If my kids had to pick just one holiday to celebrate each year, I'm not sure anything could beat out Halloween, not even Christmas. There's just something about a day laden with candy and costumes and magic that seems to make kids dance with happiness.
(Or maybe that's just my four-year-old dancing because she has to go to the bathroom. "Do you have to go potty, Teyla?" I ask my daughter at least a day when I see her doing The Potty Dance in the playroom. "No, Mommy," she says, legs crossed, booty wiggling. "I'm just dancing!")
The anticipation reaches fever pitch this week, when the sleeps-until-Halloween number in the single digits. Personally, I'm all for the kind of fun Halloween represents for young kids.* Dressing-up? Make-believe? Candy and giggles? It's childlike play at its best.
The last few years, I've made it my personal mission to scout out the best Halloween events for families in the Twin Cities, with a special emphasis on my neck of the woods in St. Paul. The more my kids get to dress up in their costumes, the better - especially since all good Minnesotans know to not count on the outfits actually being seen during Halloween trick-or-treating, what with the winter coat and mittens and hats and all. And heck - it's fun! It's fall! It's cavities! What's not to love?
Here are my top picks for non-spooky, family-friend fun.
Byerly’s and Lund’s Boo Blast
I put this one at the top of my list because it’s my family's favorite. Picture a Halloween party in the midst of a gourmet grocery store, and you'll have a good idea what to expect. (Pity the poor shoppers who swing by that night planning to pick up a few things for dinner.) The main attraction is the trick-or-treating through the aisles; kids follow a well-marked path and pick up treats like chocolate milk and chips and baby carrots from costumed employees. But there is also cookie decorating, a DJ-manned dance party and picture opportunities throughout the store. It's a madhouse, but it's a fun madhouse.
(And in case you doubt my love for the Boo Blast, I offer this proof to you: Our first year back in Minnesota, I drove two hours one way to attend a Boo Blast - with a two-year-old Natalie and a two-week-old Connor in tow. Here's a picture of my sister holding newborn Connor - in costume, no less - as we ate dinner at Byerly's Restaurant.)
Dates and times of the Boo Blast vary by location. Check the link above for the store closest to you.
Kowalski's Markets also do a Boo Bash, a fact I just discovered. All the stores do the event on the same night. This year, that night is October 23, from 4:00-7:00 PM. If you have a Kowalski's near you, it might be worth checking out.
Halloween at the Minnesota Children's Museum
The Minnesota Children's Museum is one of the best children's museums in the country. That's straight-up fact. So naturally, their Halloween event is a must-attend. It's a full evening of trick-or-treating through the museum, getting to play at the usual, amazing exhibits and other special events like glow-in-the-dark crafts, spooky mirrors and a moon bounce. Due to popularity, this party has transitioned from being open to the public to a members-only event. Reservations are recommended. This year's party is scheduled for October 26 and 27, from 6:00 - 9:00 PM. (Update: Bummer! And I just learned it's sold out for 2012! Like I said: It's popular!)
Como Park's ZooBoo
The ZooBoo is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and with good reason: It's a magical event that transforms the zoo into a world of fairytales with more than 200 costumed characters entertaining tiny costumed guests. It's always been insanely busy when we've gone; but the volunteers working the event make it fun, and the kids love seeing the zoo in a new light. Plus, it's Como's largest fundraiser of the year, and I'm all about supporting a zoo that requires nothing more than a what-you-can-spare donation for normal admission.
Because this event is so popular, Como runs it two consecutive weekends. Remaining dates for 2012 are October 26, 27 and 28, from 4:30 - 7:30 PM. Tickets are $7 at the door or $6 in advance. You can purchase tickets online, in person at Como's gift shop or by phone at 651-487-8229.
Tamarack Nature Center Trick or Treat
This is one of those Halloween events that will either be the highlight of the season, or a really soggy Saturday. It's all about the weather. Tamarak Nature Center is a gem tucked away in the northeaster quadrant of the Twin Cities. (Two words: Discovery Hollow. If you've never visited this world-class nature play area, put it on the top of your list!) Tamarack is well-known for its preschool programs, so it's not surprise that their Halloween festivities are decidedly non-spooky. Besides trick-or-treating outside on the trails, kids can enjoy games, entertainment, hand-pressed cider and a few live animals.
This year's Tamarack Trick or Treat is Saturday, October 27 from 3:00 - 5:30 PM (although, due to popularity, when you register, you pick a start time - either 3:00, 3:20, 3:40 or 4:00). The cost is $7.50 per child, $3.25 per adult. Register online.
Grand Ave's Boo Bash
A whole day of free fun along St. Paul's charming and iconic Grand Ave. Events include a children's costume contest, a Monster Mash dance, a petting zoo, pony rides, a bounce house and a trick-or-treating word search in participating stores. This year's party is Saturday, October 27, from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM.
*Just to be clear: Halloween to me is dressing up like super heroes and princesses and eating too much candy. I am not a fan of the creepy, gory, scary version of Halloween. I relate a lot with what my friend Hollywood Housewife said here.