This season of gourds and ghouls is full of family-friendly activities, from pumpkin festivals to animal encounters. Keep reading for our ten favorite autumn events.
1. Kids' Halloween Parade and Party
Head to Denver's Union Station for a family-friendly parade and party from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 27. This year’s annual Halloween celebration features trick-or-treating in merchant shops and a costume parade kicking off at 5:30 p.m., taking wee goblins, superheroes and princesses on a march around Wynkoop Plaza. Prizes will be awarded for best overall and best group or family costume. As kids strut their stuff, they’ll mingle with a variety of special guests, including princesses, a stilt walker, a balloon artist and a magician — all to the tune of a DJ spinning Halloween hits. Parents: Come back at 9 p.m. on Friday, October 28, for an adults-only Spooky Speakeasy at Terminal Bar. The event includes scary movies, creepy music, a costume contest and killer Halloween cocktails and beer specials. For more information on both events, visit the Denver Union Station website.
2. Halloween Fest
Starting October 28
Something's fishy at the Downtown Aquarium. From Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sharkey and his friends will host happy hauntings. The aquarium will also offer a fun lineup of activities, crafts and games, including a not-so-haunted train ride, monster mural painting, mad-science experiments (Saturday and Sunday only) animal shows, trick-or-treating and a costume contest. Outside activities are free, and costumed kiddos get inside the aquarium for half-price admission on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 303-561-4450 or visit the Downtown Aquarium’s website.
3. Night of the Living Dead: Live!
The Bug Theatre
Through October 29
Don’t miss out on one of Denver’s best Halloween traditions! The Bug Theatre and Paper Cat Films have brought George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead back to life, for an eighth rip-roaring reimagining of the classic story of seven people trapped in a farmhouse — surrounded by flesh-eating ghouls, of course. This year’s production includes impressive multimedia elements from Paper Cat, along with an urban-legend twist drawing on some of the most spine-tingling campfire tales ever told: the hook hand, Bloody Mary and more. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings through October 29, with a special industry performance on Thursday, October 27. Night of the Living Dead: Live! is more comedy than horror, true, but we still recommend it for families with tweens and teens. Tickets are $15 in advance and can be purchased on the Bug Theatre’s website; discounts are available for students, seniors, military and anyone dressed like a zombie.
4. Boo N Brew
Colfax Avenue, between York Street and Colorado Boulevard
A disturbingly wonderful Colfax Block Party awaits at this tenth installment of the Bluebird District’s family-friendly Boo N Brew scarefest. From 1 p.m. on, enjoy tricks and treats from 35 local restaurants and retailers decked out for the season. The event's free for kids from 1 to 4 pm; highlights include made-to-order candy bars, a bouncy castle, live music, face-painting and pumpkin decorating. Come in costume: Wee vampires, zombies and superheroes can trick or treat up and down the street. A big kid party kicks off at 9 p.m. with drink specials and live music.
5. Silent Screams
Little Man Ice Cream
At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, grab a silent-movie headset and settle in for special screenings of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Ghostbusters. Fuel up while you watch with Little Man’s Pumpkin “I-Scream” and Fat Jack’s Super Subs’ tingling chile and special spooky subs. Silent film screenings will be followed by a silent-disco costume ball beginning at 8:30 p.m. The whole thing’s free; for details, visit Little Man's website.
Keep reading for five more family-friendly events.
6. Ride Through the Haunted Woods
This weekend the Dao House — located just south of Estes Park — continues its annual tradition of whisking patrons through the woods on a horse-drawn wagon pulled by Belgian draft-horse teams. Passengers will encounter dreadful characters and creatures along the way, with hair-raising sounds coming from the deep woods. Rides are offered at 6:30, 7:15 and 8 p.m.; the early ride is less scary, and suggested for families with young children. Tickets are $30 for adults and teens, $20 for ages four to eleven; make reservations by calling 970-586-4094. Inside the Dao House, guests will be greeted by skeletons, tricks and other treats; witches’ brew and ghoulish snacks will be available for purchase.
7. Ghosts in the Gardens and Glow in the Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens
Through October 30
Denver Botanic Gardens dares guests to come to its York Street property — which was once a cemetery — for ghastly tours with a who'll guide shares haunting tales from the Gardens’ hundred-year history; you can also visit the Waring House Mansion, which isn’t usually open to the public. Tickets are $23 for members and $27 for non-members. For a less frightful experience, try Glow at the Gardens, offered the evenings of October 26 and 27, from 6 to 9:30 p.m., when luminaria-lined pathways will reveal larger-than-life pumpkin displays. Indoor activities include live music, costume contests and hands-on crafts, and seasonal food and beverages will be available for purchase.
8. Creatures of the Night
Cherokee Ranch & Castle
6113 North Daniels Park Road in Sedalia
See some of nature’s spookiest night creatures in the light of day between 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday. During a hands-on presentation beginning at 2 p.m., guests will meet live snakes, arachnids, frogs and owls, and learn the ins and outs of how each animal hunts, eats and lives. Castle tours are offered before and after the presentation, along with treats and themed crafts. Come in costume and parade around the Castle for a chance to win a prize. For details call 303-688-5555; don’t forget to reserve your spot in advance online.
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9. Get Lost in the Corn at Maize in the City
Daily through Halloween
By day, this twenty-acre corn maze is a favorite fall destination for Front Range families, with an engaging smartphone trivia game. The big maze takes a minimum of forty minutes to complete; a shorter mini-maze is available for youngsters. Tickets to the big maze are $12 for adults, $9 for children, and kids four and under get in free; access to the nearby pumpkin field is free, too; the maze is open daily through Halloween. And at night, the innocent labyrinth morphs into a Haunted Field of Screams that’ll terrify even the most devout Children of the Corn fan. See Maize in the City's website for tickets and pricing, or call 720-408-0006.
10. The 13th Floor Haunted House
Through early November
If you’re looking to raise your heart rate while racing through a tipsy-turvy, totally disturbing labyrinth of cadavers and monsters, we strongly recommend 13th Floor, recently ranked the #2 haunted house in America by hauntedhouses.com. Denver’s largest haunted house features a world-renowned set laid out over three stages in an old warehouse and created by Hollywood special-effects artists. 13th Floor’s actors will have you screaming from parking lot to finish, as you tap into childhood nightmares while confronting a range of fantastical horror. (Psst: Watch out for the guy with the shovel!) This is the fifteenth season, and it runs through early November. If you make it through 13th Floor alive, you might be ready for 13th Floor Entertainment Group’s sister house, the bone-chilling Asylum, where the souls of 200 former residents and doctors of the Ridgegate Asylum will make you question your own sanity in choosing to enter.