The nation’s capital knows how to celebrate, and I’m not just talking about political victories. Every October the streets of DC come alive for Halloween, from kid-friendly trick-or-treating at the National Zoo to all-night bar hopping on U Street. Here’s a varied list of all of the fun, yet frightful, annual Halloween events in Washington DC.
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A Literary Pumpkin Walk
This is one of the most unique Halloween celebrations I’ve come across. Every year, the residents in Capitol Hill pick their favorite book or character and adorn their yard with jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, and other decorations that reflect that.
The decorations are up the entire last week of October and kids love seeing their favorite books come to life as they trick-or-treat.
Day of the Dead Celebration
A free family event, this Day of the Dead Celebration in Cottage City is a highly anticipated way for Washingtonians to get in the Halloween mood.
There are tons of presentations and workshops on Day of the Dead traditions, and you’ll have the chance to make your own ‘papel picado’ decorations, paint skull masks, dance to live music performances, and indulge in delicious food.
You’ll also have the chance to add to the altar alongside other attendees.
Halloween Hunt at The Mansion on O
The Mansion on O & O Street Museum is renowned for being a Halloween hotspot. There are over a hundred themed rooms, each decorated to the nines. You’ll have to find one of the 70 secret doors to get to some of them – yes, you read that right: 70 secret doors!
The mysterious self-guided tour is full of tricks and treats.
Trick or Drink: Washington D.C. Halloween Bar Crawl
The bars in Washington DC go all out for every holiday, so obviously you can expect them to be some of the best places to spend Halloween in. Know which ones to go to with a themed bar crawl!
BarCrawlerz has been organizing holiday bar crawls for nearly five years, and their Halloween tour is always spectacular.
All of the participating bars get into it and almost everyone’s in costume; let’s not forget the bar specials!
Heaven and Hell Halloween Block Party
Zebbies Garden and Decades gets together every year for a huge Halloween event, block-party style. Just a few doors down from each other, you get access to both venues. Combined, they have seven floors with seven different DJs, all playing a variety of music from house to 90s R&B.
Get in costume and get those drinks specials – it’s guaranteed to be a Halloween to remember.
Walking Ghost Tour
DC has some of the oldest neighborhoods in the nation and its history is filled with ghouls from its past. Learn all about it as you get scared out of your wits exploring places like the Oak Hill Cemetery, the home from The Exorcist, and the ghosts of Capitol Hill past that still haunts the neighborhood.
There are tons of companies that offer walking tours though some of my favorites are Nightly Spirits and Scary DC.
Markoff’s Haunted Forest
Markoff’s Haunted Forest is a terrifying experience that fully immerses you into another world. They transform the entire forest and trail into something truly horrifying and combine that with lights, actors, and amazing makeup jobs – it just feels so real!
There’s a “town” that they set up before you go into the dark forest that is filled with zombies and ghosts. Everywhere you turn, there’s someone there to make you scream.
Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion
Kings Dominion hosts an annual Halloween event comprising so many different activities for different ages. There’s a fairytale maze, pumpkin patches, and shows for younger visitors, while also having scarier attractions for everyone else.
While the Scare Zone is terrifying and there are some spooky live shows, it’s the 400+ monsters that roam the streets which will horrify you. They could be walking right next to you, and you wouldn’t know until it’s too late.
17th Street High Heel Race
Attending the annual 17th Street High Heel Race is almost like a Washingtonian tradition. It started over 30 years ago when a group of drunk drag queens raced down the street on Halloween night. They kept going back and more people kept joining and now it is one of the largest outdoor Halloween events in DC.
Now, hundreds of drag kings and queens come from far and wide for the event; it also attracts lots of spectators, local vendors, live music, and more, so that people can make an entire night of it.
Shocktober at Paxton Manor
While Paxton Manor is a school campus for a majority of the year, every October it transforms into one of the scariest haunted houses in the DMV – Camp Calheim.
The mansion, which dates back to 1870, is kind of creepy even without the lights, decor, and basement filled with clowns. You can explore all three floors of the mansion which is very interactive; there are several costumed actors just waiting for you to come around the corner.
Make a night of it by participating in the fun live entertainment, concessions, and refreshments outside Camp Calheim.
Cornstalkers Trail of Terror
Remember the rumors you heard growing up of people disappearing without a trace or others who are found gruesomely massacred without no one ever finding out how? Cornstalkers Trail of Terror is housed on land where a story like that really happened to a farmer and his family.
Locals say they can hear them crying out even to this day, so be alert as you walk toward the asylum where the insane are waiting for you.
Field of Screams
Constantly recognized as the #1 haunted attraction in the DMV by the Washington Post, it’s no surprise that hundreds of people flock to Field of Screams year after year. There are four different attractions like the Hades Hayride or the haunted Lusion Manor.
It’s the Trail of Terror where you roam a haunted forest in the pitch black of night that’ll get to you. One visit to Field of Screams and no other spooky Halloween event will compare.