6 Wicked Fun Family Halloween Events

by Laura Sullivan

6 Wicked Fun Family Halloween Events

Haunted houses, jack-o'-lantern shows and more fun family Halloween events

Halloween can be so much more than one night of trick-or-treating. Take your psyched superheroes and little ladybugs to these getawaydestinations to add an extra dose of magic to their October. Most can be done in just a weekend.

Air & Scare at the Smithsonian
Washington, DC
Best age: 5 and up

Imagine a game of haunted hide-and-seek among a space shuttle and a replica of the Wright Brothers' antique flyer. The Air and Space Museum is transformed into a high -flying Halloween dreamland on October 23, with 40 slyly educational activities that lead kids through "trick or truth" stations where they may receive prizes. Does alien blood boil in space? How do witches propel their brooms? And how exactly does a ghost blaster work? They'll find out at this event at which real robots and suspended planes set the unique brainy-cool vibe. Doug Baldwin, the chief of education at the museum, says his favorite part is always watching the Star Wars fans who come to the event. "They get way into it, and they are really pretty convincing," he says.

The World's Largest Halloween Party
Louisville, KY
Best age: 1 to 6

Held every Thursday to Sunday in October, the long-running Louisville Zoo party celebrates the special cute factor of Halloween more than the creepy. "The event really is designed with the stroller set in mind," says Maureen Horrigan, director of marketing and public relations for the zoo. You'll find music, so your little guy can get his Monster Mash on, a 14-stop trick-or-treat route among the animals, and lots of photo ops: Superheroes, princesses, and many more storybook characters roam the zoo grounds like so many friendly monkeys.

Jack-O'-Lantern Blazes
Croton-on-Hudson, NY, and Providence, RI
Best age: 3 and up

In Croton-on-Hudson, you will find more than 4,000 lit pumpkins at the Great Jack-O'-Lantern Blaze on the grounds of the historic Van Cortlandt Manor. On display this year is an entire Egyptian scene made from the glowing gourds, including life-size mummies and a huge pyramid. The family-friendly event is set along paved walkways, so stroller pushers will have no problem, and is held Friday through Sunday in October and the first week in November.

In Providence, the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular is a stunning trail of artfully carved pumpkins, but set in a zoo. It will take a team of professional pumpkin carvers six weeks to set up "A Walk Through Time," the 5,000-pumpkins show this year, which takes you from the Jurassic Park era through the Wild West up to the 21st century. (Take me back to a time before jumbo-size Snickers!) Open nightly from October 7 through Halloween night; hit the event on weeknights for thinner crowds.

Halloween Howl at the Tallahassee Museum
Tallahassee, FL
Best age: 3 and up

A unique outdoor museum, with wooded, leafy trails that meander to historic buildings, seems to be the perfect setting to meet some (okay, friendly) goblins and ghouls. The Howl, held on October 29 and 30, is known for its range of activities. Younger kids will get their thrills from the "Not So Spooky" trail, as well as the carnival games and a working farm; older kids can brave the Monster Maze and maybe even the eerie Haunted Trail. For all ages, you'll find a costume contest and live music.

Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, CA
Best age: 8 and up

Eccentric Sarah Winchester built this 160-room mansion in the late 1800s to appease spirits that were supposedly haunting her-and it is said that lost souls still roam the weirdly built home, which has staircases that lead to the ceiling and doors that open to walls. General manager Shozo Kagoshima says they have had psychics brought in who confirmed the presence of?something. Well, whatever that's worth, the cool factor for tweens is high. On select evenings in October, there are special flashlight tours, geared to kids 8 and up, that allow groups to take a guided, lights-out walk through the bizarre (but fascinating) estate. On Halloween night, you can go trick-or-treating on the grounds,

Kemah Boo on the Boardwalk
Galveston Bay, Kemah, TX
Best age: 3 and up

This old-timey boardwalk brings the charm of Coney Island down south. And the scenic location makes this annual event a can't-miss. Kids can trick-or-treat right on the waterfront at local businesses, then jump on the Ferris wheel or roller coasters for a screaming good time. For the whole month of October, there will be a kid-friendly Haunted House, as well as special activities like pumpkin decorating, coloring contests, prizes for the best costumes, live music, and more.