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Get into the Halloween "Spirit"

Franklin Square. Photo by J. Fusco.

This Halloween won't be a sweet as it has been in past years, but it may be scarier than any year in recent history. Despite everything going on, there are lots of activities to help you get into the Halloween spirit. Here's a list of things to do outdoors, indoors and several virtual events too, so you can pick the entertainment that doesn't frighten you.

Outside events

Playing spooky mini golf at Franklin Square is the perfect activity for families with young children, teens or dates. The obstacles at this park, one of the five original squares created by William Penn, are mini-Philadelphia icons like the Liberty Bell, Elfreth's Alley and the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps (a.k.a. the Rocky steps). Each icon is decorated for Halloween and you'll see giant spiders, cobwebs, skeletons and other creepy critters. Fog, dramatic lighting and Halloween music add to the atmosphere.

Another kid-friendly way to celebrate Halloween is on the scarecrow walk at Morris Arboretum. This 167-acre arboretum in Chestnut Hill is filled with fairy tale themed scarecrows. Find them throughout the grounds and then vote for your favorite.

There's nothing like a scary movie on Halloween. The Bourse will be showing Hocus Pocus on its patio on Friday nights for the remainder of the month. This 1993 movie with Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker is about witches who resurrect a teenage boy. It's rated PG. Drinks and food, including black oreo ice cream from Scoop de Ville, will be available.

Laurel Hill Cemetery. Photo by Rob Cardillo.

Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery ramps up the fear factor night time with flashlight tours. Vertical visitors (as opposed to the horizontal residents) will learn about the cemetery's history and the spirits that reside there. Hear tales from the tombs during this 2 hour tour then top off the evening with pumpkin decorating. Pumpkins and decorating materials provided.

There's a new fall-themed food and shopping festival in South Philly - the Passyunk Harvest Celebration. Restaurants will offer fall themed specials - for indoor dining, outdoor dining and take out. Think Halloween cookies at Essen Bakery and a pumpkin cinnamon spice milkshake at P’unk Burger. Retailers will get in on the act too, such as A Novel Idea where they're offering Halloween-themed book bundles for adults, middle schoolers and little kids. Through the weekend.

Inside events

You'll want to flag the Spooky Twilight Tours at the Betsy Ross House. If you think 2020 has been scary, wait until you hear their frightening tales about Philly's sickly history -- yellow fever, small pox, infection, inoculation and cures like blood-letting. At least no one has suggested that in 2020. Includes a shadowy house tour.

Photo courtesy of Legoland Discovery Center.

At Legoland Discovery Center in Plymouth Meeting, they'll be hosting a Halloween celebration aptly named "Brick or Treat." Bring your favorite kid and build a lego pumpkin to add to the Lego pumpkin patch, play hide & shriek as you search for spooky scenes and load up your Instagram account with photos taken in from of Halloween-themed lego backdrops. Visitors are encouraged to come in costume.

Eastern State Penitentiary has pivoted this year. Instead of Terror Behind the Walls, the former prison will offer moonlight tours. This new event will feature dramatic lighting and two giant video projections on the massive prison walls - one of a silent movie shot at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1920 and the other of animated shorts created by incarcerated artists.

The Mutter Museum can be ghoulish even when it's not Halloween. During the holiday they're ramping up the thrills and chills with after hours tours highlighting mortuary objects from the days of home-based funeral homes, such as a mobile embalming kit and an autopsy set.

Virtual Events/At Home

University City's Penn Museum is offering a virtual event called Monsters, Myths & Legends. Participants will hear the legends behind vampires, werewolves & other monsters like snake-haired and intestine-faced demons. Not a pretty picture! To get everyone in the halloween “spirit” Philly Loves Beer has curated a 6 pack of mystery beer that can be picked up at a bottle shop ahead of time and enjoyed during the virtual event.

Halloween cupcakes at Day By Day.

Day by Day, a lunch and brunch staple at 21st & Sansom in Rittenhouse Square for nearly 40 years, is cooking up a way to make your home-based celebration scarier and tastier. Pastry Chef Molly Barg has created a brain cake, charming spooky cupcakes, Halloween cookies and more. Call ahead to order. Less scary baked goods -- like apple fritters, donuts and carrot cake by the slice -- are also good treats for the holiday that's all about sweets.

And to see some dog-gone creative costumes, check out the Center City Residents' Association's Pet Photo Contest at

Whether you're celebrating Halloween inside, outside or virtually, you're in for some real treats in Philadelphia this year.


by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphiaand Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. For even more tips, visit Planning a staycation? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.

Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including two posts with tips for how to help restaurants survive, socially-distant tours and a look at Philly-style masks.

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