It should be obvious by now that fall is my favorite time of year in Washington, and not just for the reasons I've mentioned before. No, the real reason is that DC is a great place to spend Halloween.
Now, I thoroughly enjoyed Halloween when I was in college in DC, and I like it now as I impersonate an adult with kids. But I can't pretend the experience was the same. So for everyone's convenience, I'm going to break this post up into two parts. This one will deal with interesting events for kids and families, and I'll shortly put a post up catering to those who want to celebrate All Hollow's Eve in a more adult fashion.
So, without further ado, if you should happen to find yourself in town with a child or two in the next few weeks and wonder where to go, hopefully this will help.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with slapping on a costume and wandering around wherever you're staying in DC, but if the pickings are slim near the local Holiday Inn, I'd recommend bringing the kids to Capitol Hill or Old Town Alexandria. Both are family friendly destinations that have been celebrating Halloween in style for decades now and combine a high density of great, old townhouses with a large number of enthusiastic neighborhood kids.
Capitol Hill: Every year, the Capitol Hill community throws a bash on 7th Street next to Eastern Market, known as Hilloween. We've been going with our kids for many years now and it's a great time. On normal years, it's on Halloween night itself; but as that's a Saturday, it's been moved to Friday, October 30th. It kicks off at 5:30 and runs for a few hours. It's a great street fair with moon bounces, hay rides, and other kid friendly stuff, but my family likes to get there early, grab an outdoor seat at Tunicliffs, and watch them set up. Halloween is that much more fun for the whole family if Daddy gets a beer with it. For trick or treeting, you can head down any street for a reliable haul, but you're going to want to take at least or block or two of East Capitol street in (two blocks up 7th from the Market). They really pull out all the stops in decorating the grand houses of East Cap. For an excellent roundup of other Hill Halloween activities check out The Hill is Home.
Old Town, Alexandria: I haven't talked about Old Town much, which is mistake I hope to remedy in the future. While I've taught my daughter that dragons live across the bridge in Virginia, in truth Alexandria has quite a bit going for it. Predating DC by half a century, relics of it's colonial past are still lived in, and it's another kid friendly, dog intensive neighborhood with a great deal of charm. Take the Blue or Yellow Line to King Street and walk down King Street. There's a free trolley, but it's a fascinating walk, lined with shops, restaurants, and old houses. Old Town offers an excellent ghost tour as well, if you can pry the kids away from trick or treating.
Other than just trick or treating, many local groups offer kid themed events in the coming few weeks. Here's a sampling, and if you know of any more, let me know in the comments.
1. Kid's Ghost Tours: Ok, full disclosure, this is part of the ghost tours I show around. But shameless self promotion aside, we're offering two kid appropriate ghost tours of Capitol Hill this weekend. Full details are available at www.ghosttoursdc.com, but if you're interested in going, sign up for a spot by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Boo at the Zoo: The National Zoo turns itself into a one-stop Halloween extravaganza this weekend, an event they do every year. It's awesome, but book quickly, tickets have already sold out for Saturday. It combines all the "normal" Halloween activities (haunted houses, trick or treeting, etc.) with animal encounters, keeper talks, etc.
3. Ghost Ship Barry: Now, I'm a sucker for a good haunted house, but a haunted ship? That really takes it the next level. The Washington Navy Yard is "haunting" their museum ship, the ex-USS Barry on Friday, October 30th from 6 to 10 pm. Check back to their site for reservation information.