Our list of free and cheap Halloween events includes fun things to do for kids, families, teens, and adults in Seattle and around the Puget Sound region. From daytime family fun to night time adult entertainment, there’s a little something for everyone.
History of Halloween traditions
The meaning of Halloween stems from several cultures and traditions, which have morphed and changed over time.
Catholic and Christian religions honor saints and martyrs on All Saints Day, November 1. Halloween is All-Hallows’-Eve, or the night before All Saints Day, “hallows” being a saint or holy person. The souls of the dearly departed were honored the day after All Saints Day on All Souls Day, November 2. Traditions include special prayers, visiting cemeteries, and giving donations to the poor. An older custom gave “Soul Cakes” to the poor in exchange for prayers for the departed…perhaps an early version of “trick or treat”? There seems to be no singular recipe for soul cakes. Some customs fry donuts in the shape of a ring, symbolizing eternity.
There are similar traditions for honoring departed loved ones in other cultures.
Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican tradition observed every year from October 31 to November 2. Traditions include altars to deceased loved ones adorned with marigold flowers, decorated skulls made from sugar, and specialty bread (usually sweetened, but recipes vary from one locale to another). Visiting cemeteries to decorate graves is also customary.
Although Japanese Buddhist Bon-Odori is a summer festival, this tradition also honors the spirits of one’s ancestors. Families usually hold a reunion especially to visit and tend to their ancestors’ graves. The spirits of their ancestors are also said to visit the household altar setup during Bon-Odori.
Halloween costume ideas
Our Halloween costume page includes history of Halloween traditions, 100+ costume and make-up ideas, plus a list of places to pull together the most scary or fantastical costume.
On this page, you’ll find a long list of locations for u-pick pumpkins and farm stands, plus instructions for How to carve a pumpkin and links to Pumpkin Carving Templates, Patterns & Stencils, including No-Carve Pumpkin Decorating Ideas.
Haunted houses and corn mazes
Our big list of Halloween haunted houses and corn mazes includes mostly very scary attractions intended for adults and teens who like to be scared out of their wits. Seriously scared. Most cost more than $15 per person, though there are some that are in the $10-$15 range. We also offer suggestions for ways to see them for less.
For little kiddos, some locations offer a special “kid’s” time, when the lights are on and the scare-o-meter is turned off. Often these sessions are also at a lower price.
Halloween family fun around Puget Sound
We’re finding there are very few community events scheduled for 2021. We’ll keep an eye on things and add any we find to our calendar list below.
Local parks departments host Halloween-themed events and fall festivals for families. Many are free; some have nominal charge. We list many events on our calendar (scroll down for list).
- Seattle Parks and Recreation events calendar
- West Seattle Blog lists Halloween activity for West Seattle, Delridge, and White Center neighborhoods on the West Seattle event calendar
- Tacoma Metro Parks community centers
- Everett Parks & Community Services
General guidelines for safe Halloween fun
Stay home if you are sick or were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Respect the rules of the room.
Wash or sanitize your hands often (and don’t forget the hands of little ones) .
As of August 18, 2021, masks are required in public indoor settings for everyone over the age of 2. This includes people who are fully vaccinated.
Masks are not required outdoors. While not required, it’s strongly recommended to also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings such as sporting events, fairs, concerts and farmers markets.
You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after you get your second shot if you had to get two doses (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks after you get a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen).
Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Add WA Notify to your smartphone to alert you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and anonymously alert others if you test positive. WA Notify is completely private and doesn’t know who you are or track where you go.
- Wear a cloth mask, and remember: a plastic costume mask is not a suitable substitute.
- Wash your hands before and after trick-or-treating.
- Bring plenty of hand sanitizer.
- Accept only individually wrapped candy or treat bags.
- If you are handing out treats, only provide commercially packaged, individually wrapped treats (candy, nuts, etc.)
- If you are handing out treats, rather than greeting trick-or-treaters at your door, consider sitting in a chair in your driveway, garage, yard, or porch and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from the treat table.
- Place a few mini pumpkins or other decorations 6 feet apart to signal a line and keep trick-or-treaters distanced while waiting for treats.
Alternatives to trick-or-treat
- Have a scavenger hunt at home. Dress up and hide candy or other treats throughout the house or yard.
- Have a Halloween movie marathon with household members.
- Host an online costume or pumpkin carving contest.
Parents guide to Halloween candy
Like many other distractions from video games to the latest fads in fashion or music, there’s no one right way to handle Halloween candy. The following lists summarizes tips from parents on how they approach the Halloween season. Adjust ideas on an age-appropriate basis.
- Start ahead of time to discuss Halloween traditions. Involve them in the planning and decision process about costumes, parties and trick-or-treating.
- Set limits on candy consumption, anything from number of pieces per day (two after dinner), the total number of pieces (health experts suggest 10-15 pieces), or a candy eating binge on Halloween night. (Note: The candy buyback website is gone, but check whether your dentist is offering it.)
- Donate excess candy to Operation Gratitude, which donates it to Deployed Troops, Veterans, and First Responders: https://www.operationgratitude.com/halloween-candy-give-back-program/
- Especially before a Halloween party or trick-or-treating, make sure the kiddos get a high protein meal and drink lots of water, which can help deter excessive candy consumption.
- This is purely anecdotal, but I notice when pickled foods are served with a meal, then tendency to want sweets after the meal seems diminished. Maybe I just hope that it does. Or maybe it’s because many pickles contain sugar.
- Most parents check their children’s candy for anything dangerous. Fresh fruit should be washed and cut into small pieces to check for needles, razor blades, pins, and shards of glass. Unless they came from friends or family, discard any homemade treats including baked goods, popcorn balls, and caramel apples. Any candy not in original packaging, already open, or torn should be discarded. When in doubt…throw it out.
- Most parents eat some of the child’s candy. So go ahead, indulge a little.
- For older children and teens, discussion about candy can lead to a discussion about how to eat right, yet still enjoy desserts and sweets in moderation.
- It’s also a good time to reinforce proper teeth brushing, especially right after eating candy.
- What’s the worst kind of candy? Any candy made with high amounts of sugar. Here’s a list of the “best” and “worst” from Eat This, Not That!: Every Single Halloween Candy—Ranked!
- Want some healthier candy choices? (Though we admit “healthy candy” is an oxymoron.) RealSimple magazine compares the nutrition of popular candies and also suggests healthier alternative choices. Other nutrition experts recommend alternative snacks, such as nuts or popcorn.
But wait, there’s more!
- Our big list of Halloween haunted houses, corn mazes, spooky tours
- Scary (and not-so-scary) movies for a Halloween night at home
- 100+ cheap and fun DIY ideas for Halloween costumes
- Guidelines for safe Halloween celebrations in 2020
- And here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun.
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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Halloween events around Puget Sound
Free and cheap Halloween events and things to do around the Puget Sound region. We continue to add events through the month of October as details become available.