Halloween is a really big deal in Wilmington, North Carolina and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. And this year is no exception. Single Mom Lifestyle Expert/Author Kerri Zane ranks Wilmington #1 in her roundup of “15 Great Halloween Haunts for You & Your Kids.” More than two dozen Halloween-theme events will take place from the storied banks of the Cape Fear River to the alluring shores of our seaside towns. Visitors can get into the ‘spirit’ with ghoulish festivals, ghostly tours, murder-mystery dinner cruises, pirate adventures, haunted attractions, creepy nature programs, horror flicks and theatrical productions, zombie walks and trick-or-treat events. There’s something for all ages and there’s a special treat this year for fans of Fox Television’s Wilmington-filmed series “Sleepy Hollow”. The Wilmington and Beaches CVB recently released a SLEEPY HOLLOW FAQ Sheet that includes a self-guided tour to several locations that appear in the show.
Here’s a sampling of mysterious, historical and educational happenings:
SLEEPY HOLLOW FAQ—The Sleepy Heads are coming! Riding on the coattails of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman and just in time for Halloween, the Wilmington and Beaches CVB announces a “Sleepy Hollow” FAQ sheet. To download a copy, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/SleepyHollowFAQ
Ongoing (year-round)—Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington. 6:30pm & 8:30pm nightly thru Nov. 1; then at 6:30pm nightly thru March. Costumed guides lead visitors through alleyways with tales of haunted Wilmington. Admission charge. Meets at Water & Market streets. Reservations required: 910-794-1866; www.hauntedwilmington.com
Ongoing (year-round)—Haunted Pub Crawl. Wed.-Sat. 7:30pm, thru Nov. 1. Ages 21+. Admission charge. Meet at Fat Tony’s, 131 N. Front St., Wilmington. Reservations required: 910-794-1866; www.hauntedwilmington.com
Ongoing (year-round)—Haunted Cotton Exchange Tours. Daily tours; call for hours. Admission charge. Cotton Exchange parking lot street entrance, Wilmington. 910-409-4300; www.hauntedcottonexchange.blogspot.com.
Each Tuesday in October (7, 14, 21, 28)—Murder Mystery Dinner Cruises. Solve an exciting who-dunnit on a 2-hr. dinner cruise along the Cape Fear River. Audience participation; prizes. Boards at 6pm; departs 6:30pm at dock (Water & Dock sts). Admission charge. Reservations required: 910-343-1611; 800-676-0162; www.cfrboats.com
Each Tuesday & Thursday—Pirate Treasure Hunt Adventure. Arrrrgh! Join a costumed pirate storyteller on an exploration of Masonboro Island’s natural treasures. Learn about the history of famous North Carolina pirates such as Captain Kidd, Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard. Boards at 4:15pm; sails at 4:30pm. Admission charge. Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, 275 Waynick Blvd. (across from Blockade Runner Resort), Wrightsville Beach. Advance reservations required: 910-200-4002; www.wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com.
Each Friday & Saturday (Oct. 3-Nov. 1)—A Wilmington Horror Story, a horror-themed dinner show. Doors open 6:00pm; show at 7:00pm. Audiences will enjoy original theatre that features three tales of terror written by local scribes, served up with a devilishly delicious three-course menu. TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th Street, Wilmington. Advance reservations: 910-399-3669; www.theatrewilmington.com
Oct. 9-12; 16-19; 23-26; 29-31—Halloween Horror Theatre Festival by Big Dawg Productions. Shows at 8pm. Original shows written by local playwrights. Oct. 9-12: A Frightfully Funny Night of Comedy. Oct. 16-19: The Witch, The Troll, The Hairy Man. Oct. 23-31: Death Bed, The Play That Bites. Admission charged. Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle St., Wilmington. 910-367-5237; www.bigdawgproductions.org
Oct. 11—Victorian Mourning. Tours 7pm & 8pm. Learn about customs/rituals of death in Victorian America. Five rooms will be decorated in full mourning with authentic Victorian funerary objects, costumed guides, food samples and ghost stories. Latimer House, Wilmington. Admission charge; tickets required. 910-762-0492; www.hslcf.org.
Oct. 17-19; 24-26—Halloween Festival. “Haunted” Wagon Rides, Haunted Manor House, costume contests, non-scary Goblins & Games Fun House with fortune tellers, stories, rides, petting zoo, food & more. Fun for all ages. Activity fees vary. Poplar Grove Plantation, 10200 US Hwy. 17 N Wilmington. 910-686-9518; www.poplargrove.org
Oct. 17-19; 18-20; 24-26; 30-31— “TWISTED” Haunted House. Fri. & Sat. (7pm-midnight); Sun. (7pm-10pm). Visitors will experience a “twist” on Alice In Wonderland: Alice is no longer in Wonderland. Come see the TWISTED world she now inhabits! Admission charge; NHHS Lyceum Academy fundraiser. Rated PG-13. Location: 1290 S. 15th Street, Wilmington. 910-251-6100, ext 222; www.facebook.com/NHHSLyceumHauntedHouse
Oct. 17-AquaCamp: Spooky Critters. Halloween day camp (age 5-12) features slippery, slimy animal programs. Admission; pre-register. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach; 910-458-8257; www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher
Oct. 18-Science Spooktacular. 6pm-9pm. It’s not spooky, it’s science. Meet UNCW mad scientists and create a mini lava lamp, slime and pumpkin Oobleck. Create frozen shadows, examine artifacts from creepy collections or build your own skeleton. Experiment with pumpkin oscillators, melting blocks and much more in the Little Shop of Physics. Make a square bubble and a ghost dance. Examine “ghost eggs” ad see how light works in a two-way mirror. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4350; www.capefearmuseum.com
Oct. 18—5K ZOMBIE Fun Run/Walk. 6pm. Poplar Grove Plantation, 10200 US Hwy. 17 N Wilmington. 910-686-9518; www.poplargrove.org/halloween-festival/5k-zombie-fun-runwalk
Oct. 23-24 & 29-30—Trick-or-Treat Under the Sea. 5pm-8:30pm. Families enjoy thrills & gills in the same day. Indoor trick-or-treating, face painting, story-telling, magic shows, spooky divers and haunted gardens are highlights at this family Halloween party. Note: only umbrella strollers permitted. Admission charged (children 2 and under free). NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Loggerhead Rd., Kure Beach; 910-458-8257; www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher
Oct. 23-26; Oct. 30-Nov. 2—The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Cape Fear Shakespeare presents the classic tale by Washington Irving. Times vary. Please check website for dates/times. Historic Hannah Block USO/Community Arts Theatre. Wilmington. http://wilmingtoncommunityarts.com/Frontpage-Events/legend-of-sleepy-hollow.html
Oct. 24-25 & 29-31—Halloween Ghost Trolley & Barn. 6pm-9pm. Kid-friendly 30-minute horse-drawn trolley ride and a fun spoof in the “haunted barn.” Horses and tour guides are dressed in costume. Halloween-theme stories, songs & treats. Admission charged. Departs at Market & Water sts.; 910-251-8889; www.horsedrawntours.com.
Oct. 24—Kooky Spooky Jam-Boo-Read! 4pm-7:30pm. Kids’ literacy event disguised as a street festival with scary stories and non-scary fall-theme activities. Kids dress in costume or as book character. Other Halloween/fall activities throughout October. Admission charge. Children’s Museum, Wilmington. 910-254-3534; www.playwilmington.org
Oct. 25—Fort Fisher Fall Festival & Haunted Trail. Fall festival 11am-5pm; Haunted Trail 7pm-9pm (ages 10+). Food, games, crafts, prizes, inflatable obstacle course, and a sand castle contest (11am-3pm). Free. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Loggerhead Rd., Kure Beach. 910-458-5798; www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fofi/main.php
Oct. 25: ZOMBIE Run. 4pm. Course features zombies lying in wait for runners (costumes encouraged). It's a friendly event that raises funds for Paws4People. Hugh MacRae Park, Wilmington. www.wilmingtonzombierun.com.
Oct. 26—Halloween Musical Matinee. 4pm. Introduce kids to the WSO youth orchestra and junior strings. Admission charge. Wilmington; www.edu.wilmingtonsympohony.org/youthconcert
Oct. 27 & 28—National Theatre Live’s “Frankenstein”. Monday at 2pm & Tuesday at 7pm. National Theatre Live broadcast of Frankenstein. Monday showing features Johnny Lee Miller as the creature. Tuesday showing features Benedict Cumberbatch as creature. Admission charge. Thalian Hall, Wilmington. 910-632-2285; www.thalianhall.org
Oct. 28—Batty Battleship’s Halloween Bash. 5:30pm-8pm. Batty Battleship is a fun, family-oriented event for little ghouls and goblins. Lots of fun and no scares. There’s a carnival, face-painting, henna tattoos, bounce house and trick-or treaters, a petting zoo, and Batty’s special guests: Anna and Elsa from “Frozen.” Admission charged; tickets required. Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington. 910-251-5797; www.battleshipnc.com
Oct. 30 & 31—Phantom of the Opera. 7pm. Gaston Leroux’s romantic mystery thriller by City Ballet. Friday evening gala includes a masquerade ball with optional masks and elegant attire. Thalian Hall, Wilmington. 910-632-2285; www.thalianhall.org
Oct. 31—Halloween Movie Night. Bring a chairs, blankets, coolers and candy for a scary screening of Hocus Pocus (7pm) and Psycho (9pm). Popcorn and beer/wine for sale. Admission charge. Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington. 910-251-3700; www.bellamymansion.org
Oct. 31—Halloween Concert. The Right On Band: Motown, disco, 70s. funk. Free. Riverfront Park, Wilmington: 910-763-7349.
Oct. 31—Trick-or-Treat at the Mall. 4-6pm. Kids arrive in costume and retailers provide candy. Independence Mall, 3500 Oleander Dr., Wilmington. 910-392-1776; www.shopindependencemall.com
See where the water takes you! For more information about seasonal specials and great October rates, featured Halloween/Fall events and experiences, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/seasonal-page. For a FREE official visitors guide to Wilmington, N.C.'s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, please call 910-341-4030 or 1-866-266-9690. Before traveling any distance, contact event venue to confirm details.