Haunted Twin Cities: The Best Halloween Attractions Around
Some ideas to help you get into the Halloween spirit—if the spirit doesn’t get into YOU first, bwahahaha.
Pumpkin Nights at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is a new Halloween attraction this year.
All Hallow Eve: 1900s Halloween
What: Experience Halloween, circa the 1900s. You’ll discover old burial customs (coffin alarm, anyone? Just in case, you know, you happened to be buried alive), view the first silent Frankenstein movie, hear spooky stories in the library, and learn how to make popular Victorian treats molasses taffy, popcorn balls, and ginger cookies.
When: October 21 and 22; 1-8 p.m.
Where: Dakota City Heritage Village, 4008 220th St. W., Farmington (on the Dakota County Fairgrounds)
Admission: Free for 3 and under, $4 for kids 4-12, $6 for 13+
Tips: Attendees are encouraged to come in costume. dakotacity.org
Anoka Grand Day Parade
What: An impressive realllly long two+ hour Halloween parade in Anoka, the “Halloween Capital of the World.” The parade kicks off with a flyover, then proceeds to showcase area groups, businesses, and organizations via kid-friendly floats and parade units. No gore, blood, or violent themes are allowed (the parade is deliberately kept PG for the little ones watching), and no political groups or campaigning is allowed in or on the 1.5-mile route.
When: October 29, 1-3:30 p.m.
Where: Main Street and Fifth Avenue, Anoka
Tips: The week before Halloween includes a full lineup of events, including a house-decorating contest, Halloween Wine Tasting, Halloween Bingo, Big Parade of Little People, Carnival, and Gray Ghost 5K and one-mile walk/run. anokahalloween.com. Read a review of the Halloween Capital of the World here.
Boo-ology at the Science Museum
What: A science-based look at Halloween, with spooky hands-on activities and events. Kids under 12—who arrive dressed in costume—get free museum admission.
When: Saturday, Oct. 29, noon to 4 p.m.
Where: Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
Admission: $20, smm.org
What: Families can experience up-close encounters with everything from bats and tarantulas to tigers and tapirs, with fun activities like face painting, a hay maze, and special "creature features."
When: October 22, 23, 29, 30; 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m.
Where: Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley
Admission: Seniors (65+) $12, adults $18, kids 3-12 $12, kids 2 and under free.
Tips: There is a $7 fee to park your car, separate from general admission. If going with a group, try to carpool. mnzoo.org
** NEW EVENT Pumpkin Nights
What: A family-friendly festival featuring 3,000 hand-carved jack-o'-lanterns lining a mile-long walking path on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds—12 different displays, ranging from Dracula’s Graveyard to the Great Pumpkin Reef (complete with music, UV lights, and bubbles). Halfway through the path, stop for apple cider, hot chocolate, or seasonal State Fair treats. There's also a booth for purchasing glow necklaces, bracelets, and glasses, among other Pumpkin Nights merchandise.
When: 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6:30 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday through Halloween.
Where: Minnesota State Fairgrounds (West Como entrance), St. Paul.
Admission: $16 for kids 4-12 and seniors (65+); $20 for adults. Family packs (two adult + two kid tickets) are $64; half-price on Mondays. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. See pumpkinnights.com for discounted deals.
Tips: Print off the scavenger hunt sheet online beforehand and try to find the 12 things hidden in the displays. (My boys, 9 and 6, loved this!) There was nothing too scary in the displays, although the Halloween music and fog machines gave the illusion that something scary might be coming up. Costumes are welcome; just leave the props and weapons at home. The path is both wheelchair and stroller friendly. pumpkinnights.com. Read more, and view photos of Pumpkin Nights, here.
What: A fun, not-scary, mostly-silly Halloween ride on a historic streetcar.
When: Saturday, October 29, 12:30-4:30 p.m.
Where: Como-Harriet streetcar line (board at the Linden Hills Station, Queen Avenue South at West 42nd Street, or at the Lake Calhoun platform on Richfield Road just south of West 36th Street).
Admission: $2 (free for those 3 and under)
Tips: Buy tickets in advance. trolleyride.org
ZooBoo at Como Zoo
What: A non-scary way for the kiddos (best suited for kids 3-8) to celebrate Halloween. Kids are encouraged to wear their costumes as they wander from scene to scene along the trick-or-treat trail. According to the website, “Community support and more than 200 costumed characters have helped to make Como Friends’ ZooBoo at Como Zoo one of the longest-running fundraisers for any nonprofit in the state.” Funds support the zoo’s programs and their effort to keep the zoo free for all.
When: The last two weekends in October: Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30
Where: Como Zoo, 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul
Admission: $7 at the door
Tips: Dress warm! The event is held outdoors. Don’t expect to see many animals (although a few might make an appearance). Use the free shuttle service from the State Fair parking lot on the south side of Como—the shuttle runs from 4-8:15 p.m. The first weekend is typically less busy than the second. Crowds are lighter after 6 p.m. comozooconservatory.org
FOR MATURE AUDIENCES
A Bump in the Night
What: A haunted dinner party, leading to an escape room mystery to “set a spirit free!” (The goal is to create a spooky ambiance, rather than a creepy/gory one.)
When: October 21, 22, 28, 29
Where: Arcana Lodge in Northeast Minneapolis, 920 Lowry Ave.
Admission: $30 (includes four-course dinner and the puzzle room). Each session is limited to 10 people. Tickets are limited. Proceeds support the Braden Masonic Lodge scholarship fund. bradenlodge.org
Dead End Hayride
What: Three harrowing attractions: A haunted hayride, a haunted house in the middle of the woods, and a trip through a haunted cornfield. The actors can (and will) touch you. The lines are notoriously long, but you can watch horror movies on the big screen while you wait, and have photos taken with a few of the really creepy actors. (Some won’t pose for photos.)
When: Remaining 2016 dates: October 19-23, 26-31
Where: 28186 Kettle River Rd., Wyoming (Pinehaven Farm)
Admission: Ranges from $13-48
Tips: Dress warm! Lines are shortest on Thursdays, Sundays, and right at opening time (7 p.m.) Buy the Fast Pass, it’s worth the extra greenbacks. thedeadendhayride.com.
Ghost Trolley Late Show
What: A 45-minute “uninterrupted journey ghost trolley late show” on a historic streetcar. Not recommended for children.
When: Sunday, October 30, 8 and 9 p.m.
Where: Linden Hills Station, Queen Avenue South at West 42nd Street
Tips: Buy tickets in advance: trolleyride.org
Halloween Haunt at ValleySCARE
What: Vampires, demented clowns, zombies, creepy creatures, and the Living Dead lurk within multiple haunted houses, graveyards, mazes, and around (and on!) the rides at Valleyfair.
When: Remaining 2016 dates: Select nights through November 1
Where: Valleyfair, 1 Valley Fair Dr., Shakopee
Admission: Vary from $35-38. For ticket info: valleyfair.com
Read a first-person account of a behind-the-scenes ValleySCARE experience at visit-twincities.com
Haunted Basement at The Soap Factory
What: When you head down into the basement of the Soap Factory, you’ll see some pretty gory, twisted, strange “environments” built by artists. You also might find yourself covered in fake blood (or oatmeal, or peanut butter), you might be separated from your friends, and some of the actors will get into it and interact with you in an effort to make you uncomfortable. And while the artist-designed scenes—and the actors—are freaky enough on their own, the fact that the old 1880s soap factory building is reportedly haunted in real life is the freakiest aspect of all. Adrian Lee, founder of the International Paranormal Society, said the building is “one of the most paranormally thick environments I have ever had the displeasure to investigate,” with entities “bordering on demonic.” If you want to bail midway through, just say “uncle.”
When: Remaining 2016 dates: Wednesdays through Sundays, through November 1
Where: The Soap Factory, 514 Second St. SE, Minneapolis
Admission: $25-40 (the high end is for the blind invocation, if you want to be completely terrified). *Must be 18 or older, sign a waiver, and show a valid ID.
Tips: Wear close-toed shoes and clothes that can get dirty. If you don’t like to be touched, DO NOT GO TO THIS. soapfactory.org
Haunting Experience on Highway 61
What: While on a haunted hayride, stop to tour an abandoned steel mill that comes alive at night, walk (or run?) through the haunted manor house, and check out the ghoulish fun house, plus—for an extra fee—head into a zombie war zone and blast cannibal corpses in a game of Big Zombie Hunter Paintball.
When: October 19, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 30
Where: 10900 E. Pt. Douglas Rd., Cottage Grove (Zywiec’s Landscape & Garden Center)
Admission: $16 on October 19, 20, 27, 30; $20 on October 21, 22, 28, 29; fast pass ranges from $26-30 for the Haunting Experience; an additional $15-20 for paintball (or purchase a combo pass for $40). Recommended for those 12 and over.
Tip: As an attraction, the working farm hosts a daily separate corn maze which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. hauntingexperience.com
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Fright Farm Haunted House
What: A professional-feeling haunted house with great special effects, costumes, and makeup (*there will be no teenagers jumping out and screaming in your face). Some people even ask to exit the haunt because they think it’s “too scary.”
When: Remaining 2016 dates: Friday and Saturday nights through Halloween night (7-11 p.m.)
Where: 2020 White Bear Ave., Maplewood
Tips: Lines can get long, so arrive early. You must be in line by 11 p.m. for guaranteed entrance. If you want a “low-scare matinee” experience, go on October 23 from noon to 4 p.m. (only $5). frightfarm.org
Real Haunted Tours at the Historic Mounds Theatre
What: While at the theatre, hear stories about the theatre’s residential spirits (Jim and Red, who both worked at the theater and loved it so much they never left, and 6-year-old Mary, who was tragically strangled in the parking lot). According to the website, “Paranormal company is included.”
When: October 21, 22, 28, 29, 30
Where: 1029 Hudson Rd., St. Paul
Tips: 16+, you will walk in the dark and go up and down stairs. If you also want to tour the haunted the basement, go on the last tour of the night (11:59 p.m.) and upgrade to the three-hour tour. realhauntedtours.com
What: More than 360,000 square feet of self-guided attractions including a haunted corn maze, Oak Blood Forest, Hillbilly Motel, Circus Asylum, Phobia House, and Abandoned (with VIP pass), when you’re sent out into the pitch black woods with just a small lantern to guide you. (Watch out for the creatures slithering in the trees—for this attraction, they’re allowed to reach out and grab you.)
When: October 20, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 (lights out event)
Where: 7410 Highway 212, Chaska
Admission: Depends on when you go, whether you purchase your tickets online or at the door, and if you want the Fast Pass, but ranges from $35-60 (VIP).
Tips: Wear old shoes, dress for the weather, and make sure you purchase your box office tickets no later than 10 p.m. (the attractions close at 11 p.m.) This is not handicap-accessible. screamtown.com
** NEW EVENT Terror Trail Camping
What: An interactive overnight camping experience, basically a collision of your worst camping nightmare and horror movie plot. According to their website, this will be “an interactive terror camp filled with several haunted areas to keep you awake all night.” Choose from the “Wussy” experience ($49.99/four people per tent—in this tent you will have “uninterrupted slumber”); the “Skeleton” experience ($59.99/two to four people per tent, a handful of ghouls will disturb your rest); or the “Zombie” experience ($69.99/two people per tent—you will be subject to endless frightening interaction to keep you in an “endless state of terror”). Don't expect to get much sleep.
When: October 21, 22, 28, 29
Where: Camp Ojikita Regional Park, 27500 Kirby Ave., Chisago City (*not at Running Aces, the previous home of Nightmare Hallow Scream Park)
Schedule: Register between 8-9:15 p.m.; orientation from 9:15-10; 10 p.m.-midnight horror movies, games, Dark Crypts haunted house; 2:30 a.m.-3 a.m. break at group fire; 3-7:30 a.m. lights out (the Final Scare begins); 7:30-8:30 a.m. continental breakfast. Recommended 18+ (16+ with parents’ permission).
Tips: No alcohol, drugs, weapons, or knives allowed. Once you check in, you can’t return to your vehicle for any reason. All bags will be checked at the entrance. nightmarehallowscreampark.com
Trail of Terror
What: A carnival-like atmosphere with attractions including Hotel 666 (complete with 25 themed rooms, so you never really know when you're at the end), Chuckles Pizzeria, Grubbs Pest Control, Harmony Department of Corrections, BonE Appetit, Crystal Caverns, and the Howling Pines Woods Walk.
When: Friday through Sunday, through October 30. Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; and Sundays from 7-11 p.m. Box office closes at 10 p.m., attractions close at 11 p.m.
Where: 3525 145th St. W., Shakopee
Admission: $25 (additional charges for Zombie Paintball, Lockdown, Hogtied Pub Crawl, etc.).
Tips: Discounted tickets can be purchased at Walgreens or online. The attractions are wheelchair-accessible. Beer and wine are sold at on-site bars. Don’t want to go to the haunted house but still want to get spooked? Participate in The Running Dead 5K on Oct. 22, following a course through the zombie-infested woods of terror. trailofterrormn.com
Twin Cities Horror Festival
What: 18 local theater groups present psychologically horrifying or dark and twisted theater, dance, music, and film throughout this 11-day festival. Shows range from “13 Dead Dreams of Eugene,” based on a true story from 1929, to “A Zombie Odyssey” (and so much more).
When: October 27-November 6
Where: The Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave., Minneapolis
Admission: Tickets are $15-$40 or can be purchased at a discount rate when buying multi-punch passes. tchorrorfestival.com
Victorian Ghost Stories
What: Costumed actors will present dramatic readings of 19th-century ghost stories, including works by Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, and the Brothers Grimm (plus some “true” ghost stories) in the dimly-lit parlor of the James J. Hill House, an elaborate mansion completed in 1891.
When: Friday, Oct. 21, 7-8 p.m., 8:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 28, 7-8 p.m.
Where: James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Ave., St. Paul
Tip: Not recommended for kids 10 and under. mnhs.org
Wabasha Street Caves Ghosts and Graves or Ghosts, Graves, and Caves Tour
What: A bus tour of downtown St. Paul, including trips to haunted graveyards, as told by animated, entertaining costumed storytellers sharing details about gangster-era murders and bloodshed in our capital city. The Ghosts, Graves, and Caves Tour includes the extra bonus of a short tour of the Wabasha Street Caves, a Prohibition-era speakeasy, reportedly filled with ghosts who still think they’re at a 1930s nightclub.
When: October 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 (reservations required)
Where: Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul (call for details of where to catch the bus—651-224-1191)
Admission: $25 (tax included). wabashastreetcaves.com