When it comes to Halloween, you’ve got the usual, traditional options. You can get the kids dressed up and head out to the wealthy neighborhoods, trolling for full-sized Snickers bars. You can buy 20 pounds of candy and stay by the door, handing out fistfuls of sugar to Darth Vader and Elsa look-alikes. You can also elect to turn off the porchlight and retreat to the master bedroom to binge-watch the first season of “Mad Men” and pretend no one is home.
Aside from the typical responses to the ghoulish fall festivities, there are other things to do on October 31. Indeed, there are some pretty enjoyable Halloween activities that don’t involve gaining 12 pounds and a wastebasket overflowing with fun-size candy wrappers. We’ve pulled together a list of some fresh alternatives that are both healthy and fun. We’re pretty sure your dentist would agree.
1. Enter a Halloween 5K Run or Walk
There’s a good chance your community has some cool 5K runs scheduled around Halloween. Plug in the name of your city and “5K” into your search engine to find events in your area. Consider the annual Zombie Run in select cities throughout the United States. At the start of the race, each participant is given an assortment of “health flags” to wear on his or her belt. There are “zombies” throughout the course that will be trying to steal the health flags and possibly eat the brains of these healthy human runners. Participants have to run from the zombies and choose from a few different paths and obstacles to get to the finish line. Be careful because if you choose the wrong path, it could add a mile or two to the route. At the end of the race, runners will finish with either an “infected” medal or a “survivor” medal. When teams complete the race together, it takes just one member with a remaining health flag for the whole group to finish with “survivor” status. So, challenge some co-workers or your extended family to run for their lives with you this Halloween.
2. Consider a Guided Night Hike
Several state parks and community trails offer Halloween-themed night hikes on or around October 31. Every hiker brings their own flashlight. When the sun goes down, the hike begins. Night hikes are generally led by park rangers, who offer lots of useful and educational tidbits along the way. The nocturnal treks provide a terrific way to enjoy a different side of nature than you can’t experience during the day. There are plenty of creatures that only come out when the park is closed and things get quiet. You’ll hear new sounds and enjoy the moonlit trail. Who knows what else you’ll find lurking around out there on Halloween night.
3. Host a Haunted Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt
If you’ve got a creative bone, you might consider writing out a series of clues for your family or group of friends to follow on Halloween. Hide them throughout the neighborhood ― under rocks, in the mailbox or beneath the welcome mat of the creepiest house on the block. Then, hide some sort of secret treasure for your crew to uncover at the end of the hunt. Hosting a treasure hunt is a fantastic way to engage multiple age groups and bring people together with a common goal.
Another option is to orchestrate an old fashioned scavenger hunt on foot. Many kids today don’t even know what a scavenger hunt is or how much ridiculous fun it can be. Search the web for “scavenger hunt ideas.” You’ll find a slew of scavenger lists guaranteed to make this Halloween one of the most memorable yet. With smartphones, you can require that some items on the list be recorded for proof, such as 50 points for a 30-second video of your team and a stranger dancing to “Footloose.” Split into teams, set a time limit and get going. Please post pictures.
4. Have a Costume Dance Party
If you’ve got friends who enjoy dressing up at Halloween, a costume party is a terrific option. Got a teenage nephew who happens to be way too cool for costumes? Appoint him DJ for the evening and prepare the dance floor. Bob for apples, sing karaoke and have a three-legged race in the backyard if the weather is mild. Find two or three of your guests that didn’t dress up and make them your esteemed panel of costume judges. Issue modest prizes for the scariest costume, the most creative and the funniest. Your friends will most likely surprise you with their cunning disguises.
5. Collaborate With Neighbors and Host a Block Party
Set up the grill in your front yard and invite all your neighbors to bring a dish to share and come by your place to hang out on Halloween. Plan some active group games for adults and kids. You can make snacks that have a Halloween feel to them yet are still healthy and delicious. You may even want to transform the garage into an ultra-spooky haunted house to add some drama to the neighborhood. A block party extends an opportunity for neighbors to get to know some of the other people who live on your street and build a stronger sense of community. Who knows ― you may find yourself nominated for a seat on the coveted homeowner’s association after throwing that epic block party.
6. Visit the Local Zoo or Theme Park
Check the websites of nearby theme parks and zoos for special events on Halloween. Nearly all of them offer a frightful night of family fun this time of year. Most will sweeten the deal with hourly giveaways, silent auctions, special games and other festivities. Wear some sneakers under your costume. At the very least, you’ll cover two to three miles as you walk through the entire park. Go through twice to double the fun and increase your calories spent. Also, find a parking spot as far away from the entrance as possible. At some parks, you can squeeze in an extra mile of exercise just with the walk to and from the main gate. Family fun and a workout ― sounds like a wickedly clever idea.
7. Be a Neighborhood Chaperone
So many kids will be out trick-or-treating in the dark. Most will have a grownup nearby ― but not all of them. Why not grab a flashlight, put your gym shoes on and start walking laps around the hood to make sure kids are staying safe this Halloween? Keep an eye out for weirdos, bullies and little ones who have strayed from their packs. You’ll be the hero of the night. A sequined cape is optional.
8. Go Trick-or-Treating, Then Donate All of Your Candy
OK, maybe keep the Milk Duds. However, consider donating the rest to our deployed troops, a residential children’s home or your local food bank. Some people don’t get treats very often. It would feel amazing to know that a soldier might open a package full of goodies from home. Maybe the snack can go to a displaced child, one who didn’t get to go door-to-door, and they will get a sweet surprise. Halloween isn’t generally a holiday we associate with giving or benevolence, but we can start this year. Bonus: you and your family will get to enjoy all the fun of dressing up and trick-or-treating without any of the accompanying cavities (Milk Duds in moderation, of course).
Make This Halloween a Memorable One
Hopefully, there’s at least one option on this list that will inspire your family to make a fun and healthy choice this Halloween. However, it may take a little coaxing to get the kids on board for such a change. The annual pillowcase full of candy is a pretty difficult thing to give up. But when your family is in the middle of being chased by zombies or conspiring to give the neighborhood kids nightmares in the haunted garage, they’ll forget all about begging for sweets. This might be the Halloween that you’ll all remember forever.
So, pick a healthy activity (or three) from our list and have a stellar time doing it. Resolve to chart a new course this year with a healthy mindset. Let’s make it a tradition to transform this sugar-coated, high-calorie holiday into just another fabulous step toward your fitness and wellness goals. Have a great Halloween!
Rick Kaselj, MS
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