Catch the Spirit: Halloween 2016

halloweencostumesWe arrived in the US in August, so the first major American holiday we experienced, and one of the most exciting for the kids, was Halloween. We’d all seen enough American TV shows to know that Halloween was a big deal here, not at all like at home in the UK, and when piles of pumpkins and giant inflatable decorations started appearing in the stores in September (not to mention pumpkin-flavored everything in Trader Joe’s) the kids were overjoyed.

From low-key to all out

In the UK, Halloween is pretty low-key. Not many people decorate their house and kids only go trick or treating to a few neighbors they know. In fact, a lot of people will keep the lights off in the front of their house to make it look like they’re not home or just ignore a knock on the door (I sometimes did it myself pre-kids!). Adults definitely do not dress up unless they’re going to a costume party.

Our first Halloween here, I couldn’t help but get into the spirit of things along with the kids. It’s hard not to when Halloween is all around you. We went to Target to buy spiders and spider webs, skulls, pumpkins, witches hats and more to decorate the house and Michael’s to buy Halloween-themed crafts. My husband thought we were crazy to decorate for Halloween, so I didn’t push for an inflatable for our front lawn, but we loved spotting the inflatables go up on other people’s lawns as we drove around town.


halloweenjackolanternPumpkins galore

Once the house was decorated we had to finish it off with pumpkins, so we set off for a pumpkin patch, which was another fun and unexpected Halloween tradition for us. They pop up everywhere. Whether you want a simple stroll around a farm, pick your pumpkins, maybe have a picnic and head home, or bounce houses, face painting, hayrides and haunted houses, the choice is yours! Here’s a good selection of the many pumpkin patches around the Bay Area:

Spooky fun

So the house was in costume, now for us. The kids agonized over what to wear, changed their minds several times, but eventually chose their costumes. I would never have dressed up in the UK, but I found out it’s quite common here for families to dress up together in a theme, so ignoring my husband’s eye rolls, I decided to join in and match my daughter’s costume. This was going to be an awesome Halloween!


The great thing is, there’s so much going on leading up to Halloween, the kids get to wear their costumes again and again. Each town in the Bay Area has their own Halloween event – safe streets, costume parades, concerts, storytimes, haunted houses – and local attractions, such as museums, theme parks, and zoos have special Halloween themes too. Again the choice is yours and here’s some of the family events happening in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

On Halloween night, we tried the Haunted House at Gold Medal martial arts in Foster City, which my then 7-year-old did find pretty creepy, then took to the streets in search of candy. We loved seeing the inflatables we’d watched going up all lit up, and marveled at dancing skeletons in a window here and dry ice floating around a house there. With lots of people in the street and neighbors inviting the kids to take handfuls of candy it was a really fun end to weeks of anticipation and fun events. This year we’re going trick or treating on Eucalyptus Avenue, San Carlos, where the entire street goes all out with amazing decorations. We can’t wait.

About Nicola Morrison

I'm a grammar geek, content editor and writer, with a love of travel. Originally from Northern Ireland, I moved to Wales to go to university and never looked back, moving on to England, then Australia, and back to England before landing in the Bay Area in 2014. Having grown up with American TV I wasn't expecting to experience culture shock here but I was surprised by how many things were different. Drivers' inability to use their indicators (turn signals) here still frustrates me on a daily basis! But I have fallen in love with California and enjoy good coffee and Asian food and road tripping around this great state with my family.

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