If Christmas gets an Advent Calendar, in all fairness Halloween should have one of its own, because the countdown is just as real in our home. At this very moment, on a ninety degree September day in Northern California, I am fully prepared for the October madness; the inside of my home is decorated, costumes have been purchased, candy is tucked away, and knick knacks for class treat bags are ready to go. It’s a mix of excitement and a need to be prepared before our traditions begin. Oh you thought Halloween was about trick or treating? Oh no it has developed into its own “thing” over the years, and with the cost of costumes I make sure that my kids wear them on more than one occasion.
So here is a list of what we like to do! While some items may render a “well yeah, duh” I’ve included some tips from personal experiences as well as helpful links and locations.
At Home Activities
1. A Day of Baking – What better way to create the mood then by making your house smell delicious with fresh baked goodies? While I’m not the best baker in town, I can warm up a crockpot like no other! And with apples on sale, the prices are ridiculous, so I can make a bunch of things at affordable prices. Think of hot cider, apple pie, apple sauce, and pumpkin bread when deciding what dishes your kids can help make.
2. Movie Night – We’re not a fan of scary clowns and I don’t care to explain to my kids what a virgin is while watching Hocus Pocus (I know I’m gonna get a lot of heat for that one), but there are still a lot of family films to enjoy with a themed snack! We like Pixar’s CoCo with some pan dulce, The Great Pumpkin with Charlie Brown-ies, or a throwback to The Worst Witch with some good ol Chex Mix and Reese’s pieces for color.
3. Pumpkin Painting – We have a rule in our home that if you don’t gut your own pumpkin, it’s not getting carved, and lucky for me my kids are not a fan of sticky fingers! So we’ve started a tradition of painting our pumpkins. We dream up designs in the morning over some pumpkin pancakes, go to the craft store to gather our supplies, and spend the rest of the day creating our masterpieces. I get a little carried away, sometimes glitter is involved, and my youngest usually has an outlandish design request.. but it’s a lot of fun and less messy.
4. “Craft” Day – I have somehow convinced my kids that putting together their class treat bags with me is a Halloween activity.. but when you’re munching on candy and there’s fun monster jams playing.. you kind of agree to anything Mom says right? Well it works. I set up an assembly line and they work their little hearts away, picking at the candy bowl put out as their working wage.
5. Harvest Festivals – My kids aren’t allowed to dress up at school the day of Halloween for safety purposes, so instead we attend their Harvest Festival in our costumes. Its affordable, proceeds support the school, and the kids get to see their friends dressed up.
6. Visit a Farm – There are pumpkin patches and there are farms, and it wasn’t until I moved to Sacramento that I discovered the difference! Find a farm so your kids can see where their pumpkin come from, to taste home made treats, purchase local crafts, and tour the grounds. In Sacramento we venture up to Apple Hill and enjoy Boa Vista Orchards. Dress in flannels or scarves for a photo op because the sights are beautiful.
7. Visit a Pumpkin Patch – That “uh duh” moment we were talking about? Yeah it’s time, but have you ever been to Del Osso Farm (Lathrop, CA) or Uesugi Farm (Morgan Hill, CA)? These patches are on steroids and we make our way to at least one location every year! Ride a train or stack of hay, run through the corn maze, or shoot pumpkins out of cannons.. there’s something for every age group. Entrance is free but parking and attractions prices vary depending on how close to Halloween you go.
The Not So Usual
8. Boo at the Zoo – Tons of zoos host days where kids are encouraged to dress in costume and trick or treat around the property. Usually there are crafts, sometimes later hours, and a great way to teach kids about nocturnal animals! Information for the Sacramento Zoo can be found here, and for others simply search Google!
9. Food Festivals – How much do you REALLY love pumpkins? Enough to try pumpkin Mac and Cheese? If thats the case then look for a local food festival and fill up to your hearts content. For many years we visited the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and it was always a good time. Pro Tip? Get there early via Highway 1 and DO NOT go anywhere near the 92. Oh and Pumpkin Mac is actually pretty good!
10. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos – Even if you’re not Mexican, I think the majority of children enjoyed Pixar’s Coco last year in theaters, and the idea about remembering loved ones that have past is a great way to transition from Halloween into Thanksgiving. Search for local festivities, museum exhibits, or check out Pinterest for fun crafts. In Sacramento the California Museum will open a special exhibit and host sugar skull workshops. My favorite event to attend is Panteon de Sacramento.. remember in the movie Coco how Miguel’s family set up an alter (ofrenda) remembering their loved ones? During this event, families set up ofrendas for others to view, there are crafts for kids, music and local vendors selling selling traditional foods.
Does my super early preparedness make sense now? I love this time of year and the traditions we’ve begun as a family. It’ll be interesting to see which ones my kids carry on in the future and which ones we’ll laugh at our past selves for doing. What are some Halloween traditions your family does every year? Follow me on Instagram and tag me in your festivities, I’d love to see!