Families Focus on Fun for Halloween

Numerous miniature Batmans, Hannah Montanas, ghouls and goblins can only mean one thing; Halloween has arrived once again.

For children, it means time to pick out a costume, find the biggest candy bag in the store and go on the glorious hunt for sugary treasures.

For parents, it means another year of the trick-or-treat marathon followed by candy bartering and sugar-induced comas.

But for those families who don’t practice the ritual of trick-or-treating, or just want to mix things up a little this Halloween, you may be surprised to learn that local communities host many trick-or-treat alternatives.

Throughout the D.C. metro area, family-oriented Halloween events will be taking place this Friday.

The alternative is welcomed by some parents who are against trick-or-treating.

“I don’t take my son trick-or-treating moreso for safety reasons,” says Shannel Reese, a 24-year-old mother of one in Arlington, Va., “You never know who’s going to open that door.”

Instead, Reese takes her 4-year-old son to Ballston Common Mall every Halloween to trick-or-treat.

“It’s a lot safer and they have other activities besides getting candy,” she explained. “It also allows him to have that trick-or-treating experience his classmates have.”

Ballston Common Mall hostsan annual Halloween event that not only features trick or treating but face painting and balloon sculptures.

Another fun way to spend Halloween is to head to Six Flags or Kings Dominion for their Halloween festivals.

Six Flags Fright Fest offers “thrills by day and chills by night” with attractions for the entire family started at 1 p.m.

Kids can treat-or-treat, go on a hayride, participate in the Monster Mash Bash and experience a magic show.

The park does get pretty scary after dark so once the sun goes down you might want to take the younger children home.

Kings Dominion’s Halloween Haunt follows a similar format, but does not recommend children under 13 on Fridays due to the scary nature of the events.

Washington offers a number of haunted tours for families to enjoy.

Washington Walks embarks from the Farragut West metro station and takes patrons on a walking tour of “The Most Haunted Houses.”

“Capital Hauntings” is another popular Halloween tour by Washington Walks.

This walking tour takes Halloween patrons to some of the capital buildings said to still house political ghosts.

Both tours are appropriate for younger children because neither offers an inside toir of the buildings, keeping the scares to a minimum.

Adult tickets for both walking tours are $10, and children under the age of three walk for free.

Though there are plenty of fun, non-trick-or-treating events to enjoy this Halloween, it’s hard to deny the popularity of the tradition.

“My daughter has been looking forward to trick-or-treating since Easter,” J.R. Ortiz, 27, of Woodbridge, Va., said, laughing.

Ortiz isn’t worried about his daughter’s safety while trick-or-treating since he will be taking her himself and starting early in the evening.

“My wife and I will start around 5 p.m. so it will still be pretty light out.”

For the hundreds of children who will be treat-or-treating this Friday, Halloween-safety.com recommends that:• They go out during daylight hours unless accompanied by an adult.• They stop only at houses they are familiar with.• Parents inspect the candy when they return from trick-or-treating.

In the Reese household, the “candy exchange” is a fun tradition that doubles as an inspection.

“After we get back from the mall, my son and niece take their candy bags and dump them out on the living room floor,” Reese explained. “This gives me a chance to inspect everything, make sure nothing is opened or tampered with, and gives them a chance to see what the other has so they can trade with each other.”Reese hopes that by turning the inspection into a game for her son and niece, she won’t cause them any alarm.