Not feeling the trick-or-treat scene? Believe it or not, there are things to do on Halloween that are not trick-or-treating related. There may be a lot of reasons why your family might not want to hit up the neighbors for candy, but that doesn’t mean you need to sit at home with the lights off.
Just because you don’t want to do the traditional trick-or-treating thing, doesn’t mean that decorating your space can’t be fun. We’ve got some of the best dollar store DIY decorations to deck out your space. And Halloween wouldn’t be the same without some candy, right? Find out how to save money on Halloween candy.
Check out our tips for things to do on Halloween—not trick-or-treating—that’ll still get you in the holiday mood. Our Halloween deals page has everything you need to enjoy the celebration, but on a budget. Text HACKS to 57299 for more savings hacks and smart shopping tips
1. Find a Trunk or Treat (or start one).
Not interested in going door-to-door? Trunk-or-Treating keeps the best parts of trick-or-treating without the knocking. Where I grew up, you would trick-or-treat in neighborhoods, but apparently, Trunk-or-Treating has been around for a long time, and it’s very popular.
The basic idea is to decorate the trunks of participating cars and vans and park them in parking lots. Costumed children can safely make their way from parking spot to parking spot, collecting their Halloween candy from the parents sitting in the trunk. Check out local churches, police and fire departments, and community event pages for trunk or treats already in the works—or host your own.
2. Take a trip to your local fire station or community center for a harvest party.
These fall festivals are almost always all-ages, with festive treats and games. Some even offer hayrides. Keep in mind that sometimes these happen a few days before Halloween, especially if the big day falls on a weekday. And even though they’re typically free, you might need to RSVP. Reach out to local fire stations, community centers, churches, etc. to see if they’re hosting something before you make plans.
3. Create your own spooky scavenger hunt.
Hide jack-o’-lanterns, candy, and decorations around your home, neighborhood, or a park. Draw up a map or write clues, and make it a competition, with the winner taking home a huge pumpkin or special toy. Think of it as Halloween geocaching.
4. Throw an old-fashioned Halloween party.
Chances are, if you’re not down with trick-or-treating this year, then you know some other families who aren’t, either. I have a Halloween party every year, and it’s truly a better experience for older crowds than trick-or-treating. Host a get-together with cider donuts, a costume contest, and bobbing for apples. You could even kick things off with some free food.
5. Make a movie extra special by watching it outside.
Have a projector (or know someone who does)? Consider bundling up and having a backyard movie under the stars. You can even load up an inflatable pool with blankets and create a seriously awesome outdoor theater.
Some libraries rent projectors if you don’t own one. You’ll probably need a current library card to check it out, just like a book.
6. Invite some friends over for Halloween cookie decorating.
Don’t feel like baking? No judgment here. Many grocery stores sell unfrosted sugar cookies in the bakery section. Set up a table with sprinkles, frosting, googly eyes, and edible markers ($3 at Walmart) for cookies. Arrange them on trays for everyone to see and eat. Or store them in Halloween cupcake wrappers ($11 on Amazon) to eat on the go.
7. Host a pumpkin decorating party.
Center your get-together around everyone’s favorite fall vegetable. First though, find the cheapest pumpkins in your area. And why not celebrate the cool weather with some apple cider warmed in a Crock-Pot.
8. Get some chills and thrills at an amusement park.
If you’re close to an amusement park, find out if they have any spooky festivities. (Let’s be honest, the rides themselves can be scary enough.) For instance, Six Flags Great America has Fright Fest from mid-Sept. through the end of Oct.
Amusement park admission can be spendy, but Halloween falls during a slower time, so look for specials on their website and Groupon. Many amusement parks, like Six Flags, Universal Studios, Kings Dominion, and Busch Gardens, have horror-themed attractions.
Want to learn how to save money on amusement park trips? These tips are useful year round.
9. Keep warm inside your local mall’s free trick-or-treat event.
Among the things to do on Halloween that aren’t trick-or-treating, mall events are a great time to window shop (or real shopping). You could find people dressed in costumes and trick-or-treating for goodies at participating stores. Outdoor malls and shopping centers will also sometimes organize these if you’re willing to brave the elements in colder states. Find a mall near you.
10. Take your kids to see some creepy creatures at the zoo.
Zoos are known to put on a Halloween celebration by decorating animal enclosures, setting up educational tables, and giving treats to the kids. I’ve seen zoos have haunted hayrides, pumpkin carving stations, corn mazes, and dance parties.
These usually aren’t free unless you already have a membership, but they likely won’t cost more than the regular entry fee.
11. Keep your holiday active with a fun run.
Many communities have Halloween-themed races planned on or around the big day, and they encourage dressing up while you get your steps in.
While these are typically family-friendly, they can get costly if there’s a per-person entry fee. Solution? Recruit neighbors and organize your own neighborhood fun run for free.
12. Pass out your own treats (and tricks).
If you don’t feel like hunting for candy, you can always pass it out instead. Get the whole family involved to make the experience memorable for the trick-or-treaters who come to your door. Think creepy music, those bowls that grab you when you reach for candy, and special outdoor decor. Use candy coupons to help your wallet.
RELATED: Ways to save on Halloween candy
13. Visit a pumpkin patch — or take in some other fall activities.
Pumpkin patches are often free to visit. The larger pumpkin patches frequently have corn mazes, games, and other activities, too, but they might not be free. Make sure to check before you head out. As long as we’re talking about pumpkins, stock up on the best Trader Joe’s pumpkin products.
14. Bring Halloween to the kids and make your own haunted house.
One of my favorite safe trick-or-treat memories with my kids was the haunted house at their preschool every year. Each room was decorated differently, and parents dressed as characters from the kids’ favorite “scary” movies, like Scooby-Doo and the Wicked Witch of the West, to stand at the door.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Decorate the hallways with polyester spider webs ($5 on Amazon)—you can add plastic spiders and place black plastic on the walls if you want to go all out.
- Put cold, cooked pasta into an icky bowl for the kids to stick their hands into with their eyes closed.
- Make a haunted tunnel out of pillows and blankets that they have to crawl through.
In each room, parents have the kids complete a task before they get to move on to the next place, like sticking their hands in the icky bowl, having their fortunes told, answering questions, or crawling through haunted tunnels.
TIP: Give prizes at the end of the haunted house adventure, like a king-size candy bar or Halloween-themed trinket.
15. If you’re off to a late start, you can have a Halloween trick-or-treat hunt at home.
Think Easter egg hunt but with a Halloween twist. All you’ll need are plastic eggs or these little Halloween treat boxes ($12 on Amazon). Fill them with candy, and place them all around the house or yard.
16. Fill your own Halloween piñata with candy for the kids to enjoy.
Just because your kids can’t trick-or-treat doesn’t mean you can’t get a fun Halloween-themed piñata ($21 on Amazon). Get them all dressed up in their costumes (with or without a couple of friends), and give them a chance to bust into it blindfolded.
17. Make homemade caramel apples.
Put together a caramel apple bar for your whole family to enjoy a sweet treat. Using your microwave, melt baking caramels with a bit of heavy cream or milk, stirring it every 30 seconds until smooth. Clean your apples, remove the stems, and insert caramel apple sticks. Search for spooky ones at your local craft store for extra fun.
Dip your apples in the caramel, and drizzle melted chocolate on top. Then add your favorite candies and treats.
Some suggestions for toppings include Reese’s Pieces, crushed Butterfingers, crushed Oreo cookies, peanuts, marshmallows, M&M’s, and crushed pretzels.
Chill your apple in the fridge or freezer and enjoy! Bookmark our produce coupons page before buying supplies for this sweet treat.
18. Have a scary movie marathon.
When I was a kid, if it was ever pouring rain, a scary movie marathon was just what my friends and I needed to enjoy Halloween.
Depending on how old your kids are, you have a lot of options to choose from:
- Hocus Pocus
- Monster House
For teenagers who love scary movies, you can try these:
- The Sixth Sense
- The Craft
- The Blair Witch Project
19. Listen to scary stories on audiobooks or tell your own by the fire.
Nothing beats a good scary story, especially the ones my mother told around the campfire. Since Halloween’s in October, the best alternative is Halloween themed s’mores around an outdoor fire.
If you choose to read or listen, any of the three “Scary Stories” by Alvin Schwartz are an option worth looking into. Each is composed of myths, folklore, and urban legends from all over the world—and I read them all over and over as a kid.
20. Boo your friends and neighbors.
If trick-or-treating isn’t an option, fill little bags with treats and deliver them secretly to your neighbors. Use solid-colored bags and apply Halloween stickers ($7 on Amazon). Or attach Halloween paper tags ($7 on Amazon) with their name.
Hang the treats on your neighbor’s door, ring the bell, and run. Your kids will love the “sneaky” feeling they get delivering treats incognito.