They don’t have to wait until Halloween to don their costumes and collect treats – not when every place from museums to aquariums to zoos to theme parks is celebrating Halloween the entire month of October with haunted houses, spooky corn mazes, special shows and as many treats as parents will permit.
There are more than 1,200 haunted attractions around the country, according to AmericaHaunts.com, so you’ve got plenty of choices whatever the ages of your kids and wherever you live.
Here are 10 ways to kick-start Halloween:
1. Head to a children’s museum. The haunted house at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (www.childrensmuseum.org/hauntedhouse) is celebrating its 50th anniversary with pint-sized ghosts and princesses. Travel back in time in 3-D as Ghoulish Guide Dr. Timestein ushers visitors through five “deadcades” of fear and petrifying pop culture.
2. Boo at the zoo. At the Bronx Zoo (www.bronxzoo.org) in New York, for example, on weekends throughout October, there’s the Museum of UnNatural Mysteries, magic shows, musical performances and costume parades – even an extinction graveyard; in addition to traditional guest favorites, including the hay maze, extinction graveyard and seasonal craft workshops.
3. Board a haunted train like Tweetsie Railroad’s 24th Annual Ghost Train@ (www.tweetsie.com) on weekends in Blowing Rock, N.C. Until Nov. 2, the train will howl its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains back in time to the Great Train Wreck of 1913, reliving the history and terror that came with a trip down Tweetsie’s tracks a century ago.
4. Enjoy everything pumpkin at a fall festival like the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival in the “World Pumpkin Capital” for a fun-filled California festival, Saturday and next Sunday.
5. Sleep with the ghosts. BnBFinder.com has a state-by state directory of more than 200 places where you’ll find shaking beds, flickering lights and unexplained happenings. In Savannah, Ga. – often called America’s most haunted city – the ghost of a wealthy guest who disappeared is said to haunt the Foley House Inn (www.foleyinn.com). You might meet a Civil War ghost (or at least hear ghost stories on Friday nights) at the Battlefield B-and-B (www.gettysburgbattlefield.com) in Gettysburg, Pa., – on a nature preserve on the Gettysburg Battlefield.
6. Party with your favorite Disney villains at Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland (www.disneyland.com) and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Orlando, Fla., (www.disneyworld.com). (The Halloween parties require extra admission.)
7. Take your teens to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights where the masters of cinematic special effects based on “American Werewolf in London,” “The Walking Dead” and other horror movies use the Orlando (www.universalorlando.com) and Hollywood (www.universalstudioshollywood.com) theme parks to house bloodthirsty beasts, entertain haunted souls and allow special ticket guests into way-too-scary haunted houses. (Not recommended for anyone under 13.)
8. Celebrate with Shamu. SeaWorld’s Spooktacular in Orlando and San Diego (www.seaworld.com) provides special Halloween shows and the chance for younger kids to strut their stuff, showing off their costumes while dancing with life-sized, but not-too-scary, sea creatures.
9. Grab your costume and head to your local theme park. Nineteen Six Flags (www.sixflags.com/national/index.aspx) parks put on a nightly Fright Fest while during the day, there’s the Spooky Kooky Magic Show and the Monster Maze.
10. Shop till you drop, since malls across the country tout special Halloween happenings. The House of Torment (thehouseoftorment.com) at the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, is ranked among the country’s top Halloween attractions with three unique “haunts” inside the huge multilevel haunted house. Ready to meet the Hellion?
Got your witch’s hat ready?