fashion show. A panel of local dog aficionados will be judging dogs and their costumes, with categories for dog and owner coordinated costumes, all-around favorite looks, and museum-inspired wear. Pros from District Dogs will also be there to keep the pups entertained with activities like peanut butter portraits. Admission is free, and to enter your dog into the contest, tickets are $25 here.
When: Saturday, October 30, 9:30 AM to 11 AM.

Howl-O-Ween at Lincoln Park
1301 E Capitol St., NE
If you and your dog worked extra hard on your costumes, get some credit for it at the Howl-O-Ween Pet Costume Contest. Prizes will be awarded to the best individual, best group of two or more, best homemade, best for trick-or-treating, and funniest outfit. And don’t worry too much about coming away in first; all participants will take a swag bag of goodies home. Register for this free event here.
When: Saturday, October 30, 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM.

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Zach Bright

Zach joined Washingtonian in October 2021. In the past, he’s written for The Colorado Sun, The Nevada Independent and SRQ Magazine.