13 Things to Do in Museums for Halloween 2021

October 14, 2021

It has been over a year since the pandemic and because Halloween is coming up soon, I was curious to find out what museums are doing to celebrate this year. I did some research, and there were some museums that have in-person, virtual, and hybrid events going on either leading up to the holiday or near the holiday. While I only listed thirteen of them, there are more museum Halloween events out there. If you come across other ones, please share in the comments or contact me via email or social media.

The list is in no particular order, and it is only a small sample of museums from around the country. Their websites will have their own COVID-19 policies listed.

  1. New York State Museum, New York, Halloween Spooktacular Online

http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/programs/halloween-spooktacular

This virtual event can be found on this page, and activities that can be done at home are shown through pre-recorded videos. Some of the events include storytelling, craft demos, science, and a close-up look at the Museum’s costume collections.

2. Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, New York, Fall Festival: Festive Days/Haunted Nights

https://www.vanderbiltmuseum.org/featured-events/

Each weekend starting on October 15th and ending on October 31st, visitors have the option to attend the Fall Festival during the day and at night. Tickets are currently on sale. Festive Days are $20 for kids and $24 for adults (museum members get a 50% discount). Haunted Nights are $10 for non-members and $5 for members, and kids are welcome.

The Festive Days, 12-4pm, include but not limited to admission to the museum, mini-golf, face painting, Halloween games, and a scavenger hunt. Haunted Nights, 6-10pm, have a Haunted Maze and a 9-hole mini golf course.

3. Fairfield Museum and History Center, Connecticut, Halloween on the Green

https://www.fairfieldhistory.org/programs-events/halloween-on-the-green-2021/

Fairfield Museum’s free family event includes but is not limited to trick-or-treating, a costume parade, tours of the historic buildings, art-making activities, a bounce house, and food trucks. This event takes place on Sunday, October 24th from 12 to 4pm.

4. Marbles Kids Museum, North Carolina, Kooky Spooky

https://www.marbleskidsmuseum.org/KookySpooky

Tickets are currently on sale for a family-friendly after-hours costume party on Friday October 29th from 6 to 8:30pm (members are $15 per person and non-members are $18 per person). Museum’s activities and a dance party are included.

5. Hagley, Delaware, Halloween at Hagley

https://www.hagley.org/calendar/halloween-hagley

There are outdoor activities planned for visitors on Saturday October 30th from 10am to 4pm. Some of the activities include ghost hunting in their garden and making a jack-o-lantern pouch to stash some goodies. Children are encouraged to come in costume and visit the treat stations throughout the surroundings of the historic house and garden. Also, there are costume parades they can participate in (11:30am and 1:30pm).

6. Bowers Museum, California, Virtual Public Tour- Halloween’s History, Horror and Humor 10.31.2021

https://www.bowers.org/index.php/programs/event/3007-virtual-public-tour-halloween-tours-unsolved-mysteries-at-the-bowers-museum-10-31-2021

Even if you are not located in California, you can still participate in this museum’s Halloween festivities. The tour is of the Historic Wing and the history of Halloween highlights mysteries surrounding the Bowers’ oldest artifacts. It also includes a story about the ghostly presence in the museum’s original building that dates back to 1936.  Tickets are $10 for non-members and $5 for members, and the proceeds go towards the museum’s Museum Education Programs. Once tickets are purchased, a private link will be sent to view the online presentation prior to the tour.

7. Madison Children’s Museum, Wisconsin, Upcoming Events for October 2021

https://madisonchildrensmuseum.org/events/

Check out the list of events they have coming up for October including Baby’s First Halloween Week, Music on the Rooftop with Junebug, Beakers & Broomsticks Week, and Happy Halloween Week.

8. Crocker Art Museum, California, Monster Mash

https://www.crockerart.org/event/2764/2021-10-30

The Monster Mash, on Saturday, October 30th, is an event for families to come in costume and participate in a performance they say is full of amazement and artistic inspiration. After the performance, families are able to explore the galleries with a Halloween-inspired scavenger hunt, take a festive family portrait, and discover a magical surprise or two. Every child’s ticket includes an interactive gift bag full of non-edible treats.

9. Omaha Children’s Museum, Nebraska, Trick or Treat Days https://ocm.org/events/trick-or-treat-nights/

This museum has specific days, October 15th and 22nd, families can come in throughout the day dressed in costume, engage with the exhibits, and gather treats in a physically distanced space. The museum has extended their hours on those specific days to make families feel comfortable coming into the museum without crowds.

10. Heritage Museums & Gardens, Massachusetts, Sandwich Halloween Festival

https://heritagemuseumsandgardens.org/mecevents/sandwich-halloween-festival/

The Sandwich Halloween Festival, on October 22nd and October 23rd from 4:30pm to 8pm, has activities that include but are not limited to scavenger hunt, Creepy Science Labs, fire pits with story time, carousel rides, Glow-in-the-Dark & Carnival Games, face/hand painting, haunted maze, and fortune tellers. It is $5 per person and children 2 and under are free. Entry ends at 6:00pm. More information can be found in the link.

11. Hiller Aviation Museum, California, Halloween Haunted Hangar 2021 https://www.smccvb.com/event/halloween-haunted-hangar-2021-at-hiller-aviation-museum/7563/

Visitors can come in costume to explore the museum’s gallery in Halloween décor and participate in the “Great Pumpkin” scavenger hunt. It takes place on October 23rd and 24th, and October 30th and October 31st.

12. Bay Area Discovery Museum, California, Goblin Jamboree https://bayareadiscoverymuseum.org/visit/goblin-jamboree

This is a week-long Halloween celebration filled with activities and delightful frights. It starts on Saturday, October 23rd and ends on Sunday, October 31st, but the museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Tickets are on sale for $25 and $20 for members, and are valid for the 2.5 hours timeslot you reserve when you buy your tickets. There are two options to choose from to purchase tickets: Goblin Jamboree and Goblin Jamboree Breakfast.

13. Children’s Museum Houston, Texas, Grosstopia

https://www.cmhouston.org/news/halloween-grosstopia-2021

According to their site, it is an “ooey, gooey celebration of all things creepy and crawly” family program that lasts for 3 weeks from October 12th to October 30th. There is daily trick-or-treating, meeting friendly characters, watch chilling performances, and perform science experiments by making creepy concoctions in mad science workshops. Some of the days have specific themes and activities, and more updates may be made on the website.

Happy Halloween Month!!

Halloween in the Museums 2020

October 23, 2020

I decided to write a bonus post to share some examples of activities museums are doing for Halloween during this pandemic. While Halloween will look different this year, there are ways to still celebrate while being safe. Museums, whether the experience is virtual or in person, are a great example of resources on what to do this Halloween season. Each one on the list I have complied below includes a link with more information about each of these museums and events. Also, each listing that has in-person gatherings include safety guidelines to protect one another while participating in the events.

The following list includes:

Children’s Museum of New Hampshire: They have both Halloween kits for pick up and a virtual experience combining the fun of Halloween and science.

New York State Museum: New York State Museum’s Halloween Spooktacular is a series of free virtual experiences featuring storytelling, craft demos, science, and a close-up look at the Museum’s costume collections.

Litchfield Historical Society: There is an event called Scarecrows in the Meadow in which families can socially distant walk through displays of scarecrows while enjoying games and self-guided crafts. The event is ongoing until October 31st.

Queens County Farm Museum: There are a number of events occurring at this museum including Halloween on the Farm which is family friendly includes admission to the Amazing Maize Maze, hayrides, kids crafts at the Con Edison Ecology booth and trick-or-treating with the farm animals.

Norwalk Historical Society: This virtual event is a fundraiser that is selling tickets, $10 per household, for the movie Haunting at Mill Hill. Once the tickets are purchased, the movie link will be sent to the email used to purchase the tickets.

New York Botanical Garden: The Great Pumpkin Path, October 3 – November 1, 2020, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Festival: If you are in the area, there is a harvest festival at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. October 24-25, 2020.

Green-Wood Cemetery: The cemetery is celebrating Día de Los Muertos starting on October 23rd, and a community altar will be installed in the Historic Chapel.

This is not a complete list. I hope this list will be a starting point for anyone looking for something to do this Halloween. If you know of other museums doing virtual and/or in-person events for Halloween, please share in the comments.

I have also included a link to the post I wrote last year which includes the history of Halloween here: The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

What are your plans for Halloween this year?

The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

October 30, 2019

To celebrate Halloween, it is time to remind ourselves of how Halloween became the holiday we know in the twenty-first century. Halloween’s earliest root is the Pagan celebration and ancient Gaelic festival Samhain (pronounced “saah-win”) which marked the time of year when seasons changed, and many observers believed the boundary between this world and the outside world is at its thinnest to connect with the dead. Margot Alder explained in her book Drawing Down the Moon that Pagans, or Neo-Pagans, are varying religious groups with differing tradition, scope, structure, organizations, ritual, and names of their deities but regard one another as part of the same religious and philosophical movement; they share the same set of values and communicate with one another through a network of newsletters and websites, as well as regional and national gatherings. Her book went into detail about groups that attempt to recreate ancient European pre-Christian religions with leaders who developed key concepts and theories that are now common within the whole of Paganism. In an attempt to keep this post straight to the point, I will share how Samhain was celebrated, how it is celebrated nowadays, and how it led to the Halloween we now celebrate from resources I came across.

Early celebrations of Samhain involved a lot of ritualistic ceremonies to connect to spirits including celebrating in costumes (using animal skins) as a disguise themselves against ghosts, special feasts, built bon fires, and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds. During these celebrations, people would also tell each other fortunes. After the celebration was over, they re-lit the fires in their homes from the sacred bonfire to help protect them and keep themselves warm during the winter months.

Modern Pagans still celebrate the holiday with death as its central theme. According to Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, she pointed out

Although observances may include merry-making, the honoring of the Dead that is central to Samhain is a serious religious practice rather than a light-hearted make-believe re-enactment. Today’s Pagan Samhain rites, while somber, are benevolent, and, although centered on death, do not involve human or animal sacrifices. Most Samhain rituals are held in private rather than in public.

There are many ways that Pagans today celebrate Samhain. Like people of other faiths, they always honor and show respect for their dead but modern Pagans particularly mark these practices during Samhain. When loved ones recently die, they are remembered, and their spirits are often invited to join the living in the celebratory feast. They also spend time during Samhain formally welcome those born during the past year into the community. Because death symbolizes endings, Samhain is not only a time to reflect on mortality, but it is a time to take stock of the past and coming to terms with it before moving on and looking forward to the future. As Christianity grew, Samhain practices were adopted and branched out into religious holidays celebrating their saints.

When Christians adopted the practices, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve on October 31st, followed by All Saints’ Day on November 1st, retaining the elements of remembering and honoring the dead. All Hallows’ Eve literally means “hallowed evening”, and both All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day paid homage to the holy saints, or “hallows”. The Church traditionally held a vigil on All Hallows’ Eve when worshippers prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast. A third holiday, All Souls’ Day, was usually combined with the other celebrations and traditions from this holiday seem to be precursors of the modern Halloween celebrations. In some traditions, children went from door to door begging for soul cakes (or small cakes described as hot-cross buns, current-topped buns, or small round loaves) and state a traditional rhyme on the day: “A Soule-cake, a Soule-cake, Have mercy on all Christen soules for a Soule-cake”. This tradition evolved into trick-or treating that the candy-grabbing concept became part of the mainstream in the United States between early to mid-1900s when families would provide treats for children hoping they would be immune to the holiday pranks. How do museums relate to Halloween celebrations?

As with other holidays celebrated, museums look for opportunities to engage with visitors and participate within their communities. When museums began to focus on visitor engagement to remain relevant, more programs celebrating Halloween emerged. Current examples of Halloween museum programs are limitless so I will share some of the ones I came across.

Of course, the most popular place to visit during Halloween is in Salem, Massachusetts. There is a website about family friendly events that happen in Salem, especially during Halloween, called Haunted Happenings . Events include but not limited to The Salem Psychic Fair & Witches’ Market, Witch’s Brew Patisserie Tea, Black Cat Tales Book Signing and Discussion, Salem Haunted Magic Show presents Hysteria: Ghost Stories, 28th Annual Temple of Nine Wells-ATC Witches of Salem Magick Circle 2019 e.v. For Samhain Night Free Event, and Haunted Dinner Theater presents Clue Live.

Last Sunday, the New York Historical Society had an event called Beyond Spooky: Hallowe’en Family Party to celebrate their exhibition Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere. Some of the activities they had included get a ride on one of two visiting ponies, create your own horse on a stick, listen to spooky stories, craft secret messages with our Living Historian spymaster, and trick-or-treat for candy.

The Museum of the City of New York has a Halloween party on Halloween geared to families with children ages 6–12 years old. Adults and children attending the party can wear costumes to trick or treat on the spooky New York scavenger hunt, make fun Halloween themed accessories, and dance at the monster mash dance party. Not all Halloween celebrations in museums only target families to attend their public events.

In Connecticut, the New Britain Museum of American Art has an event called Spooky Speakeasy: 1920s Halloween Party! On Halloween partygoers will arrive at the Museum to experience the 1920’s-inspired nightclub to enjoy hors d’oeuvres, learn how to do the Lindy Hop and the Charleston from professional dancers, and listen to live music of the period performed by The Cartells. There is an event that is more for adults but kids can participate if they wish to participate in being scared.

On select dates between September 20th and November 9th, the Eastern State Penitentiary is holding an event for the Halloween season called Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary which is America’s largest haunted house. It consists of six haunted attractions included in one admission price: Lock Down (zombie inmates and guards), Machine Shop (interactive attractions with maniacal surgeons, dentists, and nurses), Infirmary, Blood Yard, Quarantine 4D, and Break Out (inmates using visitors to aid in their escape). No matter how you celebrate this year, I hope everyone stays safe and has a wonderful time.

Happy Halloween! Blessed Samhain!

Resources and Additional Resources:  

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America, New York: Penguin Group, 1979; revised edition 2006, pp. 3, 243–99.

Morton, Lisa. The Halloween Encyclopedia, Second Edition, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2011.

Skal, David J. Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, New York: Bloomsbury, 2003.

https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a40250/heres-why-we-really-celebrate-halloween/

https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/celebrating-samhain

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/samhain.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/halloween_1.shtml

Halloween Event at the Jack the Ripper Museum, London: https://www.jacktherippermuseum.com/

Hershey’s Chocolate Tastings, Hershey, PA: https://hersheystory.org/hersheys-chocolate-tastings/

My Impressions of Salem Witch Museum: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/10/04/patron-request-museum-impressions-salem-witch-museum/