Events

10 Spooky Ways to Celebrate Halloween in DC This Year

Mask up!

There is certainly a lot to be spooked by this Halloween season—and we’re not just talking about your typical ghouls and goblins. Between a high stakes presidential election and an ongoing global pandemic, getting into the holiday spirit on October 31 is certain to look and feel pretty different this year.  

Social distancing is still of the utmost importance, and the DC Department of Health even released official guidance on how to have fun while staying mindful during Halloween and Día de los Muertos. Unfortunately, that guidance cuts out many of the hair-raising activities the holiday has been known for, such as visiting haunted houses, hitting the packed bars or taking the kids trick-or-treating. 

No need to fear, though—as plenty of socially distanced activities are still on for October 31 and beyond. From catching classic horror flicks outdoors to a mansion Halloween hunt right in the middle of the city, here are the best ways to spend the spookiest weekend of this year.

Partake in a Literary Pumpkin Walk

Now through October 31
Capitol Hill 
The Literary Feast is the brainchild of volunteer-run organization the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, designed to rally together the residents of Capitol Hill in decorating their front yards with book-themed pumpkins, scarecrows, and full-on Halloween displays for charity. Follow this map and have fun wandering through the streets of the historic neighborhood while you and your group take turns voting on your favorite designs. The winning house will get to designate $1,000 towards a local school of their choice.

Catch a creepy flick outdoors

Now through October 31
Multiple locations
One of the surprising comebacks this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic has been that of the drive-in theatre and the outdoor movie night. From Union Market to the Wharf, venues have taken to offering a chance to catch both new films and old classics with the safety of social distancing. Now, those offerings have taken a spooky turn. The Capitol Riverfront's drive-in , for instance, will be showing a Halloween-themed movie chosen by voters on October 30, or there’s “Halloween SZN” at Park Up DC, where they’re showing both family-friendly flicks and Halloween horror classics this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.

Get spooked at the Field of Screams

Weekends through November 7
Olney, Maryland
The notorious Field of Screams is one of Maryland’s largest annual Halloween attractions—known throughout the DMV for delivering a terrifying experience year after year. This time that experience will be entirely outside and social distancing friendly, as small pods of people are led to their own table by a bonfire while they wait for their turn to walk the trails, and masks are required to be worn.

Find the culprit at a murder mystery dinner

October 29
Tyson’s Corner
Each year, Italian restaurant Maggiano’s is known for putting on “Murder at Maggianos,” a haunting murder mystery dinner party. This year the show will go on, with certain precautions, of course. The restaurant is going through a 48 hour sanitizing and cleaning process prior to the event, masks will be worn, and tables will be spaced at least 6 feet apart. 

Get cleared for liftoff at Air & Scare from home

Now through October 31
Online
Even though the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center isn’t able to host the National Air & Space Museum’s popular Halloween bash in-person this year, Smithsonian has made up for it with fun digital programming and downloadable activities you can access right from your living room. From a Sci-Fi Props and Costumes Live Chat on October 29 to downloadable pumpkin stencils featuring aviation and space designs, there’s still plenty of Halloween fun to be had from home.

Take part in a Halloween hunt at the Mansion on O

October 31
Dupont Circle
The historic Mansion on O is a kooky place with over a hundred rooms and 70 secret doors—perfect for a socially distanced Halloween scavenger hunt. See the mansion decked out for the occasion, with themed rooms and doors to stalk through as you search for Halloween-themed prizes. Masks will be available and are required to be worn, and expect both touch-less entry and sanitizer stations upon your arrival.

Experience the first-ever drive-in haunted house

Now through October 31
Lorton, Virginia
Perhaps you’ve experienced a haunted house before, but have you ever driven through one? The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton has put together what they’re billing as Northern Virginia’s first-ever drive-in haunted house called “Nightmare Alley,” an immersive and completely contactless Halloween experience where zombies, swamp creatures, creepy clowns and scary dolls pop out at you across 13 scary scenes.

Get grooving at an ’80s virtual dance party

October 31
Online
There’s nothing wrong with dancing in your bedroom, and the Black Cat’s ’80s-themed Halloween bash is giving you the perfect excuse. Usually held in-person, the party has been taken online this year because of the pandemic. You can easily join the livestream on Twitch for free to experience a Beetlejuice-themed dance party with music by DJ Steve EP, DJ MissGuided, and Killa K.

Take a spine-chilling ghost tour

Ongoing
Various locations
Ghost tours in other cities might lead you through a graveyard, but what about the Supreme Court? There are plenty of DC ghost tours that will get your hair standing on end, but you’ll also be learning a lot about United States history—an educational bonus. Scary DC , for instance, takes victims past the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and other haunted political locations, while the Ghosts of Georgetown leads you through historic streets and gardens, including the infamously steep steps from The Exorcist.

Drink spooky brews at Wundergarten

Now through October 31
NoMa
Outdoor heaters, fire pits, and warm boozy drinks will protect you from the incoming chill at Wundergarten, which has been throwing a 13-night celebration of Halloween. Each night, get ready for something different—from Halloween drink specials and trivia to movie nights and a LGBTQ Hallo-Queen night on Thursday.

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Austa is a freelance food and travel writer, as well as a staff writer for The Hill where she covers the topics of diversity and equality. She now lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies, but called DC home for many years -- attending American University and then working for National Geographic. Follow her on Instagram.