Okay, okay. I know it’s still summer and an unbearably hot one at that. But if you stop to think about it, we’re really just two months away from my most favorite season—fall! For Colonial Williamsburg, that means beautiful and vibrantly colored leaves, hot apple cider, burning cressets, and yes—Halloween.
The word is officially out and we couldn’t be more excited! This year’s Haunting on DoG Street: Curse of the Sea Witch will take place over the span of FOUR nights! We’ll be offering family-friendly fun and free trick-or-treating the entire weekend leading up to Halloween.
Last year was our very first Halloween event and I can still remember the day the skeletons went up around all the trade shops and buildings along Duke of Gloucester. As I was out snagging pictures, I saw dozens of guests sipping on their hot chocolates, marveling at the creatively displayed decorations. Just a few days later, the same stretch of DoG was filled with adorable children, families, and costumed interpreters handing out candy. I felt like I’d stepped on to the set of the movie Hocus Pocus. I mean, even our Apprentice Tailor Mike McCarty was a dead ringer (pun intended) for Billy, sitting up in our carriage. Don’t you think?
I really wish there were words I could use to accurately describe the atmosphere. The closest I can come up with is a “community” feel. Everyone was super friendly, stopping to compliment each other’s costumes and interact with our staff. You could hear the squeals of laughter coming from the kids playing the pirate games and the ooohs and ahhhs as the skeleton horses pranced by the crowds.
This year’s activities start Friday, October 28 at 5 p.m., and we’re inviting everyone to once again join us for games, costume contests, dancing, and of course—candy! Mars, Inc has graciously donated tens of thousands of treats to distribute throughout the Historic Area. You have to log on to our special Halloween webpage to register. But again, the trick-or-treating part is FREE! After you complete the registration process, you’ll get a voucher to bring to our Visitor Center and exchange for your candy bag. Don’t forget this important step. Then, take the spooky shuttle to the Historic Area where we will point you in the direction of all the haunted festivities.
In addition to the free trick-or-treating, we have other ticketed activities planned for each night. The evenings are divided into two time “zones.” Everything that happens from 5-7:30 p.m. is geared toward younger kids (ages 3-12) and everything that takes place from 8-10 p.m. is considered PG-13 (think ghost pirates and angry Sea Witches).
Don’t worry. I’m also working on a blog about all the spooky behind-the-scenes info for Curse of the Sea Witch. So if that’s more your speed, stay tuned. But for now, let’s tackle some of the questions you might have about our PG family fun!
WILL THE SKELETON HORSES BE BACK THIS YEAR?
Oh, yeah!!! And this time they may just glow in the dark. If you attended our event last year, then you know our Coach & Livestock team stole the show (click here for a behind-the-scenes look at how they pulled it off) with the painted carriage and riding horses. Director Paul Bennett tells me they’re hoping to test a couple glow-in-the-dark options but admits for now, they’re focusing their efforts on this brutal heat and taking care of the animals. Still, he assures me Halloween is going to be spectacular!
WILL THERE BE TREATS FOR MY CHILD WITH ALLERGIES?
We are also once again teaming up with Food Allergy Research Education (FARE) to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. When you check in at the Visitor Center, be sure to let the ticket agent know and your child will receive a special bag with a teal logo. Our participating trick-or-treat sites will have teal pumpkins and volunteers and staff will hand out Skittles and Starburst in addition to non-food treats. Expect spider rings, plastic fingers, stickers, etc. (Kids without allergies may also trick-or-treat at these sites). Closer to the event, we will provide a complete list of all those participating stops.
DO PARENTS NEED TICKETS TO GET INTO “A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR ME”?
No. This is a change from last year. However, every child must be accompanied by an adult and no child can enter any “A Pirate’s Life for Me” event without a wristband. That includes all paid activities such as pirate games, costume contests, and sing-alongs. If you did not purchase tickets for your children and decide you want to join in the fun, they will be for sale at access points into the activities. However, there is no guarantee they won’t sell out ahead of the fun. Each ticket costs $15 and you can purchase online when you register for trick-or-treating.
CAN ADULTS WEAR COSTUMES?
Yes! We know many of you may have themed Halloween costumes for your family and in the spirit of the event, we highly encourage you to dress up! This is during the 5-7:30 experience only. No costumes are permitted during the 8-10 activities.
We do ask that you take into consideration this is a family event. Please be mindful that there will be young children trick-or-treating. So, keep the scare factor PG. Our staff reserves the right to turn away any Freddy Kruegers, chainsaw-wielding murderers, etc. Nobody wants to deal with nightmares, including us!
We also have another request—no 18th-century costumes (please). This is so that guests can easily identify our staff working the event.
Still unsure if your costume is appropriate? Allow us to illustrate.
CAN OUR DOG(S) COME?
Sorry, but for the safety of guests, the answer is “no.” However, stay tuned for more information about this year’s Dogs of DoG Street parade happening in October which will feature a pet costume contest and an appearance from Liberty!
WILL I BE ABLE TO CHECK IN EARLY?
Yes! The Visitor Center opens at 8:45 a.m. Friday – Monday and you can stop by any time during the day you are registered to redeem your voucher and pick up any paid event wristbands. So take your time with dinner and putting those last minute touches on the costume. And don’t worry. If you can’t find your confirmation email, just give the ticket agent a photo ID when you check in. If you registered, you’re in our system!
WHERE DO WE PARK?
You must register at the Visitor Center to get your candy bags and/or wristbands. We encourage everyone to start at the Visitor Center (even if you register early) and take the spooky shuttle to all the action on DoG Street. You’ll be dropped off at the stop on the corner of Francis St. and Botetourt St. where you’ll make your way to the fun.
CAN I COME AND PEOPLE WATCH?
This is a special ticketed experience for trick-or-treaters and their families only. Unfortunately, your regular CW admission tickets and passes will not grant you access to this area beginning around 3 p.m. That’s when we rope off that area to prepare for the evening. We understand it’s a fun event to witness, but we ask that you please understand our priority is the children. We have established capacity limits to keep this a safe, and comfortable trick-or-treating event for the kids. You are welcome to stop by during the day to get pictures of the spooky decorations and if you happen to be in the area, you can sit near the access points to watch the people come and go!
One of my favorite parts of last year was going through all of the awesome pictures you all shared on social media, in particular our Facebook event page. Don’t forget to use our event hashtag – #HauntingonDoGStreet. We may share your images in an upcoming blog.
Oh, and don’t think you’ll be the only ones having fun! Our team is looking forward to getting out to meet you, take pictures, and share in the Halloween spirit. Be on the lookout for all of our friendly staff and volunteers. We’ll be the ones wearing the neon bracelets and Haunting on DoG Street t-shirts. We can help direct you to the restrooms, specific activities, and trick-or-treat sites. There will also be designated Customer Service locations in the Historic Area that will be open the entire time.
THE MOST IMPORTANT NOTE FOR FAMILIES: PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING ENDS AT 7:30 P.M. AND BY 8:00, THE STREETS WILL BE TRANSFORMED INTO A PG-13 EXPERIENCE. THE FEAR FACTOR GOES UP—WAY UP—WHEN OUR SEA WITCHES APPEAR AND BLACKBEARD’S GHOSTLY CREW RETURNS FROM THE DEAD. THESE HAUNTS ARE NOT RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 12!