If you’re a Big Halloween Fan, you’re probably already celebrating this annual homage to all-things-eerie. But if you’re just now getting your ghoul on, don’t despair: you still have plenty of time to get in on the fun, without breaking the bank. (There’s another holiday around the corner that will do that for you, without a sweat.)
Here are six Portland-esque ways to celebrate the season.
#1. Halloween 101: Your Costume
Kids can wear their Spiderman and Princess costumes any day of the year – and no one bats an eye. The days leading up to Halloween are truly the only time of the year when adults are free to really express themselves. Release your inner Elvis, your frustrated Frodo, your stymied superhero. (On second thought, it IS Portland, so you’re probably on safe ground any day of the year.)
You could buy a costume or rent one. But that’s not really the Portland creative spirit, is it? My preferred venue for low budget Halloween attire is the Salvation Army store on SE 82nd Avenue. Go on any Wednesday – when most everything is half-price. You can put together an original outfit and maybe pick up some nice secondhand duds for the upcoming holidays.
If you’re going for super frugal, grab a bed sheet and check this link for making a toga. Improvise a laurel wreath, grab an empty/full bottle of wine and, voila, you’re channeling John Belushi.
# 2. The Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Picture this: A flotilla of humongous pumpkins, hollowed out and containing an array of superheroes and otherwise crazily-costumed individuals who paddle their erstwhile gourds around Tualatin Lake of the Commons.
What’s not to like?
You can enjoy this annual event, sponsored by the city of Tualatin, on Saturday, Oct. 21 for free. The West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta boasts these pumpkin races as its centerpiece attraction but it also includes a pumpkin pie eating contest, a pumpkin weigh off, pie eating contest, kids’ costume contest, pumpkin golf and bowling, and more. Admission to the festival is free as are most of the activities.
# 3. Lone Fir Cemetery
Lone Fir Cemetery is the final resting place for 25,000 souls, the first interred there in 1846. Owned and operated by the Metropolitan Service District, it’s probably the most popular of the area’s pioneer cemeteries and it oozes history and ghostly mystique. You can visit for free any day and take a self guided supernatural tour.
If you want to magnify the otherworldly factor, try to snag a ticket ($10) for Lone Fir’s piece de resistance, The Tour of Untimely Departures on Oct. 28. A host of costumed volunteers lead visitors through the cemetery by candlelight, narrating the unfortunate demises of some of Lone Fir’s permanent residents. Costumes encouraged!
# 4. Haunted Houses
Maybe a visit to Lone Fir Cemetery will satisfy your ghoulish appetite but if you still feel the need for a haunted event of some sort, there are a slew of haunted houses in the area, most of which will cost you anywhere from $10 to $25 a pop.
For a low-key, free Halloween experience, consider Davis Graveyard in Milwaukie. Jeff Davis describes the display this way: “Think Peacock Lane for Halloween.” Special effects – sound, animatronics, video, fog – are added every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October.
If family-friendly doesn’t cut it, google “haunted houses portland oregon” or go to this clearinghouse site for many, many spooky options.
# 5. Pumpkin Patches – and Beyond
Got your Jack-o’-lantern ready? If not, make a full Halloween/Harvest day out of it on Sauvie Island where those delightful farms you visited for fruit this past summer are now hawking pumpkins, and much more – think hayrides, corn mazes, apple cider, even a corn maze cabaret!
# 6. Halloweentown in St. Helens
An aside: I grew up in this little burg (fortunately only a 40 minute drive from PDX). And – just gotta say this – spending your childhood in Small Town Oregon is, in itself, a scary notion.
In the late ’90s, the movie Halloweentown was filmed in St. Helens (I was long gone by then). Some local resident decided it would be a good idea to turn the entire community into Halloweentown for the month of October every year. Apparently the idea took.
While there are many ticketed events during this month long ode to eerie, it’s free to simply wander the decked out town, including Courthouse Plaza in Old Town and The Scarecrow Trail, with a self-guided “haunted tour.”
Me, I’ll probably skip it. I’ve seen St. Helens at its scariest.
Marie Sherlock is an award-winning, Portland-based travel writer. Follow her on twitter @SherlockTravels.